Most Valuable Player of the Month for April 2017 – Lilly Lam


Lilly’s pups – Milo, Miko, and Mooshu with the MVP milkshake


Lilly Lam, one of our Client Care Managers, was named as Family Pet Animal Hospital’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the month for April 2017 by last month’s winner, Dr. Annika Hoffman.  Dr. Annika cited Lilly’s dedication, efficiency, friendliness, positive attitude, and compassion along with her excellent communication skills as the reasons she awarded Lilly with the MVP honors.  Lilly has blessed Family Pet with her keen eye for detail and high expectations for herself and her team in delivering quality care at our hospital for over six years.  We are incredibly grateful for her talents, enthusiasm, and love of caring for our patients and clients.

Question and Answer with Lilly

Do you have pets?  If so, tell us about him/her/them.

I have 3 Havanese, all named after Disney characters. Miko (from Pocahontas) is my first born and although I love him to bits and pieces, he is a lemon. Milo (from Atlantis) and Mooshu (from Mulan) are Havanese rescues that I adopted from a group that I actively volunteer for – HALO (Havanese Angel League Organization).

What is your favorite thing about working at Family Pet?

The patients, of course!! Our team is pretty darn awesome as well. =)

What is the moment at FPAH of which you are the most proud?

Every day is a new adventure with many proud moments. I would say that the most memorable would be going through the interview process with Jim and Colleen. During my interview, I was so nervous that I started stuttering and nervous giggling. Coming from a finance and business management background, with no other animal health experience other than volunteer work and caring for my own pets, I didn’t think I would get the job. I am thankful/grateful every day, that Jim and Colleen took a chance on me to allow me to become the animal health professional that I am today.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I have WAY too many hobbies. First and foremost, my fur-children take up most of my free time. Cross-stitching has been a hobby of mine since I was a little girl. I try to maintain an active lifestyle and hit the gym as much as I can. I’ve also recently taken on rock climbing, snowboarding and self-defense tactical training.

If you could communicate with our patients, what would you most want them to know?

I love you guys and just want to help make you happy and healthy!!

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Mind control. No explanation needed… =)

How would you spend one million dollars?

I feel that our society focuses too much on materialistic luxuries. I would be happy leading a simple lifestyle. As long as there is a roof over my fur-children, warm clothes, and enough food to get us through, I’d be happy. So if I had an extra million dollars, I would opt to donate everything to organizations in which proceeds go directly towards helping those in need.

Describe yourself in three words.

Stubborn, intense, crazy

What’s your favorite activity to do with your pet(s)?

Lounge on the couch. ^_^

What song or movie are you ashamed to admit you absolutely love?

I have no shame in saying this and I’ll gladly scream it to the world: I love any song with Celine Dion in it!!


Congratulations, Lilly!  She will pick next month’s MVP, so stay tuned…


Annika Hoffman, D.V.M. (March 2017)

Frank Fiacchino (February 2017)

Tony Tramultola (January 2017)

Emily Olvera (December 2016)

Janet Laz (November 2016)

Kate Van Eck (October 2016)

Jim Dinan (September 2016)

Katie Doan (August 2016)


Family Pet Animal Hospital’s mission, vision, and core values

Our Doctors

Our Staff

Most Valuable Player of the Month for March 2017: Dr. Annika Hoffman


Dr. Annika with Mio, Daphne, and Apollo

Annika Hoffman, D.V.M., was awarded Family Pet Animal Hospital’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the month for March of 2017 by last month’s winner, Frank Fiacchino.  Frank cited Dr. Annika’s winning smile, professionalism, and enthusiasm for caring for Family Pet’s patients, along with her patience, listening skills, and teamwork as the reasons he awarded her with the MVP honors.  We couldn’t agree more.

Question and Answer with Dr. Annika

Dr. Annika answers our serious and not-so-serious questions.

Do you have pets?  If so, tell us about him/her/them.

I have 3 pets. Apollo is an almost 7 year old Doberman mix, who my husband and I rescued a month after I started vet school. I also have two 5-year-old Ragdoll cats named Mio and Daphne. They all love to cuddle and snuggle on the couch.

What is your favorite thing about working at Family Pet?

The team – it is rare to find a job where you enjoy working with every single colleague!

What is the moment at FPAH of which you are the most proud?

It is humbling to have been given this opportunity to be a part of the staff at Family Pet Animal Hospital; so just being able to say that I work at this amazing hospital makes me proud.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In the city, I like to go to musicals, the symphony, and occasionally the opera. However, my true passion is nature, so whenever given the chance I go to my home-country Sweden and hike, kayak, cross-country ski, swim in the lakes etc. I rarely get to enjoy outdoor activities in the US, but when I do my favorite place is Colorado.

