Stewie, Step By Step

Meet Stewie! This fine young fella came to us for a second opinion. Stewie had been diagnosed with a torn cruciate ligament in both knees. Ouch! The decision was made to repair the right knee first and once fully healed, repair the left knee.
His surgery was done on January 8 by Dr. Mark Plott here at Foster Animal Hospital. The following is a look at Stewie’s progress through Canine Rehabilitation Therapy.

REHAB Session 1: Stewie returned on January 14 for his first rehab session. At that time, much of the post-op swelling had diminished. He was still carrying his right rear leg “high and tight”. He was protective of the leg, although not in an aggressive manner. He basically didn’t want me to touch the leg much. Some of this was due to remembering pain, but also, he hadn’t developed the trust he needed to have the leg rehabilitated. Initial rehab for cruciate surgery begins with Passive Range of Motion, Flexibility, and Pain relief. So basically for Stewie that day, we did various stretches, other motions that simulate joint and leg movement without bearing weight, and joint compressions. We also massaged Stewie’s tight muscles. To help with pain and healing, he received LASER therapy as well. By the end of the session, Stewie was much more relaxed.


REHAB Session 2: Stewie returned 2 days later for his second session. In just the 2 days since his first session, Stewie was walking, albeit with a limp, on his leg! We repeated all of the same measures from session 1.


REHAB Session 3: Stewie returned the next day for his 3rd rehab session. He was walking even better than the day before! Because he was doing so well, we began very minor strengthening exercises. We also repeated all of the Passive Range of Motion, stretches, compressions, and Laser like we had the first 2 sessions. Because many dogs will not fully use their legs with an ACL rupture, muscle atrophy can occur quickly. Therefore, being able to start strengthening exercises put him way ahead of the game.


REHAB Session 4: Our boy Stewie returned 4 days later for his fourth rehab session. Our treatment for him will be over 8 sessions. So we are halfway there. Stewie bounded from his apartment full of energy and walking without a noticeable limp. What a guy! We continued all of the therapy from the first 3 sessions but began to intensify his strengthening exercises. Bear in mind, these exercises are not haphazard or uncontrolled. Everything we do is measured and done with care as to not harm the surgical repair that was done 13 days before. As we finished the session that day, I remarked to myself what an excellent patient Stewie is!


Please stay tuned as I will recap Stewie’s progress and his status following his remaining 4 Rehab sessions.

Until then,

Steve Foster, DVM, CCRT

Foster Animal Hospital

Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center

Concord, NC 28027


Backstage at FAH


Telling people you work at a veterinary hospital can be a neat trick or a regrettable mistake in the conversation department.  On the good side, I always have something to talk about at a table of strangers, whether they’re neurosurgeons or bawdy wedding guests.  Precocious little girls tell me how they hope to be a vet one day.  People relax and smile at me because they like animals too.  We won’t dwell on never-ending “my cute pet” stories or unwanted shop talk; this doesn’t happen that often, thank goodness.

Because so many people have told me they are animals’ number one fans or wish they could’ve been vets, I thought I’d reveal a few behind-the-scenes secrets about what it’s really like to do what we do here.  It’s a look behind the curtain, if you will.  I realize these little truths make us sound crazy, I’m just not sure whether the dysfunction came before or after the animals got to us.

  • Each staff member has an arsenal of weird, favorite tasks and talents.  Some can draw blood with their eyes closed, through fur, on a moving target.  One soothes wigged-out dogs like a snake charmer.  Believe it or not we have folks who beg to flush maggots and abscesses.  For some reason, I’m good at pilling cats and expressing anal glands.  Yeah, pretty cool, I know.


  • Related to that, we deal daily with sights and smells that would make your hair curl.  We don’t fret about popped-out eyeballs, and oh, the places my hands have been…  But please don’t ask us to look at the human body.  Seriously, it freaks us out a little, I don’t know why it’s different but it is.
  • Perhaps as in other medical fields, we are a highly superstitious bunch.  We believe the full moon brings strange cases, illnesses (obstructed cats, parvo puppies) come in threes, if you say out loud, “it sure is slow today,” there’s bound to be an immediate stampede of patients into the lobby.


  • Although appearing calm on the outside, we worry about our patients obsessively.  Did I make the right diagnosis?  Is she resting comfortably in the hospital overnight?  Is the medicine going to work?  Is he going to be okay?  I think you’d be happy if you knew how much we worry about your pet.
  • Mad cats can mess you up worse than any Rottweiler.  They have multiple weapons and can turn inside their skins, people!


