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News and Information about Dogs, Cats, and Pet Products

If you look at a wild canine’s teeth, you’ll see clean, white shiny teeth.

Why? They are eating what nature intended, raw meat, bones, and organs of their prey.

If you look at a domestic canine’s teeth, many times you will find tartar buildup, yellow or brown discoloration, inflamed gums, and maybe even some loose teeth.

Why? They are eating food that has no dental benefits. It is a myth that kibble can help control your dog’s tartar. In reality, it will control tartar just as well as trying to clean your own teeth with granola. Many kibbles also contain ingredients such as sugars, carbohydrates, and starches that cause the kibble to stick to a dog’s teeth. These ingredients are also a food source for opportunistic oral bacteria, which will actually cause further tartar to form. Since these foods do not contain live nutrients and many times contain things like preservatives and dyes, they will disrupt normal flora in the body and can lead to tartar that way as well.

Many people view dental disease as a normal process when there is nothing normal or natural about it. The reason this unnatural process is happening is because dogs are eating food that they are not designed to eat. 

Raw food is the natural diet of your dog and it has a variety of benefits, with the focus of this article being to improve or maintain good dental hygiene.

Raw meaty bones are the best option to control tartar as they provide an abrasive, cleaning action on your dog’s teeth. It’s important to emphasize four areas when providing raw meaty bones to your dog.

  1. The bones must be raw. Cooked bones splinter and can cause harm to your pet.
  2. It is important to always supervise, know your dog and choose a size appropriate raw meaty bone for them. If they tent to gulp, the bone needs to be larger than their mouth or head so that they can gnaw rather than gulp.
  3. If your dog is an intense chomper, it is important to not give them a bone that is very dense as this can cause a tooth fracture. Dense bones are those which are weight-bearing bones of adult cattle, such as a marrow bone.
  4. Remember to handle raw meaty bones the same as you handle your own raw meat. Have your dog work on them in an area that you can sanitize such as a create or outside. Do not allow them to run around your house with a raw bone. Refrigerate or freeze the bone if they have more to work on later.

Raw meat contains live enzymes and probiotics. The enzymes help to keep teeth clean by breaking down bacteria on your dog’s teeth. The probiotics found in a raw diet also maintain normal balance and populations of bacterial flora in the mouth. Both also help to retain pH balance, making it less likely that any harmful bacteria can thrive in your dog’s mouth. Furthermore, it does not stick to a dog’s teeth like a dry food.

Healthy teeth & gums of my raw fed German shepherd

In terms of maintaining healthy teeth and gums, nothing compares to a raw diet. A raw diet is a species appropriate diet for our dogs, meaning it is the easiest diet for them to digest and assimilate nutrients from, as it is in the natural state that a dog’s body recognizes and utilizes. Prevention of dental disease is not feeding a kibble diet and doing regular dental cleanings. Rather, prevention is honoring the natural design of our dogs and feeding and caring for them accordingly. Their body will be better able to maintain health the way it was meant to in the first place.

Pictured are my raw feed dogs: Lolo (border collie), Bella (Italian greyhound), and Onyx (German shepherd)

Dr. Erin O’Connor is an AVCA Animal Chiropractor and ACAN Naturopathic Carnivore Nutrition Consultant. She sees patients out of her clinic, Vitality Chiropractic Center in Aurora, as well as Autumn Green Animal Hospital in Geneva. For further information, visit or email Dr. O’Connor at


Many people think that animal chiropractic is best suited for older dogs. While senior dogs can receive great benefits, in areas such as increasing their mobility and decreasing pain, the very best time to start care is in the developmental stages…puppyhood!

Animal chiropractic can help give puppies the best start towards great health. Think about it. If you’ve had a puppy, they are energetic, clumsy, zooming around, play rowdy, have inevitable slips and falls, are developing coordination and learning body awareness. This is also when they are quickly growing.

Animal chiropractic during this stage in their lives can be beneficial to achieve proper bone and joint development and movement, as well as reaching optimal health early on in life, which can help set the stage for the health they experience throughout their lifetime.

For example, it can lessen the likelihood that a puppy slip or fall will lead to flexibility or mobility issues later in life. In addition, anecdotal evidence has found that puppies who receive chiropractic care are less likely to be diagnosed with dysplasia when compared to litter mates who received no adjustments.