If Family Pet Animal Hospital had a theme song, what would it be?

“You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (the Toy Story version)

If you could communicate with our patients, what would you most want them to know?

As an ER Doc, I would want my patients to know that I am here for them, and I will do whatever is possible to make them feel better.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Fly- having a bird-eyed view is of great benefit in many situations.

If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

Dolphin, because they are smart, fun, fast and I would absolutely LOVE to live under water.

Name three things on your bucket list.

  1. Backpack in New Zealand
  2. Scuba dive in Indonesia or close to that area in the pacific or Indian oceans.
  3. Horse-back riding trip in Montana

What would you choose for your last meal?

Boeuf bourguignon or Coq au vin

What song or movie are you ashamed to admit you absolutely love?

“The Police Academy”

What is your favorite junk food?

Deep dish pizza


Congratulations, Dr. Annika!  She will pick next month’s MVP, so stay tuned…


Previous MVPs:

Frank Fiacchino (February 2017)

Tony Tramultola (January 2017)

Emily Olvera (December 2016)

Janet Laz (November 2016)

Kate Van Eck (October 2016)

Jim Dinan (September 2016)

Katie Doan (August 2016)

More about us:

Family Pet Animal Hospital’s mission, vision, and core values

Our Doctors

Our Staff

Start Your Dog’s or Cat’s Flea/Tick Preventive Now


While the veterinarians at Family Pet Animal Hospital recommend year round heartworm preventive (for an explanation on why, click here), we’ve generally recommended preventives for fleas and ticks April through November with caveats based on temperatures.  Because of the higher than average temperatures and bouts of very unseasonably warm weather we’ve had in the last couple of months, we’ve seen patients with fleas and/or ticks or our clients have reported seeing them on their pets or in their homes.  If you have not started your pet on external parasite preventives yet this season, we recommend you go ahead and start now.

External parasites, such as fleas, ticks, or mites, are an annoyance that many pets (and their owners) will experience at some point.  Not only can these parasites cause discomfort and skin problems but they can also carry serious diseases.  Modern preventives make treatment, control, and prevention of many external parasites easy and safe.


How does my pet get fleas?

Fleas thrive when the weather is warm and humid and can be found in areas frequented by other cats and dogs.  Unfortunately, fleas can also thrive in our homes.  In Chicago, fleas are typically a seasonal problem.  However, because fleas can also survive in our homes, if they are not eradicated in the home, problems may persist through times not typically associated with flea infestations (summer).

How do my pet and home become infested with fleas?

Adult fleas spent virtually all their time on their host, feeding, and laying eggs (for females).  Females begin laying eggs within 24 hours of landing on a host.  The eggs fall off of your pet into the environment, hatch into larvae, and burrow into carpets, furniture, bedding, or soil in the outside environment), where they can lay dormant for weeks.  Once they emerge as adults, they will seek a host to begin the cycle again.

How do I know if my pet has fleas?

Fleas bite the host and feed off the host’s blood.  You may not recognize that your pet has fleas until the fleas have multiplied to the point that your pet is experiencing visible discomfort – from skin redness and itchiness to open sores and skin infections.  Fleas are no bigger than a sesame seed and are fast movers.  Here are a few ways to check for fleas:

  • If you see a small red or brown, moving speck on your pet, it’s probably a fleaComb your pet’s hair the “wrong” way (back to front) to get a good look at his or her skin.
  • You can find flea combs at pet stores, but any fine-toothed comb will work.
  • Look for red, irritated skin on your dog’s neck, belly, or hindquarters
  • If you see specks of “flea dirt,” the digested blood the flea has excreted, on your pet’s skin or fur, he or she may have fleas.

Should you suspect a flea infestation, contact us to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.  Our doctors and staff will be able to determine if your pet has fleas and proceed with proper treatment.  Additionally, we can make recommendations on how to properly clean your pet’s sleeping quarters and the rest of your home to minimize the risk of re-infestation.

If my pet has fleas, what’s the big deal?

Besides the discomfort it can cause, flea infestations can drain enough blood from your pet to make him or her anemic.  Additionally, fleas also carry tapeworms which can infect your pet if your pet ingests the infected flea(s).

How does my pet get ticks?

Ticks are commonly found in wooded areas, brush and undergrowth.  Pets or people who frequent these types of areas are at risk of becoming a tick’s host.  In recent years, we’ve seen a slightly higher frequency of dogs that live in Chicago contracting ticks as well.  Immature ticks feed on small, wild animals.  Adults typically seek larger hosts such as dogs and cats.

