Keeping Holidays Safe

The holidays are just around the corner. Such a joyous time of year can quickly turn tragic if owners are not aware of the dangers to their pets that come along with the holiday season. Below is a list of the most common holiday dangers in your home to your dog or cat. Thankfully with a little bit of planning and prevention, they can be avoided and the holidays can be fun for all.

  1. Decorations. Many decorations, such as tinsel, ornaments, and ribbons, are not necessarily toxic but have a certain appeal to animals, especially our feline friends. Something stringy and shiny looks like the perfect toy in a cat’s eyes and if swallowed can cause an intestinal obstruction or choking. Simple solutions include keeping your pets gated off from areas with decorations, or chosing other decorations that are less appealing to pets.
  2. Foods. Around the holidays there tends to be an excess of treats such as chocolate (which is poisonous to dogs and cats) and other fattening foods. Even fattening foods that are not necessarily toxic to an animal can cause major problems, such as pancreatitis, if a large amount is consumed. Bones can cause intestinal obstructions or choking, and certain nuts (particularly the macadamia nut) are poisonous to pets. Simple solutions include keeping holiday treats out of your pet’s reach and sticking to a normal feeding regimen.
  3. Plants. Holly, Mistletoe, and Poinsettias are all toxic to your pets. Eating pine needles can cause mouth and stomach sensitivities in your cat or dog. Simple solutions include keeping your pets gated off from the tree, keeping smaller plants out of reach of your pets, or simply not decorating with these plants.
  4. Noise and Guests. Some animals are more sensitive than others to loud noises (especially around New Year’s), guests, and interruptions in schedules. Every year dogs are reported to have run away from home around the holidays due to loud noises scaring them, or guests unfamiliar with having pets in the home leaving doors open. Simple solutions include educating guests on how to behave around pets (including what is and is not acceptable to feed them), keeping pets in a closed off area of the house, or boarding pets over the holidays. Try sticking as closely to their normal schedule as possible to avoid anxiety.
  5. Electrical Cords. Believe it or not, there are plenty of animals that wouldn’t hesitate to chew on the electrical cord plugging in the lights to your tree or candles in the windows. Pets can get severe electrical burns in their mouths from this activity. Electrical shock can also cause death. Simple solutions include using battery operated lights and/or keeping pets away from cords.

As always, feel free to give our office a call anytime. There is no such thing as a dumb question! We are always happen to help out however we can.

Have a happy and safe holiday season, everyone!


A Season of Change

As I sit down to write our latest blog, I can’t help but wonder where the summer went? I hope that you all had a fabulous summer season and that you are settling back in to the fall/school year routine. This summer was quite busy for us and brought about several changes, which I’d love to share with you.

Bre graduated from Masuk High School in June and headed off to The University of Connecticut in August to study Animal Science. We’re so proud of her for pursuing her passions! Go Bre! We will certainly miss her contagious laugh and her ability to find humor in any situation. Maggie also started on a new venture and is now working in a hospital specializing in feline care. Good luck, Maggie! We’ll miss her warm smile and charisma.

Two out of Dr. Basak-Smith’s three sons were able to spend their summer working in the office and returned to their respective schools this fall. Sean is a Junior at Wheaton College studying Psychology. He kept us all entertained with his random singing outbursts and natural ability to make people laugh, and we’ll be glad to have him back next summer for some more serenading. Raja is a Sophomore at Colorado State University, where he is following in his dad’s footsteps and studying Animal Science with the ultimate goal of becoming a veterinarian. We so appreciate Raja’s passion for the field and desire to learn, and will be happy to have him back with us next year.

As sad as it was to say “Goodbye” to the people we’ve been working with for the last couple of years, we said “Hello” to some old friends as well! Danielle graduated from the University of Connecticut (where she studied Animal Science) and is now back on the staff while she applies to Veterinary Schools. We’re happy to have her, bringing her hard work ethic and willing spirit to the team. Alissa moved back to Connecticut (after several years in Arizona) and also re-joined the MTC family. We gladly receive her vast knowledge and awesome sense of humor. It’s been really nice to have some old faces in the office again!