Animal chiropractic for puppies is very gentle and effective to be sure that all of their joints are achieving proper motion as well as position. Most puppies quickly figure out that their animal chiropractic visit is something positive. It makes their body feel good!

A little care goes a long way. Most healthy, normal puppies can achieve great benefit from only 2-3 adjustments before they mature. It is then a good idea to continue chiropractic check-ups every few months to help maintain wellness. Extra active dogs, giant sized breeds, dogs in activities that place extra stress on their joints may need a little more care. If any problems or symptoms arise, frequency of care can be modified accordingly.

When it comes to health, it is best to start making good choices to support the body early. It is also much easier to be proactive in health to prevent problems from happening in the first place.

So, the next time you think, “my dog is young,” and “they don’t have any problems yet,” just remember that all dogs, regardless of their age, can benefit from periodic animal chiropractic check-ups. This is especially true of breeds that are known for certain health issues of the spine and other joints such as dachshunds, shih tzus, Labrador retrievers, and German shepherds, as well as fast growing breeds such as Great Danes and Saint Bernards.

Consider animal chiropractic as a complement to your puppy’s regular veterinary care to achieve a higher level of health.

Dr. Erin O’Connor is an AVCA Animal Chiropractor and ACAN Naturopathic Carnivore Nutrition Consultant. She sees patients out of her clinic, Vitality Chiropractic Center in Aurora, as well as Autumn Green Animal Hospital in Geneva. For further information, visit or email Dr. O’Connor at


Is your dog always scratching or licking a specific spot on his body? Have you gotten x-rays, ruled out allergies, and even tried meds for relief with minimal results? If your dog is paying attention to a particular area of the body, i.e. licking the elbow or wrist, this could be a location of discomfort due to tight muscles. Why? Un-stretched, overused, and taut muscles put stress on the joints all over the body. When joints are stressed, they become painful and eventually damaged.

Dogs have a very unique way of trying to heal sore areas of concern on their own. They will frequently lick or even scratch their sore spots repeatedly. The idea is when they do this to an aching site, it will increase circulation allowing for freshly oxygenated blood flow to repair the area. If they have a tight upper back muscle after say, playing too hard, you may notice them rubbing their back on the floor, or they might use their rear leg to scratch at it. They instinctively know how to self treat, but human hands can do it much better!

If dogs have uncomfortable joints, gentle nibbling and licking stimulates blood flow and warmth, therefore providing temporary comfort. Having a massage therapist check for muscle tightness or imbalances can help alleviate the constant need for them to try to help themselves. Stretching can also help with tight muscles they cannot stretch on their own.

Passive range of motion occurs during massage. When your dog receives massage, the therapist will typically take your dog’s limbs through a comfortable range of motion. When this happens, synovial fluid lubricates the joints making movement there more flexible and less painful.


If you feel your dog is otherwise healthy, ruling out flea infestation and skin allergies, here are some common things to look for on your dog if you’re wondering if he might need some soft tissue work:

  • Reddish-brown stains over wrists, ankles, or other joints
  • Frequent nibbling over a specific muscle or joint
  • Scratching a difficult-to-reach area

Keep in mind, if your dog has allergies and is always scratching at an itch, this can generate muscular imbalances. Additionally, if you have a puppy, he is growing at a rapid rate. This makes him feel itchy allover his body! Massage is great for alleviating growing pains and keeps skin and fascia supple and ready for another growth spurt. Remember, massage allows us to focus on whole body health and well-being. It should be utilized as one of your tools in the toolbox to always facilitate healing.

Always be sure to look for a Nationally Certified Canine Massage Therapist to work on your dog. Check out for a list of practitioners near you or head over to to schedule an appointment with Kristina!


Keeping your pet at their ideal weight is so important to their health. If your pet is overweight, I strongly urge you to take the steps to start helping them lose the excess pounds.

To see if your do is a their ideal weight, there are 3 areas to check:

(1) Ribs

You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs as if there is a thin blanket over them. You can feel them, but they are not noticeably visible when standing. If you feel a layer of “squish” over this area or can’t feel the ribs at all, your dog is overweight.

(2) Abdominal Tuck

You should notice an upward slope of your dog’s belly from the end of their rib cage to their thighs. If there is barely to no slope here, your dog is overweight.

