Okaw Veterinary Clinic LLC

140 West Sale Street
Tuscola, IL 61953



Are Vaccines Killing my Pet?


Are Vaccines Safe for my Pet?
Socialization Before Obedience in Puppies
Stop the Turkey Trots
Meet our Veterinarians


Are Vaccines Safe for my Pet?

vaccine vialsVaccinations for pets has been a standard of care for quite a while. In more recent years, there has been various pet articles and opinions questioning the need for vaccinations as well as the risk of vaccines. There are now some investigations in veterinary medicine into what is the best vaccination schedule for dogs and cats. Not all studies are finished, so there is still some conflicting information out there, especially if one consults Dr. Google only about vaccination in pets. I will share what I am aware of as a veterinarian in general practice.

First understand that diseases such as canine and feline distemper still exist in our world. The incidence is far less than in years past due to vaccination. The unvaccinated or under-vaccinated pet is the one at risk.  Wildlife can carry some of these diseases and they get into our yards, under our crawlspaces or on hiking trails.

I recently read a report in my veterinary journal of a veterinarian who was bitten by a dog during a routine exam. It turned out the dog was not vaccinated for Rabies. In keeping the dog for quarantine, the dog began to show signs of Rabies and was euthanized as required by law. The brain tissue was examined and YES this dog had Rabies. Now the veterinarian and staff had were exposed to Rabies and needed emergency care to try to stop the disease from spreading to them. I do not know how sick or affected the staff was, but Rabies is not treatable. "Treatment" is getting antibody to the affected person before the Rabies takes a hold of them. Pretty scary. So how was it that this dog was never vaccinated by Rabies, as required by law?  It was never brought into the veterinarian for care as a young dog. It may have roamed outside where raccoons, foxes or bats may have hissed or bitten at this dog and spread it to the dog.  If no one reported this dog or family for not caring for their dog, how would they get caught?  We have plenty of bats here in central Illinois who are positive for Rabies. This is one vaccine that is safe, and effective. All pets, including house cats need to be vaccinated for this.

Canine distemper, feline distemper, parvo - a blood test can be run to check and see how well protected your pet is before boostering vaccination. We offer these tests at my office and often find pets are protected for a year or 2 longer than is expected. There are some cases where the pet is low in protection so we can vaccinate for what is needing added protection. We draw a blood sample that is sent off to the Michigan State University veterinary lab. They check a group of diseases that the vaccines protect for and give the level of protection. This way we have an accurate measure of what the pet is protected from and may need boostering.

Some pets do react to vaccines with muscle soreness or swelling. I have also seen other pets have severe reaction with fever and inflammation. It is best to discuss with your veterinarian what the lifestyle of your pet is (indoor only - indoor out door or lots of outside time) - visiting pets, and health of your pet. Also, support your veterinarian in separating vaccines - doing only the rabies on one visit then the other vaccine 3-6 months later. This can help decrease reactions since there is less the body has to process and your pet is getting another check up at that time. Even if you choose to do titers and vaccines are not needed, a check up on weight, heart, how the body is moving, teeth and skin is so important for both dogs and cats to keep them out of pain and problems.


Socialization Before Obedience in Puppies

Puppies need to learn a lot about living in a home and much of it does not involve obedience. This may sound crazy but please, let me explain. Puppies who later grow up to be dogs, need to calm and accustomed to riding in a car, walking on a leash, playing in a backyard and ignoring people, bicycles and other dogs walking by, meeting strangers, hearing thunderstorms or loud noises, loud TV set, yelling people, active children and the list goes on. Being calm around these things is taught by having something good for them, usually treats or playtime, when all of this is happening at the tender age of 2-3 months old. In this short window of time, many puppies can associate good things will loud noises, other dogs, children, car rides, baths, etc if they get exposed to that often paired with a food reward. After 4 months of age, it is more difficult for that puppy to learn to accept these otherwise startling things, and the dog will tend to be tense or timid around them. As the dog ages, and has even less exposure they will become even more guarded and even possibly aggressive around strangers or loud people for example. This early exposure paired with a reward is socializing the puppy. Puppies who are out and about before their vaccines are finished are usually much more calm and even tempered around multiple settings. Dogs who are primarily in a yard, not leash walked or do not go to the groomer, the pet store or out and about until they are 6 months or older are much more difficult to handle around these situations.

There are some puppies who are genetically timid. At the early open period for socialization they may be timid around strangers or loud noises. These puppies must get help to reduce their fear to be able to socialize. One of the best products to use at this age is the mother dog pheromone spray Adaptil. This pheromone works on the calming center of the puppy's brain to activate calming. Now with the puppy less timid, they can take a food reward when riding in the car, going in the carrier, or meeting new people. When they take the treat, that is how they make that good association learning that these things are less scary. If your puppy is whining a lot, slow to come up to people, hiding or showing other signs of timidness at 2-3 months of age or older use this pheromone.   The puppy will not grow out of this. They will actually become worse with time.

The old advice to wait until a puppy has had all of its vaccinations before going to parks, or around other dogs or people is the opposite of what is best for your puppy. The University of Minnesota Veterinary College did a study of puppies who were not complete in vaccination that were taken to puppy classes, pet stores and other places to see if they became ill. Actually these puppies were healthier than those who were isolated until an older age. So these puppies were healthier and better behaved due to socializing before vaccines were done at 6 months.

If you did not get your puppy out for socialization it is not too late. You will need more treats, and to take events a little slower with an older puppy. If your puppy is pulling away, do not force the puppy to go to people. Toss the rewards, try going to a quieter place or start farther away. You do need to get your dog out, but you will need to go at a slower pace than a younger puppy. If your dog starts acting afraid of things like it had never been before, the open period is over and you must use rewards to help this dog not be so upset.

Obedience training for sit, come, stay, and heel is important. Puppies can learn these commands and should. A puppy will learn the obedience commands best if they have a foundation of socialization at the tender age of 8-12 weeks. Again, if you have missed socialization do not fear. You can still work on this with your puppy. If you are having difficulty with your puppy learning obedience it is likely they are stressed by training and socialization class would help them at this point with obedience coming later.

There are puppy classes in the area. What you want to see in a puppy class is supervised play time for a period - handling by different people - crate games - leash time outside - items that make loud noises with rewards (vacuum, hairdryers, alarms, etc) and trips to the veterinary clinic that are not scary.

Your puppy may learn a sit or come command but that would be the extent of obedience in the early puppy ages. A second obedience class would cover the come, sit down and more leash skills.

I cannot say enough about early socialization in puppies and how important it is. I have seen many problems with separation anxiety, inter dog aggression, noise anxiety, and stranger aggression which started as a puppy who was not exposed in a positive way to these things. Take the time to do this with your puppy! It will make for a much better life in the long run. I have articles on my website on puppy socialization and other topics under Pet and Health Care Articles and Behavior Articles.

Stop the Turkey Trots - Go Easy on the Thanksgiving Food

We love our pets and want to involve them in our every day lives.Thanksgiving is a day filled with family and lots of yummy food. You want to include your dog or cat in the celebration. But resist the temptation to give your dog or cat too many goodies during the holiday. 

Turkey, chicken and other bird bones can splinter as your pet chews on the bone. These splinters can pierce your pet's intestine causing a life-threatening infection. The bones can also become stuck in the intestines and cause your dog or cat to become sick. The bones can also cause vomiting and diarrhea by irritating your pet's stomach.

Giving your pet the fat from your meat may be tempting, but you will pay for it later. Fatty foods can cause several problems. The fat causes many pets to vomit or have diarrhea. The fat can also give your dog or cat pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a serious illness and will mean your beloved pet will be spending some time at the veterinary clinic. Learn more about Pancreatitis in Dogs and Cats.

Thanksgiving foods are full of calories. A four ounce piece of turkey is 200 calories. Giving a cat a four ounce piece of turkey is like you eating an 3 3/4 Big Macs. Giving a 10 pound dog a four ounce piece of turkey is like you eating a McDonald's Hamburger. The calories add up. You can give your dog or cat some healthy vegetables. You may not think veggies are a treat, but your pet does. Green beans (not green bean casserole), carrots, celery, are a few lower calorie veggies that your pet can enjoy without packing on extra pounds. Making a apple or pumpkin pie? Give your pet a slice of apple or a teaspoon or two of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix). 


Meet our Veterinarians

Dr. Sally J. Foote

Dr. FooteI graduated from  the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Class of 1984 after 2 years of undergraduate study at Purdue University. In January of 1989 the practice moved to it's present location at 140 W. Sale Street after purchasing it from retiring veterinarian Dr. Robert Smith.  Previously I had practiced small animal medicine for 4 years in the Edgewater - Andersonville area of Chicago. I have always practiced small animal, companion medicine with a special interest in pet animal behavior. After additional training in behavior, and attending additional coursework at Purdue University's College of Veterinary Medicine we began offering more behavioral medicine and therapy services. I am proud to be  Certified  as a Feline Behavior Consultant by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.  

My professional associations include the AVMA, ISVMA, EIVMA, AVSAB and student chapter coordinator for AVSAB (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior). I am also currently the veterinary liaison for the Hands 4 Paws local humane association. Local associations include the Tuscola Chamber of Commerce, TEDI, and 40 Martyrs Church. My dogs Bella is from the Douglas County Animal Shelter.  

Other interests of mine are co owning Jarman Center with my husband Tom Wold, and  traveling, especially to Switzerland to visit my sister and her family. Hobbies include knitting and ballroom dancing.

Tom and I have lived in Tuscola since 1988. We have a daughter Glenda Foote Wold.

Dr. Kathleen Whelan

Dr. WhelanDr. Kathleen Whelan is a 2013 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. She has a bachelors of Science degree from DePaul University Chicago with a minor in communication. Dr. Whelan found her passion for veterinary medicine through the rehab therapy her own pet Sweet Pea was experiencing. Learning how to help her own pet with a health problem sparked an interest that became a path to earning her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. As an educator in her previous career, Dr. Whelan has an excellent ability to help clients understand what is best for their pet.

Dr. Whelan hails from Oak Park Illinois, a Chicago suburb. She currently lives in Urbana, and has worked at Gibson City Animal Hospital and Spoon River Animal Hospital. As a Chicago transplant, Dr Whelan appreciates the easier living and kindness of Tuscola.

A special interest of Dr. Whelan is integrative medicine - the use of essential oils, supplements, massage therapy and other non traditional medical practices in combination with traditional medical treatment to benefit pets of any age.

She also practices pet friendly handling and exams in support of Okaw Veterinary Clinic's commitment to a gentle, fear free pet care.

Dr. Whelan loves to hike, travel, and talk to people (she has a great sense of humor).

Okaw Veterinary Clinic
140 W. Sale
Tuscola, IL 61953
(217) 253-3221


Mon & Fri 8 am - 6 pm
Tues & Wed 8 am - 5 pm
Sat 8 am - noon
Closed Thurs & Sun

Search our website:

New client and New patient forms. Print, fill out and bring to your appointment.

Click the paw for our

online pharmacy