There are some brand new faces around the hospital as well. We introduce Melanie who is a senior at Trumbull High, where she attends the Agriculture Program and studies…you guessed it…Animal Science! Although I haven’t had many opportunities to get to know her just yet, I can already tell between her animal loving heart and hard working nature, she’s going to fit in here perfectly! Finally, we’re super excited that we’ve added “Professional Grooming” to the services we offer. Mary, a long time client and friend of Monroe Town and Country, became a State Certified Professional Dog Groomer (from the Connecticut K9 Education Center) and set up shop with us. She has been doing an incredible job and we welcome her gentle and loving approach to grooming, as well as her kind and caring personality.

We hope you have to opportunity to meet/reacquaint yourself with the new faces in the office in the near future! We’re very excited to have them as a part of our family and we are confident that you’ll feel the same. Have a fabulous fall, everyone!


Allergy Season

Spring has sprung…and so have allergies!


Did you know your pets can suffer from allergies just like us?


The two most common types of allergies in pets are food allergies and environmental allergies. If your pet suffers during the spring, summer, or fall, chances are the allergies are seasonal and environmental. If your pet has symptoms year-round, it’s more likely an allergy to something more constant in the environment (such as cigarette smoke) or a food allergy.


Common symptoms of allergies include:


-itchy, red skin

-scabby skin

-increased licking and/or itching

-itchy, runny eyes

-itchy and/or infected ears


-itchy, red paws (often accompanied with licking)


Common allergens include:


-Trees, grasses, and weeds

-Mold spores




-Cigarette smoke

-Other animals

-Food ingredients




What can you do?


If your pet suffers from allergies, there are ways to help! The doctor will determine which course of treatment is the best. If it is a seasonal allergy, a steroid injection or round of oral steroids may be just the thing to relieve your pet. There are also sprays, shampoos, and antihistamines that help relieve the less severe allergies. Other precautions like keeping your carpets vacuumed and clean can greatly help reduce allergens in your home. If your pet’s allergies are more severe, there are tests available to determine what exactly your pet is allergic to. Based on their results, allergy injections can be custom made to help desensitize your pet to their specific environmental allergies. Their allergy report also tells you which foods they are allergic to, as well as provide you with a list of foods that they can tolerate. If all else fails, there are hypoallergenic prescription diets available!


If you believe your pet is suffering from allergies, make an appointment with us today. We will do our best to relieve them of their symptoms and keep them as comfortable as possible!

Rescue Tales

Rescue Tales

It was September 2011. Spot was an eight year old Pit Bull that came in from one of the shelters we work with, presenting with a limp in her front left leg. An xray revealed a large tumor which required immediate action: amputation. Due to the size and nature of the tumor, the doctor feared what the biopsy results confirmed: osteosarcoma, a malignant cancer of the bones. Spot was a sweet natured dog with a fighting spirit, who patiently allowed us to care for her, keeping her incision clean and helping her learn how to walk with three legs. She quickly became an office favorite as she spent her days recovering with us, but Vanessa, one of our veterinary assistants, became especially fond of the black and white dog. It was clear Vanessa and Spot had a special bond, and it didn’t surprise any of us when she announced that Spot, now named Layla, would be joining Vanessa as a member of her family.

Layla had hit the jackpot! A dog lover to the core, Vanessa gave Layla the life she had always dreamed of and never had. The thin, shy dog quickly gained weight and confidence as she blossomed under Vanessa’s care. Her dingy coat became shiny and bright. Her tail wagged with excitement as she met other dogs and people (showing a special affinity for Pomeranians) and loved car trips, even going to Tennessee with Vanessa’s mom for a fun getaway!

It was clear that Layla had become a princess, reveling in the life every dog deserves and unfortunately so many are not lucky enough to get. She had home cooked meals (with the occasional treat of Crab Rangoon), a warm, soft place to sleep, and more love than she could ever have imagined. She didn’t let the fact that she was missing a leg slow her down, running faster at the park than many of her four legged counterparts. On the days when walking on three legs became difficult, Vanessa pulled Layla in a red wagon, which she loved!