What are the dangers of tick bites?

Ticks can not only cause skin irritation and anemia in pets, but are also capable of spreading serious diseases such as Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (uncommon in the Midwest), Anaplasmosis, and Erlichiosis to your pets.

How do I identify ticks on my pet?  What should I do if I find one or more ticks on my pet?

Ticks can be found anywhere on your pet, but are most commonly found around your pet’s neck, in the ears, between the toes, and in the folds between the legs and body.  These parasites use their tiny sharp teeth to embed themselves firmly into their hosts’ skin and tissue.  An adult tick is roughly 3mm in size and therefore visible to the naked eye.  In their larvae and nymph stages, they are much smaller and may be difficult to identify on your pet.

Ticks feed on the blood of the host and an adult female can ingest up to 100 times her weight in blood.  Typically, pet owners only discover ticks on their pet once the parasite has been feeding and has become engorged.  Prompt removal of ticks on your pet can lessen the chance of disease transmission.  Ticks should be removed properly, with care, to avoid leaving the mouth parts embedded in your pet, which can cause irritation and infection.

If you find ticks on your dog, we strongly recommend consulting with your pet’s veterinarian.  The doctors and staff at Family Pet Animal Hospital can remove ticks appropriately as well as provide recommendations for the appropriate treatment, tick-borne disease screening, and prevention.

What’s the best flea and tick preventive for my pet?

Family Pet Animal Hospital has various effective products for flea and tick prevention and control including monthly topical products and a three-month oral product.  There are many factors to consider when choosing the right preventive(s) for your pet.  The veterinarians at Family Pet Animal Hospital can recommend and appropriate parasite control plan for your pet based on his/her and your family’s lifestyle and needs.


Additional resources:

Tick encounter resource center:


“External Parasites.” External Parasites. American Veterinary Medical Association, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

“How at risk is your pet? View CAPC Parasite Prevalence Maps.” CAPC Vet. Companion Animal Parasite Council, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

Brush Up On Your Pet’s Dental Health


Pet Dental Care 101

Pet Dental Care

Do you know that periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in dogs and cats?  Periodontal disease is the inflammation or infection of some or all of the tooth’s support structures.  According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), it is estimated that by age three, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease. Can you imagine if you never brushed YOUR teeth?  Yikes.

Luckily, periodontal disease is entirely preventable.  The veterinarians at Family Pet Animal Hospital recommend prevention first and foremost and can provide treatment for those already affected.

The speed at which pets develop periodontal disease and will need periodontal therapy (dental cleanings or oral surgery) depends on many variables including proper home dental care, diet, age, breed, and size of the patient, along with health status and genetic disposition.  Just like humans, some pets are born with better mouths than others.


OK, so Fido has bad breath.  So what?

Nobody wants his or her pet to be in pain or to be sick, right?  Halitosis (bad breath) is not the only repercussion of periodontal disease.  Pets suffering from this condition are sometimes silently living in pain. Additionally, bacteria underneath the gum line can travel to the heart, kidneys, and liver and lead to other serious health problems.  Unfortunately, besides bad breath, there are few signs of the disease that are evident to pet owners.  Here are some things to look for:

Signs of dental disease:

  • Bad breath
  • Teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Indications of pain in or around the mouth
  • Swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Abnormal chewing, drooling or dropping food
  • Loss of appetite or refusal to eat

The buildup of plaque can cause gingivitis – inflammation of the gums around the base of the teeth – which can be a constant source of discomfort for your dog or cat.  As the disease progresses, your pet may experience difficulty chewing hard food, as well as drooling excessively, bleeding from the mouth, or difficulty opening/closing the mouth.  Without proper care and treatment, these problems will only worsen.


How is periodontal disease diagnosed?

During your pet’s annual or biannual exam, our veterinarians will check your pet’s teeth and gums for signs of a problem.  Your veterinarian will be to tell you if your pet needs a dental cleaning and polishing.  However, because the majority of the tooth structure lies below the gum line, we cannot fully assess the scope of your pet’s dental disease until your pet receives a full oral exam under anesthesia.


In addition to visual examination, radiographs (x-rays) are an integral part of this full oral exam, allowing your pet’s veterinarian to see if a tooth is beginning to abscess below the gum line or if chronic infection has caused bone loss.  This information allows your pet’s veterinarian to start treatment and spare your pet unnecessary dental pain.  The cleaner the teeth are the healthier the mouth, with less bacteria entering the blood stream and disseminating to the heart, liver, kidneys, and bladder.  Oral health is one of the keys to total body health.