(3) Waist

From a bird’s eye view, looking down at your dog, you should notice an inward tapering of a waist, just before their rear end. If you can’t make out a waist, or you are noticing more of a sausage shape here, your dog is overweight.

The above 3 areas to check ideal weight are there in EVERY dog.

Extra weight adds extra stress on the joints as well as the rest of the body. It can make them prone to so many different health conditions as well as make it more difficult to recover from injuries. If your pet is overweight, it’s time to start taking the steps to slim them down.

To help your pet lose the extra weight, there are two main areas to look at:

(1) Food

Your dog’s diet is the most influential factor to their weight. Start by cutting back their food, or better yet, look to providing your pet with a better quality food. Keep track of everything that goes into your dog’s mouth everyday. If your dog gets a treat in the day, be sure you account for this at meal time. If you feed a food like kibble or canned food, try going to a less processed food such as a freeze, or best you can feed raw.

Notice the 3 areas to check: ribs, abdominal tuck, and waist spell “raw?” They were put in that order at no mistake! Raw food provides your dog with nutrition in the form their body was designed to recognize and utilize. It will make weight loos much easier, and it will benefit every other aspect of their health as well.

Sometimes if a dog has been on a kibble or canned food for a long period of time they are lacking the beneficial bacteria and enzymes in their gut micro-biome. Supplementing probiotics and enzymes, or feeding foods like raw green tripe to  replenish and balance their gut can help with weight loss as well.

(2) Exercise

Be sure your dog is getting an ample amount of exercise in their day. Many dogs are lacking the amount of exercise they should get. There are so many ways to help your pet get active, whether a walk, a run, swimming, hiking, playing with other dogs, playing with you, and much more. There are so many things you can do to get your pet moving.  You can get creative here.

There are many interactive toys available to help get your pet physically and mentally stimulated on days you may be extra busy, such as treat balls to roll around the house. “Wait, treats?!” Again, be sure you account for any treats at meal time and be sure they are minimally processed treats such as freeze dried or dehydrated treats, limited ingredients such as a single protein source, so that they do not hinder your weight loss goals.

You can also check out dog training facilities and try out some dog sports like agility, flyball, canine freestyle, disc dog, or dock diving to get your dog moving and having fun. If your dog is older or has joint issues, you can look into a lower impact activity like nose work or barn hunt (some jumping).

If your pet is already at their ideal weight, thank you so much for looking out for your pet’s health and wellness. If you realize your pet is overweight after reading this article, start your plan and make it your number one priority to get your pet to a healthy weight.

Dr. Erin O’Connor is an AVCA Animal Chiropractor and ACAN Naturopathic Carnivore Nutrition Consultant. She sees patients out of her clinic, Vitality Chiropractic Center in Aurora, as well as Autumn Green Animal Hospital in Geneva. For further information, visit or email Dr. O’Connor at



untitledOften times, when I first meet my canine massage clients with their arthritic dogs, they tell me that they have tried just about everything to help their dog feel better. I often hear, “Arthritis seems to have gotten the best of him.” Stop just a minute…there is another option! A medication-free option at that!

Canine massage helps our dogs feel less aches and pains, and aids in making them move with more ease. How is this possible? Let me explain!

When joins become riddled with inflammation, your dog’s body naturally reacts by sending extra fluid to the affected area to assist in healing. However, extra fluid causes the area that already hurts to swell, and the pressure builds. Massage plays a large part in moving fluid away from swollen areas. This is called edema relief. Taking some of the pressure off the joins makes pets more willing to move them. And movement lubricates the joints with synovial fluid.

Stiff, sore joints contribute to under-utilized muscles and lack of flexibility. That can lead to atrophy as muscles begin to shorten. Massage maintains circulation throughout those under-utilized muscles, and spreads muscle fibers apart keeping them plump and flexible.

img_6720Additionally, canine massage helps a dog to relax. When your dog’s body is in a pain cycle, he will often compensate with posture changes that make it very difficult to unwind or even fall asleep. Massage triggers the brain to release several endorphins – serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine. The cool part about these “feel-good” hormone-like substances is that they slow down pain signals! They even turn off some of the inflammation-making chemicals.  Win-Win!

