Essentials PetCare News

Essentials PetCare Team Member: Rachel

Meet Rachel, who’s been a team member at Essentials PetCare since May of 2018. Rachel joined EPC with a passion to help pets and desire to learn more about their healthcare. Rachel proved her initiative, starting as a care coordinator at Essentials PetCare and then cross-training as a veterinary assistant. We’re proud to say she is advancing in her veterinary career at Essentials PetCare, as she recently trained to become a veterinary technician!

Surfing, fishing, and line dancing are some of Rachel’s favorite hobbies, and she loves hiking with her dog on nature trails when she’s not tending to pets at Essentials PetCare. Rachel brings positivity to our clinic and does a great job helping all our patients feel welcome at their visits. We’re so fortunate to have her as a member of the team!

If you have a passion for pets and desire to grow in the veterinary field, visit our careers page and consider a career opportunity with Essentials PetCare!

Share Your Lucky Pet’s Story

Share Your Lucky Pet's Story

We understand how much a rescued pet can mean to a family. In fact, our company was founded through the inspiration of a rescued dog named “Annie”. Founders Douglas Spiker, DVM, and Christine Battista, MS, discovered Annie as an abandoned and seriously ill puppy in a park in New Port Richey, FL. Annie inspired Dr. Spiker and Ms. Battista to create Essentials PetCare, a veterinary clinic that would provide affordable and quality veterinary care to expand veterinary services to a greater number of U.S. pet-loving families who may otherwise not seek basic and preventative care because of cost.

But Annie is just one of millions of rescued pets. According to the ASPCA, Americans adopt about 3.2 million shelter animals (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats) every year. Each of those pets has a story to tell, just like Annie, and those stories need to be told. That is why Essentials PetCare is launching the Lucky Pet initiative on March 1st and encourages pet owners to share their “Lucky Pets” and tell their rescue stories.

To participate, you can post a photo of your “Lucky Pet” on Facebook, include the hashtag #LuckyPet, and tag @EssentialsPetCare with your pet’s story.  

During the month of March, there will also be a “Lucky Pet” selfie station in our clinic’s lobby, which is located on the west side of the Port Richey Walmart. Stop by our clinic with your lucky pet to make fun and shareable photos with St. Patrick’s Day props to help us spread word about the many benefits of pet adoption.

“We hope that featuring these ‘Lucky Pets’ will also inspire others to rescue their own lucky pet,” says Battista, “Pasco County shelters and rescues have many pets in need of forever homes.”

Follow us on Facebook @EssentialsPetCare to meet lucky pets and share your own lucky pet’s rescue story.

Reference: ASPCA Pet Statistics

Fact or Fiction: Only outside dogs are at risk for heartworm disease.

Fact or Fiction: Only outside dogs are at risk for heartworm disease.

That is fiction! 

Heartworms are parasitic worms that live in the hearts and lungs of dogs and spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. All dogs are at risk, even those that are indoors only. Untreated, heartworm disease can result in severe heart damage and even death. Fortunately, a simple heartworm test and monthly preventative can keep your pet safe and healthy.

The Heartworm Life Cycle

To understand the importance of heartworm tests, it is important to first understand the heartworm lifecycle. Heartworms are spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. When a mosquito bites an infected dog or other susceptible animal, it withdraws blood that contains immature heartworms called microfilariae. The infected mosquito spreads the disease to other animals through bites.

It takes about six months from the time of the mosquito bite before the immature heartworms develop into adult heartworms that are capable of reproducing microfilariae and also detectable on a heartworm test. An adult heartworm can live up to seven years in the dog, and a single dog can have up to one hundred adult worms in its heart, lungs and circulatory system. The more worms, the more damage that is caused to the heart and the vessels in the lungs. Eventually, without treatment, the dog will develop heart failure.

During the bite, the mosquito injects the immature parasite into the bloodstream. The immature heartworms use the animal’s bloodstream as a circulatory superhighway to spread out to the lungs and the heart where they mature into adult worms, eventually capable of producing more microfilariae. The cycle of the disease continues when another mosquito bites the newly infected animal and then moves on to infect more animals.

Bring your dog into Essentials PetCare today for a heartworm test and start monthly heartworm prevention to keep your pet healthy. To learn more about heartworm testing, visit our blog.

