Everyone hates e-collars—you know, those hard plastic “lampshades” your pet has to wear after seemingly every visit to the veterinarian’s office. E-collar is short for Elizabethan collar; it was named after the stand-up collar on dresses worn in Elizabethan-era England. In addition to looking kind of funny, e-collars can get caught on doorjambs, on legs and even on unsuspecting children. Dogs and cats sometimes knock over their food and water bowls while wearing them. Sometimes pets even refuse to walk normally with the e-collar on.

Although it can be a pain, it’s REALLY important for your pet to wear the e-collar for as long as necessary. E-collars prevent your pet from licking, biting or scratching at a wound or surgical site, which even the most well-behaved pets will do if given the opportunity.
Illustrating the importance of the e-collar, Newtown Veterinary Specialists‘ emergency doctors have seen many patients that were not wearing them as prescribed. Without the e-collar, these pets were able to chew out their stitches or make their wounds worse. Second surgeries were often required to repair the damage. In some cases, especially when abdominal surgery was involved, life-threatening injuries resulted from a pet chewing out the stitches.

The e-collar may be a hardship, but remember it is temporary! Proper use can save you hundreds of dollars, and more importantly, it will save your pet from a lot of unnecessary pain.

If your pet is really having a hard time with the e-collar, talk to your veterinarian about alternatives. There are soft-padded e-collars and collars that are more like inflatable tubes. In some cases topical solutions, such as tee-shirts, are appropriate. These alternate solutions only work for some pets with specific conditions, so please consult the doctor before changing collars.

Do NOT remove the e-collar before you’ve been directed to do so. Giving your furry four-legged “cone-head” a little extra love and attention can make the time fly by until you can safely remove it. If your pet has chewed out the stitches, call your veterinarian immediately. Newtown Veterinary Specialists is staffed with emergency doctors 24/7 should your family veterinarian be unavailable.
–Edited by Joan Eve Quinn





Please tell every dog or cat owner you know. Even if you don’t have a pet, please pass this to those who do.
Over the weekend, the doting owner of two young lab mixes purchased Cocoa Mulch from Target to use in their garden. The dogs loved the way it smelled and it was advertised to keep cats away from their garden. Their dog (Calypso) decided the mulch smelled good enough to eat and devoured a large helping. She vomited a few times which was typical when she eats something new but wasn’t acting lethargic in any way. The next day, Mom woke up and took Calypso out for her morning walk. Halfway through the walk, she had a seizure and died instantly.

Although the mulch had NO warnings printed on the label, upon further investigation on the company’s web site,

This product is HIGHLY toxic to dogs and cats.

Cocoa Mulch is manufactured by Hershey’s, and they claim that “It is true that studies have shown that 50% of the dogs that eat Cocoa Mulch can suffer physical harm to a variety of degrees (depending on each individual dog). However, 98% of all dogs won’t eat it.”

*Snopes site gives the following information: http://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/cocoamulch.asp .asp>

Cocoa Mulch, which is sold by Home Depot, Foreman’s Garden Supply and other garden supply stores contains a lethal ingredient called ‘Theobromine’. It is lethal to dogs and cats. It smells like chocolate and it really attracts dogs. They will ingest this stuff and die. Several deaths already occurred in the last 2-3 weeks.

Theobromine is in all chocolate, especially dark or baker’s chocolate which is toxic to dogs. Cocoa bean shells contain potentially toxic quantities of theobromine, a xanthine compound similar in effects to caffeine and theophylline. A dog that ingested a lethal quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach contents and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine.


Newtown Veterinary Specialists recently donated pet oxygen masks to the Wilton Fire Department. Left to right: Ralph Nathanson, Apparatus Supervisor; Bernadette Vinci, MS, NVS Director of Operations; firefighter Michael Pryor, who is in charge of emergency equipment; and firefighter Patrick Garver.

Newtown Veterinary Specialists recently donated pet oxygen masks to the Wilton Fire Department. Left to right: Ralph Nathanson, Apparatus Supervisor; Bernadette Vinci, MS, NVS Director of Operations; firefighter Michael Pryor, who is in charge of emergency equipment; and firefighter Patrick Garver.

On April 23, Newtown Veterinary Specialists (NVS) donated three new pet oxygen masks to the Wilton Fire Department to help firefighters save the lives of animals rescued from burning buildings.