Arthritic pets that receive massage can sleep better, move better, and feel happier! Alleviating swelling, invigorating weakened muscles, turning off inflammation and releasing brain chemicals that take away pain are all ways canine massage benefits your arthritic pooch. Try it today!

Always be sure to look for a Nationally Certified Canine Massage Therapist to work on your dog. Check out for a list of practitioners near you or head over to to schedule an appointment with Kristina!



untitledCanine massage is a helpful and simple way to make your dog feel and move better.  Massage is a calming and very effective treatment modality that brings each pet into better range of motion and facilitates healing. Properly functioning muscles can lead to a whole new level of mobility and health.

A Nationally Certified Canine Massage Therapist is a person that has fulfilled a required number of hours being educated in anatomy, physiology, behavior, gait assessment, palpation, massage techniques, body systems, passive range of motion and injury and tissue repair. The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage has a standardized exam, not required to practice but ideal to obtain to set yourself apart as a practitioner.

In addition to regular veterinary care, canine massage can help so many of our pets. Let’s review some reasons why massage is right for your pooch.

  • Muscle imbalance or overuse from too much or not enough exercise
  • Anxiety from storms, holidays, or other transitions (moving, new baby, etc.)
  • Pre- and post-surgery (pain relief before and after surgical intervention)
  • Edema relief (decrease swollen area after injury or surgical intervention)
  • Hip dysplasia or Arthritis and other debilitating diseases
  • Amputee (scar therapy at amputation site, remove fascial adhesions)
  • Recent adoptee (self-confidence issues)
  • Lymphatic drainage (removes toxins and improves immune system)
  • Pain reduction in general (the brain releases feel good hormones during massage)
  • Stress reliever (massage decreases stress hormones)
  • Restores energy and vitality
  • Puppies (tumbles and falls, handling awareness)
  • Basic stretching (create elasticity throughout tight, shortened muscles)
  • Pairs well with homeopathy, acupuncture, reiki, and chiropractic care
  • Palliative or hospice care (brings peace and comfort during this time)

What to look for…

img_6930Here are some things to check for at home to see if your dog would benefit from a massage:

  1. Do a light, open hand scan over the dog’s entire body. Here you are searching for areas of tight muscle, heat, lack of heat and swelling. Gently apply pressure to these areas to check for discomfort. Pulling away or turning to look at you are indications they may have an area of concern. Over time, your pet will allow you to check them, and you will become more sensitized to the slightest change.
  2. Observe your pet as they go through specific movements. Observe your dog while he walks. Is he dragging his nails on the back feet? Does he have a head bob when moving one of the front legs forward? Does he hop up the stairs or make contact with all feet? Does he have difficulty going into a sit or stand? Can your dog squat or lift his leg to potty comfortably or is he weak? These can all be indications there is muscular or joint pain occurring.

Massage is a medication free option that can be right for your pet.  A directory of skilled Nationally Certified Canine Massage Therapists is available at

For further information on canine massage visit or email Kristina Dodge at



Dr.ErinGuestBlogIf your dog is currently experiencing or recovering from an injury, rest can be invaluable to their recovery. While it can be difficult with high energy breeds or young dogs, restricting intense activities can help.

Allowing your dog to continue doing intense activities like fetch and frisbee can dramatically slow down their healing time.  When a dog is highly driven by these two things, they will do all that they can to get the ball or frisbee. This means contorting their body out of natural postures, face planting, stumbling, and sliding.  They have one goal and that is to get the ball or frisbee in their mouths as quick as they can.6-21705-top-10-family-friendly-dogs6c-1350065750

Another activity to avoid while your dog is recovering from an injury is tugging. This is especially important for neck injuries. When your dog tugs, they are pulling and jerking with their neck.  If you or another dog pulls against that, it can setup the stage for re-injury or make current symptoms worse.

Other activities you may need to restrict, especially if you have a small dog, is jumping on and off of furniture and stairs. Jumping up is more problematic for a rear limb or back injury, as your dog will be pushing off from the rear.  Jumping down is more worrisome for a neck or front limb injury, as they will be landing on their front legs and the force from their landing will travel up the legs and into the upper back and neck.

If your dog participates in sports like agility, flyball, dock diving, etc. it is wise to also take time off from these activities while your dog heals.

