“Dedicated to providing gentle, compassionate care for companion animals”

We are writing to notify you of the emerging outbreak of Canine Influenza Virus in Minnesota, and the preventive measures that VCA Animal Wellness Center is taking to protect your pet.

Minnesota is experiencing an outbreak of Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) caused by the H3N2 strain, and recently positive cases were confirmed in nearby Ramsey and Wright counties.

 Canine influenza is highly contagious and can potentially cause life-threatening pneumonia.  This poses a threat to our pets in Hennepin County because:

  • 1) CIV can spread quickly -- infected dogs shed the virus before they show signs of illness.  Therefore PREVENTION with vaccination is critical!
  • 2) CIV can spread easily – it is a respiratory virus that transmits well in groups of dogs
  • 3) CIV is a relatively new virus in the dog population – which means your dog doesn’t have pre-existing immunity and will likely become ill if exposed to the virus.  

VCA Animal Wellness Center is committed to protecting your pet from CIV. We now carry the vaccine that protects against both the H3N2 and H3N8 strains that are circulating in the dog population.

Starting September 1st, we will require this vaccine for our daycare and boarding guests to protect them from the flu.  However, if you have boarding or daycare plans scheduled, we encourage you to start the vaccine now to build your dog’s immunity.

Does your dog spend time with groups of other dogs, such as in daycare, boarding facilities, dog shows, obedience classes, grooming salons, or dog parks? These are situations where a respiratory virus such as CIV can spread easily. Vaccination against both strains is currently recommended for any dogs that have a lifestyle compatible with exposure to the virus.

If your dog enjoys a social lifestyle as described above and you would like to protect them against CIV, please call our clinic at 763-420-7958 to set up the initial vaccination series (two injections, 3 weeks apart).  The vaccine can be updated once annually thereafter for dogs whose lifestyles continue to need it.

Most dogs that contract influenza will experience a mild respiratory illness, characterized by a moist cough, sneezing and nasal discharge, mild fever, and decreased appetite. Most of these patients will just need good supportive care to recover. However, a subset of these dogs will develop severe respiratory illness that may need hospitalization, intravenous fluids,  antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial pneumonia, nutritional support, and even oxygen support. Canine influenza can be fatal in a small percentage of cases.

Therefore, if you notice a cough or any of the other above symptoms in your dog, please call us right away to schedule an exam.

For more information about canine influenza and the latest outbreak updates, please visit doginfluenza.com or feel free to call us.


Image Credit:  WebSubstance / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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Hi everyone!  Mali here.  I’m a 6-year old fawn boxer that Mommy says is going to live forever, because she and Daddy can’t imagine a life without me.  I am so honored to have been chosen as a featured puppy of the month! 

Mommy says I have the best life.  I go to work every day with her and Dad.  We own a company that provides transportation to the elderly and disabled humans who live all over the Twin Cities.  There are even puppies who ride our buses to help some of the humans who have disabilities!  I do more “office work” than those puppies, though.  In fact, my official title is “Chief Stress Reliever,” and my bio is finally on our company website!  I make sure that the whole office staff is greeted every morning, and my keen intuition tells me when someone needs a “Mali snuggle” during a stressful day. I go to the bank with Daddy every day, too.  I know when he says “bank,” that nap time is over, and he needs my help!  Sometimes I lie out in the middle of the hallway – belly up – and just wait until one of Mommy and Daddy’s employees comes by with a belly rub.  I need some stress relief sometimes, too!

Outside of my professional career, I love long walks, lying in the sun, helping Mommy in the kitchen as her “taste-tester” and travelling with Mommy and Daddy.  The best trip we’ve taken was to Big Sky, Montana this summer!  We hiked in the real mountains, I got to play in the mountain streams and we even saw a bear in our backyard!  I couldn’t stop crying at it!  I also love being as close to my pack as possible at all times – sleeping in Mommy’s legs at night and napping ON Daddy on the weekends.  I think my proudest moment was when I walked down the aisle as Mommy’s Maid of Honor.  I was so excited, that I barked just once in the middle of the ceremony, because I just couldn’t contain my excitement about us all getting married! Oh, and I’m a foodie just like Mom and Dad.  My favorites are pumpkin, sweet potatoes, filet mignon, fresh salmon and sushi.  Daddy says I have champagne taste on a kibble budget.

Needless to say, I lucked out when Mommy and Daddy came to see me and my brothers and sisters at my birth mom’s house.  When they walked in, I knew two suckers when I saw them.  I walked away from my pack as they romped around together, and headed straight over to my future furever Mommy.  I just sat down and looked up at her with the sweetest face I could make (trying to minimize my cone head as much as possible).  She immediately picked me up and I knew I had a “fish on!”  I sealed the deal when she gave me to my future Daddy. I looked up at him, gave him one lick right on his nose and snuggled right into his chest.  At that moment, these two were toast…and the rest is history. 

My Mommy, Daddy and I owe a lot to our friends at the AWC.  Besides going to “school” when I was just a puppy (Jenny taught me everything I know in puppy kindergarten and obedience class!) and taking agility one summer with Daddy, I had a pretty rough start.  When I was little, I had food allergies, ear infections and skin infections.  Then came my environmental allergies and a few minor injuries.  Then the tough stuff started with my first mast cell tumor.  My Mommy was very upset and cried a lot, but that Dr. Ambrose, with her compassion, confidence and hugs got us all through it!  We went through two more mast cell tumors and three more surgeries all in the course of a year. We constantly felt the love from everyone from Alyssa and Janet at the front desk to Katie’s behind the scenes snuggles, kisses and boxer love!  Dr. Moyer played a part in getting me back to my silly self, too! Mommy says my scars give me street cred! 

Without Dr. Ambrose, Katie and company, I wouldn’t be the healthy boxer that I am today…thank you, AWC!  WE LOVE YOU!

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In early November 2004, we had just lost our second Basset Beau, after a long battle with Cushing’s disease and we were not ready to even think about getting another dog. But on the night we put Beau down, we saw the Northern lights in the sky and both my wife and I heard a bell ringing. We couldn’t help thinking of the line from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” about hearing a bell every time an angel gets his wings. The next day, still trying to forget our sadness, we went to the theater to see the new movie “Polar Express”. The theme song from that movie was called “Believe” and had lyrics that talked about dreams that are calling like bells in the distance and encouraging us to believe in what your heart is saying. Well it seemed like fate was pushing us towards something, so we called the breeder where we got Beau and were surprised to find out that she had a couple of Basset puppies available in a new litter after having taken a break for several years. We went to see her and fell in love with one of the puppies, but she wasn’t sure which one she wanted to keep as her new show dog. Luckily she picked the other puppy and we were able to take home our new Teddy for Thanksgiving just two weeks after losing Beau. We’ve been thankful ever since and we just have to believe in fate after that experience.

Teddy has always been a lover with lots of personality and he loves to tell you all about it (woof woof). Teddy is a purebred Basset Hound, he is tri color and about 11 ½ years old. Teddy has one favorite toy, a big stuffed strawberry (his woobie), that he’s had since he was a puppy and that we’ve had to re-stuff and stitch up several times. All dogs like to run off with some item of clothing and with Teddy, it’s socks – he waits every time we get changed to snatch one of our dirty socks and run off so we’ll chase him. Of course Teddy loves other dogs, people, FOOD, going to the dog park and AWC.

Our favorite story about Teddy would have to be the story about how we came to get him in the first place. Teddy is Basset number 3 in our lives and has turned out to be more loving and full of personality than we would have ever believed possible, but our miracle dog Teddy has taught us to always keep believing.

Teddy has been going to AWC since day one and it’s literally one of Teddy’s favorite things to do. Teddy even took his first puppy socialization class at AWC where he loved to play with a Great Dane. Of course he knows where we are going when we turn on to East Fish Lake Road and Teddy starts barking with excitement long before we turn into the parking lot. And he does it every single time, whether we’re coming in to be poked and prodded or for a fun day at doggie day care. He loves seeing everyone at AWC, especially his friend Janet who spoils him with treats every time he comes in. Besides all the love and care he gets at AWC we also have had a couple of rough spots over the years when we thought we were going to lose him, but the excellent care he receives got Teddy back to his old self again. 

Teddy has been going to AWC since day one and it’s literally one of Teddy’s favorite things to do. Teddy even took his first puppy socialization class at AWC where he loved to play with a Great Dane. Of course he knows where we are going when we turn on to East Fish Lake Road and Teddy starts barking with excitement long before we turn into the parking lot. And he does it every single time, whether we’re coming in to be poked and prodded or for a fun day at doggie day care. He loves seeing everyone at AWC, especially his friend Janet who spoils him with treats every time he comes in. Besides all the love and care he gets at AWC we also have had a couple of rough spots over the years when we thought we were going to lose him, but the excellent care he receives got Teddy back to his old self again. 

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Kristy and her dog Daisy.


Kristy Francis, a dog tog trainer with Animal Wellness Center, recently passed an exam from Jean Donaldson's Academy for Dog Trainers to earn her CTC certification. To become a CTC, which stands for Certified Trainer and Counselor, Kristy passed an extensive six-hour exam on dog training techniques and behavior. Jean Donaldson's program is one of the most rigorous and advanced dog training programs in the entire country.

The certification program takes approximately two years to complete and is divided into four modules of six months each. It includes expert webinars, support materials such as training plans and case studies, intensive one-on-one video coaching, and participation in the Dog Scientific online learning laboratory and lecture hall. Kristy spent a minimum of eight hours each week studying in addition to her duties at Animal Wellness Center.

We are proud of Kristy's commitment to excellence and her desire to provide the very best service to our canine clients and their families. Whether you're searching for basic obedience training or are dealing with challenging behavior issues, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with Kristy Francis, our Certified Counselor and Trainer.

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Reggie is a purebred Rhodesian Ridgeback, she is 10.5 years old (her birthday is July 21, 2005), she is wheaton in coloring (and getting grayer by the day!) We picked out her name before we knew what gender we were getting, which is how she ended up with a male name. Her AKC name is Jabulani Player Coach Reggie Dunlap Mills.

We decided to get a Rhodesian Ridgeback when my husband and I couldn’t agree on a breed to get. I wanted a small dog, he wanted a big dog; one day he said “we could get a dog that hunts lions!” Initially it was a joke, but as we read more and more about Ridgebacks we fell in love with the breed. We met with a breeder in Lindstrom in the spring of 2005 and put money down to get a dog from the next litter. When the litter was born, we went and met the pups. The breeder didn’t want us to get a girl unless we were going to show her, but there was one girl with a slipped ridge that could not be shown. I fell in love with her immediately. I had never had a dog before, and when she came home we were both very nervous. It was a bit overwhelming at first, with myself being a first time dog owner and her being so worried, but she finally calmed down and we fell asleep with her on my chest. We have been the best of buds ever since.

Reggie’s favorite toy is any squeaker toy she can squeak and then throw around. She loves to nap in the sun or on the couch. Her best friend in the world is Mom, she can be a bit clingy to Mom at times.

I have so many favorite things about Reggie. The smell of her frito feet, the way her long ears blow in the wind when we are on the boat up north, how she comes and cuddles with me at the perfect time, if I am sick in bed she lays at my feet all day long, barely getting up to go to the bathroom or eat. She is the sweetest dog with our 6 year old son. Now that he is at school all day, she gets so excited for the bus to come; when she sees it out the window in the afternoon her tail wags uncontrollably and she cries until he gets to the door so she can lick him.

Reggie has been through a lot in her 10.5 years and AWC has been there helping her through everything. When I was pregnant with my son, she became very anxious and started breaking out of her kennel, eventually tearing up some of our house while we were away. I brought her into AWC frantic and worried that she ate carpet nails; they took care of her scrapes and wounds and got her on an anti-anxiety regimen to help her anxiety. She also was attacked at a doggy day care and I immediately brought her in with many bloody wounds. The staff helped and loved her through her drainage tubes and stitches. Most recently, she had a tumor removed in 2014. The placement of the tumor made it hard for the incision to heal. For about a month we were SO well taken care of, coming in daily or every other day for bandage changes while she healed. No one at AWC ever seemed to get sick of seeing her come in, she received love and kisses every time. I also recently brought her in thinking I was going to lose her. Dr. Ambrose has been amazing through all these events with Reggie but most recently saved her by noticing her face looked different, and she was displaying tragic face, which is common in dogs that have hyperthyroid issues. After some blood work and tweaking her medications, Reggie is a new dog. She is down about 20 pounds without even changing her diet, is up for going on walks and playing with our son. She has SO much more energy and is happier than she has been in years. We owe all of this to the staff at AWC and the follow up calls and patience that Dr. Ambrose has shown with me as well. 

--Reggie's Mom

From Dr. Ambrose

In the fall of last year, Reggie's owners started to notice that she seemed more and more lethargic and uncomfortable. She had gained a substantial amount of weight and was slowing down considerably. Her owners were becoming concerned about her quality of life and brought her in for me to assess her condition. Reggie's symptoms, including a puffy face and episode of vestibular disease, suggested to me that Reggie could possibly have hypothyroidism. Blood tests confirmed that Reggie's thyroid levels were very low. I started her on thyroid medication and have been amazed by her transformation!

Now we get to enjoy seeing Reggie bounding through the door, excited to see everyone and acting like a dog half her age! Reggie has lost roughly twenty pounds and has become a high energy girl again. Her owners tell us that she is acting like a crazy puppy at home, reminding them of her younger self. I am overjoyed that Reggie is now a happy and comfortable girl!

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