The masks, in sizes small, medium and large, are specially designed to fit the faces of animals. To equip the fire department’s ladder truck, the masks were donated in honor of Lexi, a beloved 16-year-old Black Labrador Retriever that sadly passed away on March 6 at NVS. Lexi was the pet of Ralph Nathanson, who is the Wilton Fire Department’s apparatus supervisor, and his family.

Bernadette Vinci, MS, Director of Hospital Operations at NVS said, “Lexi was such a wonderful dog and we are very saddened by her passing. Lexi had the heart of a service dog. She always wanted to help others. By donating pet oxygen masks in her memory, we honor Lexi while helping our hero firefighters save the lives of more animals.”

Ralph Nathanson explained, “We will try to save anything that is breathing. It’s great to be able to keep pet oxygen masks in different sizes available in our ladder truck. We’re going to do everything we can to save an animal. We know how important pets are as part of the family.”

Lexi was adopted from Wyoming as a small pup. At an early age she was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. As a result, she had a little “bunny hop” whenever she ran. The Nathanson family made the commitment early on to provide her with the most complete veterinary care throughout her life. “She had everything she needed,” Ralph Nathanson said. “Life was like one big backyard for her. Everyone loved her. All the neighbors on our block would come by to visit her. My children and grandchildren grew up with her. Her favorite place was on the front of our boat. Lexi was always giving back to people and she still is. She had a golden heart and was the ultimate animal.”

The staff at NVS met Lexi on her last day of life when the family had to make the difficult decision to end her suffering. “Lexi let us know it was the right time, even then she thought of us,” Ralph Nathanson said. “Although it was our first time at NVS, we felt right away that we had known the staff all along. They really sympathized with us and did everything they could to help us at this very difficult time.”

To further honor Lexi’s legacy and help more pets, NVS is rolling out a new program to donate pet oxygen masks to other fire departments throughout Fairfield County.

Newtown Veterinary Specialists is a 24-hour veterinary emergency and critical care hospital located at 52 Church Hill Road in Newtown, CT. The facility offers leading-edge medical and surgical care for pets that are injured or suffer from complex diseases and conditions that require the advanced training of a board-certified specialist. NVS features sophisticated diagnostic equipment, the latest treatment methods, and around-the-clock patient monitoring. The doctors collaborate closely with the family veterinarian to ensure complete, effective and coordinated pet care. Open 365 days a year, NVS is celebrating its second anniversary in May. For more information about the hospital visit http://www.newtownvets.com.




According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “with an estimated population of 70 million dogs living in U.S. households, millions of people, most of them children, are bitten by dogs every year. The majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable.”

Most child dog bites are a result of normal daily interactions with a familiar dog. Children often startle dogs and they react. Dogs bite as a reaction to a situation, most often a stressful situation. The bite can be provoked by feeling threatened or to protect something they find valuable (food, puppies, toys). Dogs may bite if they are ill or injured and want to be left alone.

Some dog’s bite or nip during play. This can still be quite dangerous to people. Avoiding wrestling or playing tug-of-war with dogs that tend to become overly excited.

Socializing your pet with unfamiliar people and dogs can lessen their fear and may decrease their potential to bite.

Many children are very comfortable around dogs because they may have a dog at home or a family member or neighbor has a dog they are exposed to. Unfortunately, children assume every dog is nice and approachable. It is important for children to learn boundaries and rules when it comes to unfamiliar dogs.

The AVMA offers these tips to help children understand the importance of respecting dogs and avoiding bites:

Avoid unknown dogs. If they see a dog they don’t know and it is wandering around loose and unsupervised, avoid the dog and consider leaving the area.
Always ask an owner for permission to pet their dog. Don’t ever pet a dog without asking first, even if it is a dog they know, or a dog that has seemed friendly toward them before.
If an aggressive dog confronts a child, teach them to confidently, quietly, walk away. Teach children to avoid escalating the situation by yelling, running, hitting, or making sudden movements toward the dog.
Teach children boundaries with family dogs. Enforce the idea that the pet’s bed or crate is the dog’s space and they are to be left alone. A dog needs a comfortable, safe place where the child never goes.
Educate children at a level they can understand. Don’t expect young children to be able to accurately read a dogs’ body language. Instead, focus on gentle behavior and that dogs have likes and dislikes and help them develop understanding of dog behavior as they grow older.
Teach children never to tease dogs by taking their toys, food or treats, or by pretending to hit or kick.
Teach children to never pull a dog’s ears or tail, climb on or try to ride them.
Tell children to leave the dog alone when it’s asleep or eating.
Don’t encourage children to pretend small dogs are dolls. Most dogs do not like to be carried around or dressed up.
Don’t give children too much responsibility for pets too early. Always supervise and check on pet care responsibilities given to children to ensure they are carried out.