Why does a dentistry procedure require general anesthesia?

When you go to the dentist, while you may not enjoy it, you understand the importance of what’s being done.  Therefore you accept what is happening during a dental procedure.  Our pets cannot understand the benefit of a dental procedure and certainly would not sit still and cooperate.

Anesthesia allows for less stress and less pain for your pet.  Additionally, anesthesia allows us to perform a thorough cleaning because your pet is not moving around and risking injury to him/her or others.  Proper radiographs for assessment by the veterinarian must be taken while the pet is very still, which would be unlikely without anesthesia.

Family Pet Animal Hospital requires blood work for a patient prior to any anesthetic procedure.  This allows our veterinarians to assess the level of risk of anesthesia for your pet and tailor the appropriate combinations of pain relievers, sedatives, injectable anesthesia, and gas anesthesia.  Although anesthesia always carries a degree of risk, modern anesthetics and advanced monitoring equipment greatly minimize this risk.  Generally, the risks to your pet associated with untreated dental disease far outweigh the risks of anesthesia.


What is the prognosis for periodontal disease?

Home oral care for your pet, including daily brushing, can improve his or her dental health, decrease the progression of periodontal disease, and decrease the frequency or even eliminate the need for professional dental cleanings.

Smiling cat 2

How do I take care of my pet’s teeth?

Daily brushing is the single most important aspect of regular dental care to help prevent dental disease.  In addition to daily brushing, dental treats, toys, and therapeutic diets specifically formulated to help manage your pet’s dental health can be part of your pet’s home care to delay the need for a dental procedure.


Dos and Don’ts of at-home dental care for your pet:

  • DO try to perform at-home dental care at least once daily. (Link to how-to video below.)
  • DO use these tips to teach your pet to enjoy having his/her teeth brushed.
  • DO use the resources listed at the bottom of this page to help you with proper oral care for your pet.
  • DON’T use human toothpaste for your pet. It contains ingredients that are harmful for your pet.  We recommend C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste, which is specifically formulated for pets and comes in multiple flavors.
  • DON’T bother attempting to clean the side of teeth facing inside as natural saliva and friction from the tongue cleans this surface on their own.
  • DON’T let your dog chew on cow hooves or bones as these are too hard and they may end up damaging your pet’s teeth.


We look forward to working together with you in the prevention of dental disease and the maintenance of optimal oral and full-body health for your pet!


More resources on pet dental care:

Pet Dental Care 101

Teach Your Pet to Enjoy Having His/Her Teeth Brushed

Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) – Approved list of products to help control plaque and calculus

Videos – Brushing your cat’s teeth

Video – Brushing your dog’s teeth

Dental Care

Most Valuable Player of the Month for February 2017 – Frank Fiacchino


Frank, pictured with his “kids,” Scruffy and Riley.

Frank Fiacchino, one of Family Pet’s Client Care Coordinators, was awarded the FPAH Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the month for February 2017 by last month’s winner, Tony Tramutola.  Frank joined our team in August of 2015 after serving as an Assistant Clinic Manager at the PAWS Chicago Lurie Spay/Neuter Clinic.  In a past life, Frank performed professionally in musical theater.  He subsequently spent many years honing his customer service skills in the hospitality industry.  His love of animals brought him to the veterinary world and we are so grateful to have his talents, patience, and humor here at Family Pet.



Do you have pets?  If so, tell us about him/her/them.

I have two: 1) Scruffy:  a grey and white 14 year young male Shih Tzu.  I adopted him from my cousin when he was two. [My cousin] was about to have her second child and said having a preschooler, a new born baby, a husband and a puppy was too much. THANK GOD, for my sake, she chose to part with the puppy. 2) Riley:  a gold 7 year young female Yorkshire Terrier.  On Halloween weekend of 2014 I was working for PAWS when Riley was brought in from Tennessee. She was brought in on a Friday to be seen by the doctor on Monday before being put up for adoption. I played with her all day and decided to bring her home for the weekend so she wouldn’t have to stay in a cage by herself. Well it’s been a really LONG weekend!

What is your favorite thing about working at Family Pet?

For 15 + years I worked in the hospitality industry so customer service is something I enjoy as well as its kind of innate at this point. Also, Ever since I can remember I have loved animals. Being a Client Care Coordinator I get to combine those two loves for a perfect blend.

What is the moment at FPAH of which you are the most proud?