  • A work day can feel like a psychological roller coaster:  break bad news to worried grandmother, do wellness visit with college couple, examine scared big dog without stressing owner or letting anyone get hurt, meet new kitten and excited family.  I can leave a room wiping away tears and within moments must be cheerful for someone else.  It’s enough to give one emotional whiplash.
  • We play with your pets when we take them out of the room.  Appropriately, of course, and they enjoy it too.  Cats are cuddled and brushed, puppies “dance” on the tables and fly Superman-style.


  • We fall in love with our animal patients.  Physicians would get in trouble for this, but luckily for us there’s no such ethical problem!  Loving our patients makes the work easier (and harder), and helps us take care of them as if they were our own.  In fact, unbeknownst to their owners, I keep a mental list of all the dogs and cats I want to adopt if they should ever need a home.  They know who they are.

If this sounds like your brand of crazy, I hope you find an outlet to work with animals.  One time I went to a charity event to build a fence for this dog’s yard, and 50 of us dog lovers stood around holding pliers, just wanting to do some good.  And we all had fun!  So go forth and help those deserving animals, and someone like me will want to ask you all about it.

Robin Lake, DVM

Foster Animal Hospital, Concord, NC


Does My Pet Need Vitamins?


This is a common question posed by owners wanting to get new puppies off on the right foot, or families of ailing pets, or by people who take vitamins themselves.  The short answer to the question is nah, probably not!

These days most cats and dogs eat a commercial diet with complete and balanced nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.  The standards for these diets are set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), and a statement or seal should be clearly labeled on your food bag.

Some AAFCO-compliant diets are tested by the “formulation method”, where the food is chemically analyzed to prove proper ratios and amounts of nutrients.  Other diets are proven by “feeding test”, where the diet is fed to live animals; the animals’ growth and health is monitored and measured.  If you have a healthy pet, and her food bag shows the AAFCO label, then you’re probably giving everything she needs in her plain old diet.  And you can stop reading now!


Premium pet diets (e.g., Hill’s Science Diet, Eukanuba, Innova, Royal Canin) may contain helpful additions such as antioxidants, omega fatty acids/fish oils, more digestible nutrients, higher levels of Vitamins C and E, and glucosamine.  Prescription diets are used to treat specific medical conditions.

As far as extra vitamins and supplements go, again, most pets of all ages are fine or even better off without them.  However, in select cases they can be beneficial (arthritis, skin issues, intestinal upset, etc.).  Pets eating home-cooked diets also often need additional vitamins and minerals.

If you’re still not sure about your pet’s particular situation, give us a call or ask at your next visit.

Robin Lake, DVM

Foster Animal Hospital

Concord, NC



Every Month Is Spay/Neuter Month At Foster Animal Hospital!



For years, many of us veterinarians have used certain months to promote services and items. Some still do. These promotions could include- spay/neuter, dentistry, wellness tests, etc. In 2012, we at Foster Animal Hospital designed and implemented our Dental Cleaning Promo that proved to be resoundingly popular. Many clients liked this promo because we designed it as a single price that fit every dog or cat regardless of the “state of their mouth”. In fact, the Dental Cleaning Promo was so popular, we declared every month at Foster Animal Hospital as Dental Month.

Due to the Dental Promo’s popularity, we have designed our Spay/Neuter Promo as well! The Spay/Neuter Promo is designed to include: the spay/neuter itself, pre-operative bloodwork, fluid therapy under anesthesia, complete monitoring of all vitals, and a Capstar flea pill. (To see the details, click on the link below. Also with the link there is a pdf file that shows the prices and the Promo details.) As you will see, there is “one price that fits all”. The age and weight of your pet does not affect the price! By including the pre-operative bloodwork and fluids, you don’t have to sacrifice quality. We hope all can see the value recieved in our new Promo!



So why spay/neuter?

  • The most obvious reason is population control. The number of feral cats and unwanted puppies and kittens in Cabarrus County is staggering. Some estimates place the feral cat population in the hundreds of thousands. Many unwanted puppies and kittens are euthanized each year or are abandoned for an unknown fate. Controlling the over-population is crucial.
  • Behavior. Plain and simple, hormones influence behavior. When an animal is spayed or neutered, the source of hormones is removed: the ovaries or the testicles. Unwanted male behavior includes aggression, roaming, urine marking, excessive libido. Most puppies taken to Animal Control are done so because of behavioral issues. Most are never adopted.
  • Health. Studies show that spaying female dogs or cats before their first heat cycle, results in an almost 0% chance of developing breast cancer. The old wive’s tale of letting them go through the first heat is wrong. Spaying is recommended at 6 months of age. Females also cannot develop ovarian disease, uterine disease, or pyometra once they are spayed. Males have a much reduced risk of prostate infection/inflammation once neutered. (neutering doesn’t have a profound effect on limiting prostate cancer however). Many non-spayed and non-neutered dogs and cats develop problems in old age. Couple the older age with a severe uterine or prostate infection, and you have a patient that is not a desirable surgical candidate.