Newtown Veterinary Specialists recommends incorporating these safety tips into your daily interactions with your canine companion. By so doing, you’ll be nurturing the bond between your family and man’s best friend. For more information on National Dog Bite Prevention Week visit https://www.avma.org/public/Pages/Dog-Bite-Prevention.aspx. For more information about Newtown Veterinary Specialists visit http://www.newtownvets.com.




The 56 staff members at Newtown Veterinary Specialists work hard every day to restore ill and injured cats and dogs to good health and keep the busy state-of-the-art facility humming. But behind the scenes, a special program helps dedicated employees get into fine shape so they can stay at the top of their game providing life-saving services to pets.

Strong believers in workplace wellness, the hospital’s employers cover the cost of gym membership for staffers who make the commitment to attend twice weekly. The facility’s owners have led by example. Scott Schifilliti, MBA, and Deb Weisman, DVM, MS, board-certified veterinary surgeon, were first to join the gym at the Newtown Youth Academy. Taking it a step further, they’ve enlisted the support of the gym’s personal trainer to work one-on-one with each participating employee.

“We’re interested in the well being of our staff and encourage them to live a healthier lifestyle with more exercise and better nutrition,” Scott Schifilliti explained. “It’s a win-win situation. A healthier staff means fewer missed days at work, greater productivity, and a stronger commitment to our mission of providing excellent veterinary medical, surgical and emergency care for pets,” he said.

Susan MacMullan, clinical exercise specialist at the Newtown Youth Academy gym, coordinates the program. “When you exercise you feel better, sleep better and have less stress,” she explained. “Improved health and nutrition can lead to a happier, more balanced work life.” Susan provides two orientations for each employee and points them in the right direction to either lose weight or build strength. The program has been very successful. “The combination of using weights, incorporating cardio fitness, awareness of proper nutritional habits, and coming to the gym consistently is the secret of success,” she said.

New Year resolutions to lose weight and exercise more kick-started the campaign and about 20% of the staff have joined so far. Employees from every department participate, from board-certified veterinary specialists to client service representatives, with more joining every day.

Newtown Veterinary Specialists, celebrating its second anniversary in May, is an advanced veterinary emergency, critical care and specialty hospital open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Located at 52 Church Hill Road in Newtown, CT, it offers leading-edge medical and surgical care for pets that are injured or suffer from complex diseases and conditions that require the advanced training of a board-certified specialist. The facility features sophisticated diagnostic equipment, the latest treatment methods, and around-the-clock patient monitoring. The doctors collaborate closely with the family veterinarian to ensure complete, effective and coordinated pet care.

For more information visit http://www.newtownvets.com and http://www.nyasportsfitness.com.


level 2 trama

Newtown Veterinary Specialists (NVS) has recently been certified as a Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Facility by the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (VECCS). This significant achievement of Level II Critical Care Center status demonstrates that NVS meets or exceeds specific requirements and standards for the highest level patient care, staffing and equipment.

NVS is one of only nine veterinary emergency hospitals in the U.S. to earn this prestigious designation, which recognizes that the facility is open 24-hours, 365-days-a-year, with the medical staff, personnel and training to provide quality emergency and critical care for pet patients.

Dr. Deb Weisman, NVS Medical Director, said, “I’m very proud that our staff has been recognized for delivering high-level emergency and critical care for pets in Fairfield County and beyond. We’re the only animal hospital in New England and one of only nine in the country to have achieved this important designation. Our critical care specialist, Dr. Danielle Berube, does an outstanding job of providing life-saving treatments for so many critically ill and injured pets. We thank her for making this honor possible.”

Dr. Danielle Berube said, “I’m very excited that NVS is recognized as a trauma center and am proud to work with staff that allows us to meet all the requirements.”