I never had the pleasure of knowing Marla Minuskin, one of the original co-founders.  But after I started working at Family Pet, it did not take long to know her spirit is still very much alive here. I have heard many wonderful stories of her from coworkers and clients alike. So when Jane Lohmar , one of the managing partners told me Marla would have really liked me it made me VERY proud.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Spend time with my four legged children, binge watch Netflix and run outside in nice weather!

If you could communicate with our patients, what would you most want them to know?

Not to be scared. I would let them know that they were in good hands with good people that will do EVERYTHING in their power to make them feel better!

What’s the strangest job you’ve had?

I once hosted a live NICKELODEON game show where the prize was getting slimed.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Flying, I hate driving!

How would you spend one million dollars?

First off I would hire an accountant, because I am awful with money. Then I would have him/her set it up so my Mom, siblings their families and I could live a comfortable life without worrying about money! Oh and I would adopt a TON of dogs!

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Everybody’s perception is different and a person’s perception is their reality.

What is your personal motto or mantra?

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Tell us something about yourself people would be surprised to know.

I once had a role in a NBC Monday night movie.

Congratulations, Frank!  Frank will pick next month’s FPAH MVP, so stay tuned…


Previous MVPs:

Tony Tramultola (January 2017)

Emily Olvera (December 2016)

Janet Laz (November 2016)

Kate Van Eck (October 2016)

Jim Dinan (September 2016)

Katie Doan (August 2016)


More about us:

Family Pet Animal Hospital’s mission, vision, and core values

Our Doctors

Our Staff


Myths (and Truths) About Grains in Pet Food

by Linda L.

“What is the best food to feed my pet?”

This is one of the most common questions posed to our veterinarians here at Family Pet Animal Hospital. Answering this question has certainly become more complicated than it once was.  Good nutrition for your pet means feeding him or her food that provides the building blocks and energy components that allow him/her to grow, develop properly, and remain healthy and active throughout his or her lifetime. Because every pet is unique, there is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The goal is to find the right food for your pet that is nutritionally balanced to produce optimal health.

Navigating through the abundance of information and misinformation, deciphering cryptic pet food labels, and being constantly inundated with food manufacturers’ marketing buzz words can create a lot of confusion. It is important to think of food in terms of providing the energy, vitamins, and minerals necessary for normal body functioning.  Energy comes from proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. In recent years, grains, especially corn, have developed a bad rap. Is there any truth in the claim that a grain-free diet is best for your pet?  We’re here to debunk some of the most common myths about grains (and other ingredients) in pet food so you can make more informed decisions about what to feed your pet.

According to Jennifer Larsen, DVM, PhD, DACVN, an associate professor of clinical nutrition at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California Davis, “Grains, and any other single category or individual ingredients, are neither good nor bad.  Rather, what is important is how the ingredients work together to create the full nutritional profile of the diet.  Likewise, carbohydrates, as an energy source, are utilized by the body the same way regardless of source, such as grain, legume, or tubers, and different sources of carbohydrates also bring other nutrients, such as fiber, fatty acids, and amino acids.  Again, no ingredient has a simple effect since each provides multiple nutrients, and it’s not consumed in a vacuum.”

Let’s talk about the most common MYTHS and TRUTHS about grains (and other controversial ingredients) in pet food.


Myth vs Fact - Grains in Pet Food (1)


Myth #1:  Dogs and cats did not evolve eating grains and therefore cannot digest them

“In fact, modern dogs have adapted/evolved eating a high starch diet during their domestication,” says Rebecca Remillard, PhD, DVM, DACVN, the founder and president of Veterinary Nutritional Consultations, Inc.  She cites a 2013 study reported in the journal Nature, which states that in a comparison of a domestic dog’s genome versus a wolf’s, the three genes responsible for the digestion of dietary starch were expressed 7-12 fold higher in the dog.  Remillard adds, “…digestibility studies published in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition … have clearly demonstrated that both dogs and cats digest better than 95% of the starch in a properly cooked diet containing 50% corn or rice.”

Ann Wortinger BIS, LVT, VTS, is a veterinary nutritionist who has worked in the field for over 20 years.  She notes that with any grain, “when higher levels are included in the diet, protein digestibility can go down… All plants, due to their cellulose layers, have decreased digestibility when compared to meats.  But when ground and cooked, so that the cellulose layer is broken, digestibility is comparable [to meat].”

Myth #2:  Grains are responsible for pet allergies

Despite frequent claims to the contrary, meat ingredients are the more common culprit of food allergies than grains. There is no current evidence to support that pets on grain-free diets have lower incidence of food allergies than pets on conventional diets.  Larsen adds, “… to my knowledge, there is no inherent characteristic of any particular grain that would make it more likely to elicit an immune response.” She states that historically, the most common allergens for dogs and cats are beef and dairy.  While she suspects that this may be changing due to ingredient trends, no change has been recently reported in scientific literature.

While some dogs do have allergies to wheat, Celiac disease (allergy to wheat gluten) is very rare in pets and has primarily been reported in the Irish Setter breed.  Wheat gluten is more than 80% protein, highly digestible, has an amino acid profile similar to other proteins (meat), and enhances the texture of food.  Anyone who has a pet that is a finicky eater can tell you that last one can be a top priority.

Myth #3:  You can determine the quality of a pet food by reading the ingredient list

Remillard says, “Despite aggressive marketing campaigns by various manufacturers and self-appointed websites, the ingredient list according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) should not impart any information regarding the quality, nutritional balance, or digestibility of the pet food product… The ingredient list was simply not designed, or is not regulated, as a measure of pet food quality.  So the source of the meat or carbohydrates in a pet food is not important to the nutritional profile in a complete and balanced product.”

Does your pet food boast the labels “all natural,” “holistic,” or “human-grade”?  According to AAFCO, the term “natural” requires a pet food to consist of only ingredients that have not been subjected to chemical synthesis.  There are no legal definitions of the terms “holistic” or “human-grade,” therefore under pet food laws, anyone can claim these terms for their food.  These terms may sound appealing but are, in fact, meaningless.

Are all “by-products” bad?  Not at all, in fact, we eat them!  By definition and regulation, by-products are the non-meat parts of chicken, beef, pork, etc. after the meat has been removed.  However, by-products are NOT feathers, beaks, fur hooves, or teeth.  Examples include animal fats and clean internal organs – pork, chicken, and beef liver, heart and kidneys.  All these items have nutritious value and are often preferred over muscle meat by animals.  Other examples are treats we commonly give our pets – bully sticks, raw hides, pig’s ears, cow hooves, trachea, and lamb lung.  By-products are a valuable source of energy, vitamins, and minerals.  And while it may sound good to feed your pet a meat-only diet, muscle meat alone is deficient in many nutrients, which could lead to poor growth, bone fractures, and loose teeth.

Is whole meat better than meat meal?  Here are the AAFCO definitions of what constitutes “meats” and “meals.”

  • Meat – “Meat is the clean flesh derived from slaughtered mammals and is limited to that part of the striate muscle which is skeletal or that which is found in the tongue, in the diaphragm, in the heart, or in the esophagus; with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”
  • Meat meal – “Meat meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It shall not contain added extraneous materials not provided for by this definition…. If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, composition or origin, it must correspond thereto.”

As with all ingredients, if the meat is from a well-known provider and is of good quality, it can be an excellent source of protein.  According to “Myths and Misconceptions Surrounding Pet Foods” on the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center’s website, “Because of the variation in meal content, and in meat and meal quality, purchasing a food from a well-known company who stands behind their product and has the feeding trials and evidence to support its quality is best.”

We recommend that you look at the nutrients rather than the ingredients in foods.  According to Wortinger, “The body does not care if the meat is chicken, beef, or reindeer; what is cares about is the amino acids included in the food.  The body does not care whether the fat is animal or plant-based, but whether all the essential fatty acids are present.  Look at nutrients, not marketing.”

Myth #4:  Grains are non-nutritive fillers

“I’ve heard concerns about them [grains] being ‘filler,’ which is nonsense,” Larsen says.  Grains are added because they are a good source of carbohydrates, which are essential for growth in puppies and kittens and are an important source of energy for most cells of the body (young or adult).  Corn and wheat, two common grains found in pet foods, are excellent sources of quality protein, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants.  Corn meal, which commonly appears in a list of pet food ingredients, is simply corn minus the water and fat and is highly digestible.  Properly processed and cooked grains are generally well-utilized by both cats and dogs.  Furthermore, the fiber provided by grains is essential for the health of the gastrointestinal tract.

Martha G. Cline, DVM, DACVN, is a clinical veterinary nutritionist at AAHA-accredited Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Fall, N.J.  She states, “Although fiber is not a required nutrient, I find that it can be very beneficial in optimizing the stool quality and the overall health of my patients.   Grain-free diets can provide optimal nutrition for cats and dogs, however, diets containing grain can do the same.”

Now What?

We’ve debunked some of the biggest myths about grains and ingredient lists, but you’re still asking, “What should I feed my pet?”    There is no “best” food for all pets because of each pet’s unique factors that determine what is “best” – life stage, body condition, level of exercise, environment, and health status.  The most important considerations are if the food is nutritionally adequate and if your pet is healthy when you feed him or her that food.

All pet food labels in the United States must include the AAFCO adequacy statement.  This statement confirms whether the diet is complete and balanced, for which life stage the food is intended, and how the food company determined that the food is complete and balanced (recipe or analytic testing of the finished product; or feeding trials).  If you are home-cooking your pet’s food, then a diet formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist is recommended so that the food isn’t nutritionally deficient.

Raw diets, produced to supposedly mimic what cats and dogs eat in the wild, have become increasingly popular.  Generally, these raw diets consist of variable combinations of raw meats, grains, vegetables, and bones.  As with grain-free diets, there is no scientific evidence that feeding a raw versus conventional diet is advantageous to your pet’s health.  While we recognize the desire for some people to feed a raw diet to their pets, we stress the importance of understanding the risks.  Raw diets are much more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, such as Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.  Exposure to these pathogens has the potential to cause serious illness in both pets and humans.  If you have a household with very young, old, or immunocompromised inhabitants, the risks are even greater.  Anyone feeding a raw diet should follow strict handling guidelines such as these outlined by the FDA:

In summary, no matter how good the company, how pretty the packaging, how yummy sounding the ingredients, the only TRUE test of whether a food is good for your dog or cat is what happens when you feed it.  Don’t let your decisions about pet food be based on marketing messages instead of objective nutritional data.

Additional Resources

Pet Nutrition – Separating Fact from Fiction

Pet Nutritional Counseling

Searchable Pet Health Articles Database


Smith, Kelly. “Myth Busters: Corn Edition!” NEWStat. American Animal Hospital Assocation, 17 Jan. 2017. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.

Freeman, Lisa M., DVM, PhD, DACVN. “Pet Food Myth Busters: Answering Common Questions Owners Ask About Pet Food.” (n.d.): n. pag. Clinician’s Brief. 2015. Web. 25 Jan. 2017. <>.

“Myths and Misconceptions Surrounding Pet Foods.” The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.

Most Valuable Player of the Month for January 2017 – Tony Tramutola

Tony & FinnTony Tramutola, Family Pet Animal Hospital’s longest standing staff member and one of our Technician Managers, was awarded the FPAH Most Valuable Player (MVP) for January 2017 by last month’s winner, Emily Olvera.  Tony joined the Family Pet team as a teenager back in 1990 just after the practice first opened.  He is an incredibly skilled, no nonsense technician and manager that our doctors and staff call on for assistance incessantly.  Around here, he is often referred to as “Dr. Tony” for his wealth of knowledge and experience.  He may not have a DVM degree but he is certainly invaluable to our team.

His patience and skill with especially scared or aggressive dogs has earned him the title of “dog whisperer.”  Many of our clients request him by name to be the technician to handle their pets when they come to see us, knowing he “speaks their language.”

QUESTION AND ANSWER WITH TONY (he is a man of few words):

Do you have pets?  If so, tell us about him/her/them.

Yes.  Tank is a pitbull mix and full of energy.

What is the moment at FPAH of which you are the most proud? 

Working here for 26+ years.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Playing video games, watching TV, and taking long walks with Tank.

How would you spend one million dollars?

Buy a house and car and eat well.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

When someone says something happened a million times (over-exaggeration).

What would you choose for your last meal?

New York strip steak and baked potato.

Congratulations, Tony!  Tony will pick next month’s FPAH MVP for February, so stay tuned…

Meet Alexander – A Young (9!), Impressive Animal Advocate


alexanderWe’d like to introduce you to Alexander.  At age nine, he’s one of Dr. Jane’s youngest clients and one of the most passionate, blossoming animal advocates we’ve had the pleasure of knowing.  As part of his commitment to animals, he decided to become a vegetarian earlier this year because “he loves animals too much.”  Not only is he a pet owner/lover and a vegetarian, he’s nurtured quite an affinity for a South Haven, Michigan animal shelter – the Al-Van Humane Society – and actively volunteers there when time allows.

At Al-Van Humane Society, Alexander’s focus is on socializing cats and assisting with cat adoptions.  He takes the time to get to know the personalities of the cats at the shelter in order to make effective recommendations to prospective adopters.  He has personally facilitated 86 cat adoptions so far! 

According to Al-Van’s C.A.R.E.S. Campaign information on their website , “In 2012 the Al-Van Board of Directors refined its mission, adopting no-kill best practices to ensure all adoptable animals would be cared for by Al-Van until a forever home was found, no matter how long that took. As a result, Al-Van reached out to our community to become active partners in saving the lives of companion animals. And boy did our community step up! Al-Van has increased its number of foster families, number of active volunteers and number of Meet & Greets held outside the shelter. Best of all- we’ve increased our ‘save rate’ from 18% in 2011 to an all-time high save rate of 90% in 2014.”