I hope this helps you understand the importance of spaying and neutering your pets. Every dog and cat I own has been spayed or neutered. All were done by 6 months of age. Please click on the link below to learn more about Foster Animal Hospital’s new Spay/Neuter Promo.



All the best,

Steve Foster, DVM, CCRT

Foster Animal Hospital

Concord, NC

Dogs Eat the Darndest Things

I’m supposed to be writing blog entries this month about nutrition and supplements. That’s important stuff, but I thought for this article we could go off on a literally juicier dietary tangent.
Dogs are gross at times, can we all agree on that? The stinky things they enjoy sniffing and rolling themselves in can induce a gag reflex in your average human, and we here at the hospital are continually amazed at what they’ll actually ingest. Aside from sheer foulness, problems occur when a pet eats something toxic or when the material is non-digestible and too large to pass through the bowel. These cases can be fun (pets usually recover fully) and funny (what a goofy dog!).
Owners sometimes suspect a neighbor poisoned their sick dog. However, it’s much more common for the dog to have accidentally poisoned herself. One of the most toxic substances we regularly see patients having eaten is zinc, which is found in pennies from 1983 and later (before that they were mostly copper), and in some hardware. We’ve taken x-ray pictures showing what must’ve been handfuls of pennies, nuts, washers, and bolts in the stomach. Maybe dogs think it’s candy? Kibble? One particularly unappetizing toxin case involved a Doberman coming into the hospital and vomiting up an enormous, poison-laced rat. When our seasoned technicians get a little queasy, you know it’s disgusting.
Foreign body surgeries, to relieve intestinal obstructions, can be especially rewarding. The patient’s problem is often solved tidily and we get to remove some pretty interesting chewed-up evidence. During surgery our team has removed the zipper from a dog bed along with copious amounts of stuffing, steel wool, various underwear and socks, a bikini top AND bottom tied together, and a plastic McDonald’s spoon that a Newfoundland had swallowed whole while sharing an ice cream sundae.  Occasionally we will see repeat offenders, such as the golden retriever who had surgery twice in one year after eating children’s socks.  We also treated a cat (it’s true, cats are not immune to poor choices) who obstructed twice before the owner figured out it was foam padding from their Swiffer mop.
I have great empathy for the owners of these wayward pets because my pointer Charlie was infamous for his creative eating. Over 12 years, a partial list of his unauthorized diet included: a bunch of bananas in the peel, a six-pack of bagels, 5 pounds of a room-mate’s dog food, another room-mate’s lunch (Charlie wasn’t popular in the house), a Halloween pumpkin, a honey bear, a bag of sugar, a ballpoint pen, a bar of soap, diapers, and the piece de resistance—an entire cantaloupe which no one realized was missing until we saw the aftermath. Yes, dogs are crazy, and gross, and make us wonder “what were they thinking?”, but they make my job, and my life, so much sweeter.

Robin Lake, DVM

Foster Animal Hospital



No! Over Here!


So, yo, it’s Bunker again. Sorry, I couldn’t steal any of dad’s stories recently, you know, Christmas, New Years, and all. But I found this one about a pig. (Dad’s squealing like a pig at the start but soon changes his tune!) Well anyhoo, just wanted to share another story from Dad’s early days veterinarianing, or somethin’ like that.

Be cool,

Bunker man.


“I’m going to own his farm”, I screamed at my wife. “This guy’s sow has been in labor 2 days and here it is 10 o’clock at night! Boy is this going to cost him.”

“Be careful”, my wife Joanna muttered as I hurried out the door.

“The very idea that he waited this long to call. I’ve been at it all day and evening. I just want some rest”, I thought to myself during the 30-minute drive.

I had not been out of veterinary college 2 months. My father’s busy practice made for long days and often long nights. Weekends on call were filled with phone calls and emergency office and farm visits. Often times for emergencies but oftentimes not. Many were not even regular clients. But how do you turn someone away when they, or in these cases their beloved animals, were in need? Such was the commitment that my father, Dr. Tom, had made to the community for the last 27 years. It was certainly expected and participated in by me, his oldest son Steve. As I sped down the curvy, country roads to the Birkdale’s farm, the window down and the radio on, it brought back memories of a young boy, me, with my Dad, the man I adored, on his way to much the same type call. I can remember listening to Ernie Johnson calling the Atlanta Braves baseball games, or listening to NC State basketball and football, or NASCAR races as we sped along, many times on those same roads. “I want to be just like him”, I thought, never dreaming that long days and nights were not as much fun for Dad as an occasional call with Dad was for me. Everyone respected Dad; he had more than earned it. Because of him, I was drawn to helping animals through good times and bad.