Deadly Plants for Pets

Poisonous Plants For Pets

In the southeast, we are blessed with incredible weather. It makes it easy even for someone without a green thumb to grow beautiful gardens. However, there are some plants that can be very dangerous to your pets, even deadly.

There are hundreds of plants that may be poisonous and even non-poisonous plants can cause mild stomach upset, if ingested in large quantities. Make sure to check all floral arrangements and garden flowers to make sure they are not dangerous for your pets. The following are some of the most deadly plants that you should make sure to keep away from your pets:


Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum), tiger lilies (Lilium tigrinum), rubrum or Japanese showy lilies (Lilium speciosum and Lilium lancifolium), and various day lilies (Hemerocallis species) are extremely dangerous to cats. These beautiful and colorful plants are not only grown as ornamental plants in the yard but are also commonly found in bouquets and flower arrangements. While the exact toxic component is unknown, cats appear to be the only species sensitive to its deadly effects. A cat licking or chewing on the plant may develop potentially fatal kidney failure. Even small ingestions, such as a few bites on a leaf or ingestion of pollen, can be deadly.

Rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.)

Rhododendron species contain a toxic substance known as Grayanotoxin. Grayanotoxins can be very dangerous if pets ingest plants containing them. This type of poison causes stomach upset and can also affect heart rate and the nervous system. As few as two leaves may cause serious poisonings. A common plant found in this family is the Azalea, which is often used as an ornamental plant.

Cardiac Glycoside-Containing Plants

These types of plants contain a poison known as cardiac glycosides. The most commonly recognized is digitalis, which is sometimes used in medication to treat cardiovascular disease in people and pets. Plants that contain this type of poison are highly toxic because they can cause life threatening effects on the heart. Examples of these types of plants include oleander (Nerium oleander), lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis), foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), certain milkweeds (Aesclepias spp.), and squill (Virginea maritime.) All parts of cardiac glycoside containing plants are toxic, and even small amounts can be deadly.

Castor Beans (Ricinus communis)

The castor bean plant is used as a decorative plant, in jewelry, and sometimes the oil (castor oil) from the plant is used medicinally. The toxic principle in this plant is ricin, which is one of the most potent toxins known. The castor bean seeds are most commonly associated with poisoning, as they contain the highest concentration of ricin in the plant. The beans must be crushed to release the toxin, but even small amounts of ricin can be fatal.

Cycad Palms (Cycas, Zamia)

These ornamental plants are naturally found in sandy soil areas, like Texas, Florida, and California. They are commonly known as Sago or Fern palms.  This plant is also becoming a popular bonsai-style houseplant. Cycasin is its toxic component. Cycasin is found throughout the plant, although it is more concentrated in the seeds. This toxin can cause severe liver failure if  ingested. Ingestion of one or more seeds has resulted in severe symptoms and even death in pets.

Yews, Taxus species

Many types of yew bushes grow naturally and are used in landscaping. The toxic ingredient in these bushes is Taxine. Most cases of poisoning from yew bushes typically result from feeding the trimmings to grazing animals, however a curious  cat or dog may chew on the bush. In cattle, horses, and goats, the toxic ingredient results in heart failure and sudden death. In dogs, and possibly in cats, the animal usually experiences seizures following its ingestion.  

Grow Your Own Catnip

Grow Your Own Catnip

Most cats go crazy for catnip. Why? Catnip contains nepetalactone, which stimulates sensory neurons and causes them to act strangely by rolling around, vocalizing, and rubbing themselves on the plant. The effects are harmless and only last for a short time. Some cats do not respond to catnip−the response is genetic−an estimated 20% of cats are not affected. Young kittens do not respond to catnip until they reach sexual maturity.

“Catnip is a known favorite, natural treat for cats, which many cat lovers grow in their garden, says Joan Casanova, spokeswoman for Bonnie Plants, “It’s also a member of the mint family and can be used to prepare an herbal tea that is said to possibly relieve minor headaches.”

Follow these simple steps, courtesy of Bonnie Plants, to grow your own catnip:

  1. Set out plants after the last frost of the season.
  2. Space them at least 18 inches apart.
  3. For best results, use premium garden soil and potting mix.
  4. Keep plants full by pinching the growing stems and buds as they grow.
  5. The flowers will form seeds that sprout, you can plant those when they mature and create new plants.