NVS, located at 52 Church Hill Road in Newtown, Connecticut, is celebrating its second anniversary this Spring. A 24-hour emergency, critical care and specialty referral animal hospital, it provides the most advanced medical and surgical services available. The state-of-the-art facility offers board-certified veterinary specialists, leading-edge diagnostic equipment, the latest treatment methods and around-the-clock patient monitoring. The 15,000 square-foot facility, located off I-84, is open 365-days- a-year, even on major holidays.

VECCS, which granted the certification, is an international, professional society of veterinarians, veterinary technicians and managers dedicated to promoting the advancement of knowledge and high standards of practice in veterinary emergency medicine and critical patient care. For more information visit http://www.newtownvets.com and http://www.veccs.org.


On New Year’s Day, Pat Greco became increasingly concerned when her healthy German Shepherd, Kobe, wasn’t acting right and suddenly couldn’t stand or walk properly. Walking gingerly around in circles, he couldn’t keep his balance, and his paws started to knuckle underneath him. At that point Pat knew she had to act quickly. Although it was snowing that holiday night, her husband, Ron, rushed their beloved dog to the Newtown Veterinary Specialists‘ (NVS) 24-hour emergency service.

 The emergency doctors and specialists worked together to examine eight-year-old Kobe and determine what was wrong. After conducting some tests, they suspected he had a neurological problem, probably disc disease. To confirm this diagnosis, imaging experts performed a CT scan on-site with a very sophisticated scanner, the same type used in human medicine. The CT scan provided a more detailed, complete picture than an x-ray would, enabling the doctors to see which discs were affected and the extent of the damage. The scan showed that Kobe had severe compression of the spinal cord in the lower neck, caused by a herniated disc, which is quite painful.

People also get herniated discs. The condition can be caused by something as simple as turning the neck the wrong way. Sometimes disc disease is caused by a deteriorating disc or a trauma, such as a car accident, but often the cause is unknown. Disc disease is more common in dogs than cats and most frequently affects the long, low canine breeds such as dachshunds, corgis, and basset hounds.

 While some less severe cases can be managed with medications, the NVS specialists determined that surgery would be the best course of treatment for Kobe. He immediately underwent neurological surgery to relieve the compression in his spinal cord. The procedure was performed by Dr. Chad Andrews, a board-certified veterinary surgeon, who has the specialized surgical training and expertise needed to perform disc surgery.

“The surgery went very well,” reported Dr. Andrews. “With these types of cases, 85-97% of patients will recover fully, but it usually takes months. But just four weeks post surgery, Kobe is doing extremely well and he will very likely go on to a full recovery.”

 After Kobe recuperated from surgery, Dr. Andrews prescribed rehabilitation to help restore his balance, strength and function. Gail T. Henderson, MS, PT, owner of Paws and Paddle Canine Conditioning, is working closely with Kobe and his owners to aid his recovery. Gail uses her rehabilitation skills to encourage movement using massage, cold laser, stretching, balance board and balls, gait training and an underwater treadmill, which allows the patient to walk with reduced stress on his body. Kobe is making remarkable progress as you can see in our video!

 A German-bred German Shepherd, Kobe was a show dog until the age of two. His owner, Pat, also owns Kobe’s mother and is proud to have delivered the pup herself eight years ago. “Kobe is getting stronger every day; we are way ahead because of the excellent care he received from the doctors and technicians at NVS and from Gail as well,” Pat explained. “I couldn’t be happier with the constant attention he was given. Drs. Chad Andrews, Ben Nappa and Danielle Berube–and everyone on staff–were very good to him and I am thankful.”

 The prognosis for disc disease depends on the severity, how long the pet has had the condition,  which treatment option is chosen, and how the patient responds to treatment. Depending on which area of the spine is affected, disk herniation can cause paralysis of the back legs, inability to urinate or defecate properly, neck pain, limping on one front leg or paralysis of all four limbs.  

 If your pet is having difficulty standing or walking, or seems to be uncomfortable or in pain, we encourage you to  contact us: NVS is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help with any type of pet emergency. For more information visit http://www.newtownvets.com; http://www.pawsandpaddle.com; and http://www.veterinarypartner.com.

%d bloggers like this: