All Posts by Harbor Pines Team

Let’s Talk Teeth

Let’s Talk Teeth

Or rather, more specifically, periodontal disease. The best kind of care for your pet is preventative care, and that often starts with taking care of their teeth. Have you ever had your dentist drill into you the importance of taking care of your teeth and your gums because it helps to take care of the rest of you too? A healthy mouth is the first step to a healthy pet. Periodontal disease is the most prevalent health disorder in both felines and canines, with most canines showing signs of this disease by the age of three. Periodontal disease can be very detrimental to your pet’s health and as you are their best defense against it, it’s important to know just what it is, where it comes from, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.

What exactly is periodontal disease?

Any time you eat, your teeth naturally retain bits of food particles and bacteria that then turn into plaque. The more your pets eat without their teeth being cleaned in between, the plaque will continue to build up and over time will mineralize and harden to form calculus. As humans do, this is where we’d take a toothbrush and some floss to our teeth and gums, ridding them of any lingering plaque or calculus. Our pets, however, depend on us to take care of this part of the equation and can suffer if it’s left untreated. Bacteria will make its way into the bloodstream by way of the teeth and gums, feeding the body infectious organisms. That bacteria can then overwhelm the body’s immune system and take residence in the heart. This can lead to heart murmurs and eventual heart failure. That same bacteria can also be lodged in the kidneys, causing infection, inflammation, and acute damage. Over time, this can result in kidney failure.

How do I know if my pet is showing signs of periodontal disease and what do I do?

Because this disease progresses over time, any symptoms your pets show will also progress. Early signs of periodontal disease can be decreased appetite due to swollen and painful gums, which can materialize with them favoring their mouths. The most common sign, and perhaps the most overlooked as something inevitable but actually isn’t, is bad breath. Bad breath is a sign that something is amiss inside their mouths and needs attention. As the disease progresses, so do the signs. Other things to keep an eye on are gum recession, bleeding of the gums, tooth loss, and infected teeth. Teeth that are infected but don’t fall out can cause abscesses, which are marked by sinus infections and nasal discharge. Keep an eye, too, on the outer surface of the upper premolars and the inner surface of the lower incisors and premolars as ducts empty into the mouth and saliva is conducive to calculus formation. A good rule of thumb when watching for and identifying symptoms of periodontal disease is to know that you know your pets the best, and you know when something isn’t right, or they’re acting differently, or they’re in pain. If you think they’re showing symptoms or you’re just not sure, give us a call and we will always be happy to take a look. If they are showing symptoms, we can treat this disease in its early stages with scaling and polishing to remove calculus. This must be done by a veterinarian only.

Now that I know what it is and what to look for, how do I prevent it?

We humans go to the dentist generally a couple times a year – once for a checkup and at least once for a cleaning. You go because you know it’s important to take care of your teeth and your gums beyond just what your toothbrush and your floss can do. A solid foundation of good oral care is also the foundation for a healthy body and life. Your pets need the same kind of care for their teeth and gums, they just cannot drive themselves. It is crucial for your pet, just as it is for you, for them to have yearly dental exams with their veterinarians. Beyond that, it is extremely important for you to develop an at-home care regimen. Being able to brush your pet’s teeth is the goal, but start by first using your finger to help get them acclimated to and comfortable with having a strange object in their mouths. Make sure to only use toothpastes specifically for pets. A popular trick is to give your pets dental treats for them to chew on and work some of that plaque off on their own, but they shouldn’t be relied on as the only dental care.

If you think that your pet might be showing signs of periodontal disease, please give us a call and make an appointment.

Say Cheese!

Say Cheese

The holidays are nearing and it’s time for family pictures. You gather everyone and park them in front of a festive backdrop to orchestrate the cutest photo possible. The dog goes in front because who doesn’t love a big happy grin? “Say Cheese!” you yell as you dart back into your spot and let the camera’s timer do its thing. You sort through the pictures later that night, hot cocoa in hand and pup at your feet. You stop mid swipe as you notice that someone very important has yellow teeth.