Vanessa knew from the start that her days with Layla would be fewer than she would hope. She knew she was, in many ways, setting herself up for heartache, aware of the aggressive nature of her cancer and the fact that amputation was not so much a cure as a bandaid, slowing the progression of the disease but not stopping it. This didn’t dissuade Vanessa or her family for one moment. Instead they opened up their home and hearts to her, making her final year the best yet. When Layla began to show signs and symptoms of the cancer advancing and her pain became too much to bear, she was laid to rest with her people loving her through her final journey. Vanessa and her family would be the first to tell you that they would do it all again, stating that the heart break at the end was worth all of the joy Layla gave them. As much as they changed Layla’s life, Layla changed theirs, and that is something they will always be thankful for.

Here at Monroe Town and Country, we value our rescue pets and we love our clients’ stories of adoptions, hearing how both the animals and the owners are transformed in the process. We hope to begin telling these stories through our blog, and encourage you to share your stories with us so we can share them with the world. It only seemed fitting that the inaugural story we told was from one of our own. It only seemed fitting that we give Layla the honor of being the first, the sweet Pit Bull that touched us all.

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Hi, my name is Annie and I am a tech here at Monroe Town and Country. In my free time I am a hobby photographer, and I have been fortunate enough to take a few photography classes to better my skills in something I am so passionate about. The goal of this blog is to give you a few tips on how to photograph your pets well, creating photos that you will cherish forever. If you don’t have a “fancy camera,” don’t worry about it! I’m willing to guess 99% of the people reading this (maybe 100%!) have a smart phone with a camera on it. While a “fancy camera” can be nice (I often shoot with a Nikon D5000) it’s not entirely necessary to get a good shot—some of my favorite pictures were taken with my iPhone!

Lighting can make or break a photo. I could literally write a book on the importance of light and the way you can use it to your advantage, but I’ll try to keep this short! If you’re shooting outside, the best times of day are early morning or late afternoon. These are the times of day that the sun is on either side of the sky, rather than around noon when it’s directly overhead. Side lighting makes for better pictures with less chance of distortion. When you’re taking pictures, the sun should be shining on your animal and your back should be to the sun. If you are shooting into the sun, this is called back lighting. Back lit photos do have some artistic value, it depends what look you’re going for, but remember that details of your pet will be shadowed. If you are shooting indoors, the same rules apply. You can take advantage of natural morning or afternoon light, or you can use artificial light to manipulate the same light effect.


Top left: An example of back lighting. Notice he is shadowed and features are not clearly defined. (Dylan, German Shorthaired Pointer)
Bottom left: An example of natural morning light in an indoor setting. (Lucy, Portuguese Water Dog)
Right: An example of manipulated artificial light in an indoor setting.(Luke, German Shorthaired Pointer)

You’ve probably experienced this at least once. You take a picture of your pet. You are standing up, taking the picture down. You look at the photo, and for some reason it looks like your pet’s head is way bigger proportionately than the rest of its body. Ahh, the beauty of angles! You can make your pet look fat, skinny, like he has a huge head, or a small head…you really could do a lot with angles. But the most important piece of advice is this: when photographing an animal, you should be at shoulder level. Yes, this means unless your pet is quite large, you’re going to need to get on the floor. Or maybe you need to prop your pet up somewhere! The photo below is a perfect example of how angles can impact the way your pet looks. These are two photos of my Quarter Horse, Concho.

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The right photo was taken standing at my normal height, with my body positioned in front of his shoulder. He looks short, stocky, and like his head is too big proportionately to his body (not to mention the lighting wasn’t great—what was I thinking?!). The photo on the left was taken more in line with his shoulder and at shoulder height (hard to believe you need to bend your knees even taking a picture of a horse, but it’s true!). As soon as I bring the height down a bit and change my position in relation to his body, he looks like a completely different horse! In this picture he looks proportional and muscular. Amazing, right? The same principle applies for all animals!\