Due to the shelter’s increased need for space, Al-Van has purchased an additional building to house the large number of animals in the community that are in need of saving.  The shelter launched the Al-Van C.A.R.E.S (Community And Resources Enhance Shelter) campaign to raise much needed funds to bring their vision for this new facility to life.  A member of the Board of Directors took notice of Alexander’s passion, efforts, and abilities and asked him to participate in one of the planned C.A.R.E.S. campaign videos.  While he was initially nervous about the public speaking aspect of the project, he quickly decided that he “had to do whatever he could to help the animals.”  Check out the video and we’re sure you’ll agree with the doctors and staff here at Family Pet Animal Hospital – Alexander is a wonderful public speaker and we admire his commitment to these animals.


The Al-Van C.A.R.E.S. Capital Campaign has set a goal of raising $500,000 to complete the renovations for the new facility.  Over $100,000 has been raised so far but there is much more work to be completed (see here for more details).  If you are interested in donating to the shelter to support their efforts caring for animals in need, or specifically to the C.A.R.E.S. Capital Campaign, check out their donation page here.

All of us here at Family Pet Animal Hospital are so impressed with Alexander’s commitment to animals.  It’s a pleasure to watch him use his talents and passion for a cause we hold dear.  Way to go, Alexander!  Keep up the amazing work!



Bourbon & Beignet – Rescued by PAWS Chicago from the Louisiana Floods



Meet Bourbon and Beignet.  They are two of 26 dogs and cats that PAWS Chicago was able to rescue from Southern Louisiana following the devastating August 2016 floods that hit the area. The PAWS team drove 16 hours each way to transport animals from local shelters in Louisiana back to the PAWS Chicago Medical Center.   Shortly after their return, we contacted PAWS to see if and how we could help.  Heart worm is very common in the southern states, and unsurprisingly, Bourbon and Beignet both tested positive.  Family Pet Animal Hospital was able to sponsor both Bourbon’s and Beignet’s heartworm treatment.

A little bit about these wonderful pooches:

Beignet – The best word to describe her is “perfect”.  She is gentle, sweet, tolerant, and laid back. She greets everyone with a low tail wag and soft eyes.  She’s an old soul who always looks a bit like she understands exactly what is going on.

Bourbon – Bourbon is a sweet and loving guy. He likes to jump on everyone he meets because he is just that happy to make new friends. He served as a mentor to younger, more insecure dogs that arrived from the south with him – nudging them along when they were frightened of new city noises. His favorite treats are bread, sweet potatoes and cheese.

We are happy to report that both Beignet and Bourbon have found wonderful forever homes through PAWS Chicago.  Family Pet Animal Hospital was so happy for the opportunity to help PAWS in their amazing efforts in caring for these wonderful pets.

Link to more information about PAWS Chicago’s rescue mission

Happy National Veterinary Technician Week! October 16 – 22, 2016



Your pets deserve the best in pet care and it takes everyone on the veterinary health care team to make that happen.  The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognized that fact and established National Veterinary Technician Week (NVTW) as the third week in October.  We certainly value our technical team’s contributions every day, but that this particular week to celebrate their contributions to the health and well-being of our patients.

When you and your pet visit Family Pet Animal Hospital, we hope you have an immediate sense of who we are – we truly care about you and your pets and we love what we do.  We pride ourselves on the amazing team members we have that embrace and embody our core values:

  • Ethics
  • Professionalism
  • Empathy
  • Energy & Focus
  • Pride
  • Team Player


Veterinary technicians and assistants play a vital role in the care of all our patients (and our clients).  Their jobs are similar to that of nurses in human medicine – to perform technical tasks to support the doctors and provide comfort and support to the patient as well.  Our technicians are trained to provide nursing care, conduct diagnostic laboratory work, aid in medical, dental, and surgical procedures, administer anesthesia, and much more.  We could not do what we do without their talents.

Veterinary medicine and technology is always growing and changing and we strive to be on the cutting edge to provide your pet with the best care possible.  Our technicians’ commitment to continuing education allows us to support the addition and integration of new skills, protocols, and systems to our team because your pet deserves the very best.

We want to express our sincere gratitude to our amazing technicians.  We are so grateful for their tireless work, compassion, humor, and talents.  They are crucial to the delivery of the care we provide to the pets in our communication.  Thank you, Vet Techs, for everything that you do!

Happy National Veterinary Technician Week!