More than likely, your dog will be able to get back to their usual activities, however, restricting these activities while your dog is healing is important.


Once your dog looks back to their normal self, wait a little bit longer; simply to ensure that everything has healed and stabilized. Many times when dogs start to feel better, they want to do all of their favorite activities again when they are not fully ready.

When they are fully healed, ease back into their normal activities. Whether it’s been a couple weeks or a couple months, going back to a 3 mile walk, their usual jump height in agility, or playing for hours at the park, for example, will cause problems.  Start small and if they do OK, you can gradually increase the intensity or length of the activity.  Many dog owners get really excited once their dog is feeling better, but for your dog’s benefit, you want to take it slow getting them back to their usual activities.

It may take some effort on your part, but it is worth it that your dog rest and then eases back into their activities so that they can fully recover.

If you’re not sure where to start prior to that in the beginning to help heal an injury, I may be able to help with the animal chiropractic.  It’s a great treatment method to restore musculoskeletal and nervous system health.

If you have any questions about Animal Chiropractic, you can contact Dr. Erin O’Connor at or visit


Dr.ErinGuestBlogAnimal chiropractic is a safe, gentle approach to your dog’s health care.  It has many benefits, which include reducing pain, alleviating stress, improving mobility, boosting energy, and restoring spinal function.  It can be a great way to enhance your dog’s health.

While chiropractic care may help a variety of conditions, such as arthritis, allergies, pain, abnormal posture, seizures, and neurological conditions; prevention is the key.  An adjustment every few months (more often if your dog is high energy or participates in dog sports) can go a long way. If a spinal problem is detected in a dog or cat early, health issues can be better avoided later in life.  Yet sometimes dog owners don’t realize something like animal chiropractic exists until there is a problem or until their dog is up in age.

Does age prevent a dog in receiving chiropractic care? No! While it is best to start early, it is never too late to start!  The oldest small breed dog I have adjusted was 21 years old, who began care at 19. The oldest large breed dog I’ve adjusted was 18 1/2 years old, who began care at 16. Most importantly, these dogs were able to maintain a quality life at those ages, with the help of chiropractic care.10546971_10152704228448514_6011887158903531704_o

Chiropractic is especially important for senior dogs to help retain normal joint mobility and allow them to continue enjoying activities that they love. When joints function abnormally, it results in abnormal wear and tear, leading to degenerative arthritis. Many people think that it is normal for dogs to significantly slow down as they age, lay on the bed all day, or avoid the stairs…it’s not! They are trying to tell us that something hurts.

For senior dogs where arthritis is already present, chiropractic adjustments allow for more motion in the joint and also pain and inflammation reduction. The degenerative changes to the bone cannot be reversed with adjustments, but the stiffness and discomfort can usually be reduced.

Chiropractic is a wonderful treatment option for our senior dogs.  Most also enjoy their adjustments as they figure out that it makes them feel better!  The most common changes senior dog owners report is increased energy and activity levels.  In some cases, their dog starts doing activities they used to do when they were younger again as well.

Integrated along with the care of your vet, animal chiropractic can provide added comfort, increased mobility, and extended quality of life in your senior dog.

If you would like to begin chiropractic care for your dog, it is recommended to see a doctor who is certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association.  By doing so, you are assured of the services of a skilled and dedicated professional who will provide the very best care.  A directory is available at

If you have any questions about Animal Chiropractic, you can contact Dr. Erin O’Connor at or visit her website at



One of the most common questions I get asked as an animal chiropractor is “what are the causes of problems in my dog’s spine?”

To answer the questions, we can look at the 3 T’s as causes to problems in a dog’s spine…thoughts, trauma, and/or toxins.  These are the 3 types of stressors that make it difficult for your pet’s body to adapt properly to maintain good health.


This is from the negative emotions of your pet.  It can be from circumstances that are scary to them or that cause anxiety, such as boarding, thunderstorms, fireworks, etc. This can also be from not getting enough mental stimulation or affection.  On the severe end of the spectrum, it can be the emotional aspect from abuse.


dog-playing-tugThis can be a major injury such as falling down stairs, being hit by a car, or coming from an abusive past.  It can also be from small, “micro-traumas” such as tugging on a leash attached to a collar around the neck, not landing quite right after jumping off the couch, catching themselves off balance in the car as you stop or go, and playing an intense game of tug. These can be little things that you may not have considered as a trauma before, but they can add up over time causing a larger problem. Extra weight also causes additional stress on the spine.  One last area of trauma I see in my clinic are performance dogs as they have higher physical demands on their bodies, similar to a human athlete.


This is anything that goes in your dog’s mouth, such as an unhealthy diet, medications, things your dog may eat outside, and also environmental toxins such as lawn treatments, harsh cleaning products, yard defogging, lead in toys, and more.

drerinlolo350dpiYour dog’s body is truly amazing and responds to so many things day to day. For example, if it’s hot outside, your dog will pant as a method to cool down properly. If your dog is running or playing, their heart rate increases to provide their muscles with oxygen.  Your pet’s body should be able to adapt to these everyday stressors, and your pet will adapt just fine to most.

However, if the body becomes overloaded with stressors or if there are stressors that are too large to handle, with some of the examples mentioned above, this can cause loss of normal motion and/or position of the spine and disease patterns can follow. Chiropractic restores normal movement and position of affected joints, allowing proper communication within the nervous system so the body can heal, allowing your dog to function at their optimal level.

For further information on animal chiropractic visit and click “animal chiropractic,” or email Dr. Erin O’Connor at


Dr.ErinGuestBlogAnimal chiropractic is a natural and simple way to make a positive difference in your dog’s health and wellness.  It is a gentle, yet highly effective treatment modality that allows the animal to utilize their very own healing capabilities.

An animal chiropractor is a licensed chiropractor or veterinarian who has undergone specialized post-graduate animal chiropractic education and understand the complex biomechanic and neuromusculoskeletal systems animals.  They are certified by either the AVCA (American Veterinary Chiropractic Association) or IVCA (International  Veterinary Chiropractic Association). Animal chiropractors focus on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of these disorders on health.

Some common conditions seen by an animal chiropractor are limping or other gait abnormalities, neurological conditions such as seizures or paralysis, signs of pain in the spine or a limb, muscle spasms, chronic ear infections, incontinence, allergies, arthritis, and more.

sheltieshow2The only definitive way to know if your dog needs to be adjusted is to have them examined by a certified chiropractor.  However, there are a few “home checks” you can do to see if they would benefit from chiropractic.

  1. Put your dog in a sit position, hold a treat in front of them.  Now bring the treat to their shoulder.  They should go directly nose to shoulder in a simple, easy motion.  If they scoot back, twist sideways, or do anything besides that simple lateral neck movement, they may have a problem in their neck.
  2. Another way you can check your dog is to feel along their spine.  Feel for heat, cool, swelling, or muscle twitching.  You can gently press along their spine and see if it causes them any discomfort anywhere.  If they jump, turn their head, if you feel muscle tension or twitching, or temperature changes, they may have a problem in that area.  The more you do this, the more sensitive you will become to subtle changes.
  3. You can also observe them…if they have difficulty executing certain movements, such as walking, running, going up or down stairs, jumping into the car or on a couch, getting up from laying down, squatting, or sitting, they may have a chiropractic problem that needs to be addressed.  Abnormal posture when standing or sitting, nail dragging, as well as side sitting can also be indications.

While chiropractic care helps a variety of conditions, prevention is the key.  All chiropractors, whether for people or animals, are proactive in health.  Meaning they want to maintain optimal wellness and prevent disease from happening in the first place.

Your pet should be examined periodically to ensure there are no abnormalities in movement and function, this covers areas such as range of motion, gait, posture, and muscle tone to ensure optimal wellness, help prevent disease, and to keep your dog’s health at their full potential.

parkerbIdeally, chiropractic care for dogs should begin at an early age and continue throughout their lifetime, but it’s never too late to start.  An animal chiropractor can evaluate your pups to ensure they are developing properly as well as help your adult dog stay active and healthy.  It can keep working and sporting dogs in top condition as well as keep senior dogs active and pain free.

Animal chiropractic is a great compliment to your dog’s regular veterinary care.  Plus, it’s not limited to only dogs, any animal with a spine can benefit!  A pet under chiropractic care functions and heals much more efficiently, leading to a whole new level of health!


For further information on animal chiropractic visit and click “animal chiropractic” or email Dr. Erin O’Connor at