At least I thought so until tonight!

“At last” I said as I made the final turn onto the Birkdale farm driveway. The palatial porcine palace I was “going to own” was mine for the taking. The Chevrolet Blazer made its way up the dark gravel drive. The surroundings were not fine, painted wooden fences as I had envisioned, but instead old junk cars piled treetop high. The palatial palace was an old run down mobile home with one muted light on in the middle of the trailer. My heart sank, as I knew that this could be a long night.

Many people in this area of North Carolina had “a few head” of cattle, pigs, sheep, or other assortments of critters as a supplement to their regular careers, oftentimes a career in the textile mills. Most were well meaning folk trying to supplement their finances or use land that had been left to them or perhaps they were carrying on a family tradition in farming, if only in a small way. Most were, by and large, well versed in caring for their livestock. Some were not.

“What have I gotten myself into”, as I took the final drag from my cigarette and climbed from the trusty truck. I looked around and the only beacon in the pitch black was the light on in the middle of the trailer. I slowly walked to the back of the Blazer, pulled on my coveralls and rubber boats, gathered the “OB” bag and various supplies and headed to the front door of the pig palace. A growing rumbling could be heard, much like a herd stampeding on dry hollow ground. The rumble would reach a peak and a small child’s head would pop up in the window and then disappear again only to resume the stampede through the abode. This occurred over and over again. Halfway to the door the thought entered my mind to turn around, quietly get in the truck and zoom back home. The thought of snuggling up to Joanna in a deep, peaceful slumber was very tempting.

“Over here”, the voice boomed from my left. Startled, I peered into the darkness to the sight of nothing.

I pressed on to the front door.
“No! Over here!” the voice boomed again. Again I looked into the endless black night and again saw nothing. “Am I hearing things?” I thought to myself. ” What the hell am I into” I worried. “I am surely going to be on the channel 9 news tonight” I thought. The news anchor would say “A tragedy in Cabarrus County tonight. The new owner of the Palatial Porcine Palace, Dr Steve Foster was found murdered tonight!” His last words were something like “can you believe she’s been in labor 2 days!”

“NO! OVER HERE!” the voice rattled me back to the present. Again I looked to my left. Finally a small ray of light fell on a man sitting on the ground at the corner of that trailer! She’s over here he said again. Slowly, I walked toward the small figure as he sat on the ground. Quickly, I tried to think of my escape route!
“Thanks for coming Doc. She’s back here in the barn. I’m really worried about her.” Effortlessly I replied’ “No problem! Let’s take a look.”
I anxiously approached him as he sat on the ground. I could see thick, heavy gloves covering the farmer’s hands and that his legs, or better yet the stumps that were once legs, were covered and wrapped with large black trash bags.
“Come on back” his panicked voice said. “I’ll show you.”

Birkdale then proceeded to drag himself along the ground. Rounding the trailer, the Birkdale Estate came into full view. To our right were worn, tattered 3-foot tall wooden fences precariously holding back equally as tall ponies. The ponies were hard to discern from the fence rails because of their extreme state of malnourishment. Their hooves were untrimmed and curved much like a jester’s slippers. To the left was his barn. The roof was barely 10 feet tall and I was again fearful as the barn had a certain lean to it. “She’s in here”, Birkdale stated as he squirted through the 3-foot tall door.

I folded myself up and crawled through the minute opening. Once inside I could see the concerned farmer next to his prized sow. Even though I was inexperienced, I could see right away what the problem was. The same problem I had seen many times with dad. This sow was a mere “baby” trying to have babies herself. Part of the problem with part-time farmers is they have limited time to deal with all that is required of them. Oftentimes, young female stock are never separated from the herd. The results are adolescent livestock attempting to give birth, sometimes successfully but usually not.

The young sow lay on her side. The labored breathing was only interrupted by fierce abdominal straining. She was barely 150 pounds. The stench and drainage from her womb was recognizable as that of dead piglets.

“I’ll need to examine her”, as I tried to conceal my disgust. I attempted to pass my gloved and lubricated hand but due to the narrow constriction of the tired and overexerted birth canal I could only place my fingertips inside.

I vaguely remembered one of my large animal clinicians from Auburn saying that a treatment for sows with undeliverable pigs (and when a c-section was not an option) would be medication and flushing which may help the pigs to literally rot out. The sow could sometimes be salvaged for slaughter. “I can’t even examine her. It doesn’t look good. She’s too weak and toxic for surgery (not to mention the unlikely ability to pay for such a surgery), our only choices are to treat and hope (explaining the professor’s treatment) or to put her down.”
“I hate to lose her Doc”, he sorrowfully stated. “We really need her.” I gave him the medicine and explained its use.

Now came the moment of truth. The chance to own that farm and move the wife to the country! “How much do I owe you”, Birkdale questioned.

“Uh, well, um, let’s see, how about thirty five dollars?” (Thirty-five dollars are you kidding me?! During the day alone it should have been over $100!)

“Well, can I pay you next week? “

“Well, ok sure, that would be fine.”

I climbed in the Blazer for the 30-minute ride home. While driving, I thought about the turn of events: The farm I was going to own but now didn’t want and the senseless, inevitable death of the poor, young sow.

What have I gotten myself into- not only tonight but for the rest of my life with this career?

Why did he have to call me?

Will I ever see my money?

I hope I never hear anyone say “no, over here” again.


Steve Foster, DVM, CCRT

Foster Animal Hospital, P.A.

Paws In Motion Canine Rehabilitation Center

730 Concord Pkwy North

Concord, NC 28027

(Please do not reproduce this article without the permission of the author)



Why People Yum-yums are Pet No-nos



Did you over-indulge a bit over the holidays like I did?  How about your pet?  I imagine a few of us are guilty of eating too much delicious holiday junk food and SOME of us who will remain unnamed also fed a little to our dogs and cats.  There’s one table feeder in every family; sometimes it’s the 3-year-old but more often it’s the mother-in-law or the husband, and I see accusing fingers fly when I ask who’s to blame.  Then we all laugh about it.  No judgment here, I just can’t help if I don’t know what’s going on!

While I admit to problems disciplining myself to eat perfectly, I don’t have any issues with ignoring big brown eyes staring up at me from beneath my dining chair.  (Do as I say, not as I do?) Maybe it sounds harsh, but ideally we should feed no table food to our pets.  Why shouldn’t we show them we love them by giving tasty leftovers?  Because too much of the good stuff or even a little of the wrong stuff is bad for them!  Here are some examples of problems caused by table food:


1. Obesity.  Did you know that about 50% of dogs and cats in this country are overweight or obese, but only about 25% of those animals’ owners recognize this?  Excess body weight contributes to a shorter lifespan due to increased risk of diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and respiratory disease.  You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs easily, but not see them.  If there’s a layer of fat padding, well, he’s overweight.  Fun facts:

For a 10 pound cat, 1 potato chip is equivalent to a person eating ½ of a hamburger.

For a 20 pound dog, 1 hot dog is like a person eating 3 hamburgers or 2 chocolate bars.  Just 1 small oatmeal cookie is equivalent to a person’s hamburger.

What seems like a snack can actually be more like an extra meal!  If you really MUST feed table food, consider carrots, green beans, apple chunks.


2. Toxicity/illness.  It’s getting to be common knowledge that chocolate, raisins and grapes, onions, and xylitol (in some sugar-free gums and baked goods) are toxic to pets.  However, many people don’t know that fatty foods such as bacon, gravy, and sausage can cause pancreatitis, a serious medical condition that requires hospitalization.

3. Gastrointestinal upset.  Some pets have sensitive stomachs, and eating table foods can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea.  I’ve also seen some awful constipation cases after dogs have eaten bones, both cooked and raw, creating bone splinters in the feces.  Ouch!

4. Incomplete nutrition.  Treats should make up less than 10% of a pet’s total diet.  In some of our client families, table food makes up more like 100% of the diet.  My concern with this practice, besides potential for obesity, is that pets are not getting the right balance of nutrients.  For example, cats eating only tuna don’t get
needed taurine, and dogs eating only chicken don’t receive enough vitamins and minerals.

If your dog “refuses to eat his food”, you can try adding low-salt broth for flavor or a small amount of oregano.  Cats like food that’s been warmed slightly and to eat from a wide, shallow bowl allowing for whisker room.

How will my pet know I love her if I don’t feed her from the table?  I recommend small dog or cat treats, breaking them into pieces if they’re large to begin with.  People look at me like I’m nuts when I say this, but fill a treat jar with the pet’s regular kibble and offer a piece with lavish attention.  Take your dog for a walk.  Give your cat five minutes of undivided attention and playtime.  Maybe I’ll take my own advice, get my dogs out for a walk, and step away from the cookie jar right now.



Robin Lake, DVM

Foster Animal Hospital


Thanks to Hill’s Science Diet for the statistics, and my research assistant Keisha Medrano