If your pet is doing something absolutely precious, of course you wouldn’t hesitate to take a picture even if there are dirty clothes on the floor. But if you’re setting aside time to specifically take photos of your pet, you should be mindful of the background in the photos. If you are outside, one tip is to emulate what your pet would naturally be doing. For example, since I have a German Shorthaired Pointer, I tend to photograph him in the woods or tall grasses, where he will naturally point and will look like he’s in his “natural” habitat. Sure he points in my living room when he sees a squirrel through the window, but a pointer pointing out in the woods looks a lot more legit. But even if you can’t match your pet’s “natural” habitat (I’m not sure many Rhodesian Ridgeback owners have access to the Sahara Dessert and lions), generally the woods, wide-open spaces, the beach, etc are good places to photograph your pet. If you are shooting inside, a simple sheet hanging up on the wall to make the background neutral is a great tool. If you have a dark colored pet, use a light colored sheet, if you have a light colored pet, use a dark colored sheet. (Of course my dog is light AND dark which makes things tricky, but I tend to go with light colored backgrounds because his face is dark and that’s where I really want the contrast).


Notice that in both photos, I was at shoulder level with Luke. This means in the left photo I was kneeling and in the right photo I was lying on the ground. Also in both photos, side lighting was used.


I think people get frustrated sometimes because they see photos of animals in magazines that look perfect. They are sitting perfectly, looking directly at the camera, and have a flawless coat. While these “portrait” photos are certainly nice, it is not always necessary to stage your pets to get a nice photo. I try to capture my pets doing things they love, and acting according to their personalities. All animals are unique and I try to portray this in my photographs.

Left Photo: Concho’s favorite thing is going for a gallop in the snow. Middle Photo: Luke and Lucy love playing and going wild together. Right Photo: Savannah tends to get over excited when it snows, and loves to show off her athletic abilities (Savannah is a Hanoverian Horse).


None of these photos were posed, I simply allowed these animals to do what they wanted and was standing by with my camera!


I try to have a sense of humor when photographing my pets, especially my (very tolerant…especially Luke) dogs. I like to take funny pictures of them, which usually involves dressing them up in some way. While I am certainly not William Wegman (don’t know him? Look him up!), I do my best to add some wit and personality to my photos. I also enjoy looking at other photographer’s photos to get ideas of what to do with my own pets.

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Left photo: My dogs Gracie (lab mix) and Luke sporting their Sunday best. Neither “outfit” is over-the-top (Gracie is wearing a pearl necklace and Luke has a necktie on), but it adds a bit of personality to the photo. Right photo: Not all animals are as tolerant as Luke, but the photos I take of him wearing hats always get laughs.


Once you master the above techniques, you can start playing around with focus. Whether you’re shooting with an iPhone or a more advanced camera, you have the option of focusing on one specific area or subject when taking a photo. Don’t be afraid to play around and see what works! Believe it or not, sometimes focusing on something OTHER than your pet can create a beautiful, artistic photograph.

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Left Photo: Focus is on Luke’s paw prints rather than on Luke. I also chose to back light the photo to add to the artistic effect.

Right Photo: Focus is on Luke, while Concho is blurred, blending into the background.


  1. Be willing to take lots and lots of photos. Don’t be afraid that you’re doing it “wrong” and try not to get frustrated. The beauty of digital photography is that you CAN take 100 photos and it doesn’t matter if 98 of them are not what you were going for. You can delete them and move on.
  2. I recommend not deleting any photos (unless they’re very obviously blurry, etc) until you’ve uploaded them on your computer. Photos I’ve thought weren’t great when looking at them through the viewfinder on my camera turned out to be great when I put them on my computer and was able to look at them full sized.
  3. Don’t worry about looking silly. I have to admit, it took me awhile to get comfortable in my “photographer shoes,” but now I really have no shame about lying on the ground in the middle of the dog park to get a good shot of my dogs. The sooner you embrace it, the better your photos will be!
  4. Thanks to all of the photo editing software available (iPhoto, Aperture, Instagram, Photoshop, etc) there are so many things you can do to photos once you’ve taken them. Don’t be afraid to play around with the color saturation, exposure, contrast, etc. As you probably noticed, I love putting photos in black and white. I also enjoy playing around with my options, knowing that an original copy is saved on my computer (gotta love technology!).
  5. Practice, practice, practice! I spend a ton of time taking pictures, and I can honestly say I learn something new every time I do a photo shoot. I am way better at taking photos than I was a few years ago, and I hope in a few years I can say the same thing! And I hope you are able to say the same thing too! Happy shooting!

**all of these photos are owned by Annie, please do not reuse without her permission**

Tales from the Office Kitty: Annual Exams

Tales from the Office Kitty: Annual Exams

Well, it’s that time of year again. I was all snuggled up in my bed when the humans so cruelly picked me up and brought me into the dreaded exam room for my least favorite thing: my annual exam.  Us cats specialize in protesting this exam (for some reason there are dogs that seem to ENJOY it!), but the doctor reminded me that it is extremely important, even on the years I am not due for any vaccines or don’t seem to be having any issues. Whether cats or dogs, a yearly exam is a crucial part of pet care that often gets skipped, especially for my feisty, objecting feline friends.

So what’s so great about annual exams? Believe it or not, when the doctor squeezed my belly, he was feeling many of my internal organs, including my intestines, bladder, and kidneys. He felt for abnormalities, possibly obstructions, bladder stones, and more. He also ran his hands over my entire body (ok, that part isn’t so bad, I do enjoy being petted) to feel for any lumps or bumps that may not have been noticed before. (I’ve also observed that the techs seem to specialize in finding ticks around animals’ heads and necks. If I had a nickel for every time one of the girls pulled a tick off a dog or cat during their annual, I’d be a rich kitty!) The doctor also checked my skin and fur for parasites such as fleas or mange, as well as skin infections such as ringworm (he’s really good at surprising owners with that find!).

Next he looked into my ears, checking for mites or infection, my eyes, checking for any infection, injuries, or disease, and my mouth (I thought this may be a good time to try and bite him, but it turns out he has pretty quick reflexes!) for dental disease. He checked my paw pads and nails, determining that I needed a nail trim (how rude! I liked them long!). He listened to my heart and lungs for any abnormalities, and then I was deemed a healthy cat! Here’s to another year of sleeping in the waiting room and avoiding the exam room!

When your pet comes in for an annual exam, not only does the doctor give them a thorough evaluation, he can also discuss with the owners other preventative care (such as heartworm, flea, and tick medications), recommendations for insurance, microchipping, training, and more. If your pet is getting advanced in their years, he can suggest things like joint supplements, and senior blood work to check on their liver and kidney function, and more. The doctor is strong believer in catching things early when they can be treated more effectively. Noticing a kidney is slightly larger than the other, for an example, can be a sign of kidney disease. When caught early, it’s something that can be treated and your pet can have many, many more years. The doctor’s goal is to keep your pet happy and healthy for as many years as possible. This starts with wellness exams. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Having my annual exam is not my favorite thing, but I am glad that I had it. I know the girls are happy their kitty got a clean bill of health, and I have to admit I’m glad to know that too. And it really wasn’t THAT bad, especially since I got plenty of treats and kisses for the rest of the day. 

Check in Next Week for Annie’s Photography Tips!

Dental Health Month is Here!

It seemed only fitting that today’s blog would discuss the importance of dental health, as February is officially Dental Health Month in the veterinary world. In celebration of Dental Health Month, we here at Monroe Town and Country give our clients 20% off all dental cleanings for the entire month of February.

Your pet’s teeth and gums can affect much more than your pet’s mouth. Infection from your pet’s mouth can affect their heart, kidneys, intestines and joints. To determine if your pet has any dental issues, there are some signs you can look for, including bad breath, excessive drooling, inflamed gums, and/or loose teeth.

If your pet does not currently have any dental issues, there are a few things you can do to keep them that way! Brushing your pet’s teeth with specially-made-just-for-pets toothpaste and toothbrushes is a great way to keep your pet’s teeth free of tartar. Gnawing on toys and dental chews are also great techniques, especially for dogs, to keep their teeth clean and healthy.

If your pet has any dental issues, a dental cleaning (and possibly extractions) is likely needed. Please give our office a call if you have any questions regarding your pet’s dental health. Together we can keep your pet smiling!

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