Let’s talk dental health. The first thing that comes to mind in regards to poor dental health is generally yellow teeth. But that’s merely a symptom of something else, and a sign that your pet needs some attention from your vet. There are a few different areas that have potential cause for concern when it comes to inside your pet’s mouth, including periodontal disease, feline stomatitis, dental caries, broken teeth, enamel hypoplasia, supernumerary teeth, malocclusion, and those discolored teeth from your family photo. As always, the best care is preventative care which is why it is highly recommended that your pet have an annual dental check up. If you can’t remember your pet’s last visit, it’s probably time. Give us a call and we’ll schedule one at your earliest convenience. Now let’s get down to business.

Periodontal Disease 

Periodontal disease is arguably one of the worst and most prevalent of all potential issues. In fact, most dogs and cats will show some sign of this disease by the age of three. Just like humans, when dogs and cats eat, the particles of food build up on their teeth to form plaque. Humans take a toothbrush and some floss to their teeth and call it a day, but your pet needs a little assistance in that department. If the plaque builds up enough, it will mineralize and harden to form calculus. From there, bacteria can make its way into the bloodstream, kidneys, or even the heart. The most common sign of periodontal disease also happens to be the one most frequently overlooked. Bad breath is a sign of something more going on in the mouth. Beyond that stinky dog breath, other signs include gum recession, bleeding in the gums, tooth loss, and infected teeth. Along with these, your pet can be experiencing significant pain. If you think your animal is showing any of these signs, call and make an appointment today. Prevention here is key. That includes annual dental exams with cleanings to ensure your pet’s teeth and gums stay as healthy as possible, as well as to identify any potential issues. Equally important is establishing a solid foundation of at-home care. Brush your dog’s teeth with canine specific toothpaste. A popular idea is the use of dental treats, but make sure they supplement both the brushings and exams instead of replacing them.

Feline Stomatitis

Cats want to be camera ready too! Well… they at least want happy and healthy teeth! Feline stomatitis is a condition of the oral cavity in which the gums become inflamed and grow over the teeth. Difficulty chewing, bad breath, profuse salivation, and inflamed lips are all symptoms. If not treated, this can spread to the back of the throat, making swallowing difficult and uncomfortable. The exact cause of this is unknown, but having a solid groundwork of dental care can slow any recurrence.

Dental Caries

Every human’s least favorite thing to hear when they go to the dentist. You guessed it! Cavities. Your pets get them too, though rarely. Dogs and cats carry a uniquely high pH of saliva, which seldom results in cavities. However, when they do occur, they too must go to their veterinarian dental specialist and get a filling. One of the things we look for in the annual dental exams are signs for any potential cavities.

Enamel Hypoplasia

Severe malnutrition and fluorine toxicity, as well as the distemper virus can cause something called enamel hypoplasia, which is the incomplete development of the outer layer of enamel that surrounds the crown of the tooth. Teeth that have a coarse texture and a stained brown color are indicative of this. The absence of the enamel makes the teeth especially vulnerable to decay and fractures. Puppies and kittens that are suffering from enamel hypoplasia can have an enamel restoration by a veterinary dental specialist.


When the teeth don’t properly line up between the upper and lower jaws, your pet has either a brachygnathism or a prognathism. Or simply, they have an overbite or an underbite, respectively. These traits are inheritable and can lead to dental and jaw problems if their normal biting action is interrupted. This can be detected as being a potential issue as early as eight weeks at their annual dental exam.

Broken teeth, yellow teeth, and extra teeth… oh my!

Let’s talk teeth. Like people, the mouth is a focal point of health in your pet’s body. Having a healthy mouth starts with having healthy teeth. Some dogs and cats are born with supernumerary teeth, or extra teeth. These teeth are either retained deciduous teeth or permanent ones that are crowding the others, potentially causing abnormal eruption pathways. Because of their close proximity to the other permanent teeth, they serve as additional hosts for calculus and bacteria to build. In most cases, the teeth are deciduous and no action needs to be taken. If normal biting action is interrupted however, removal is recommended. Another thing that can happen is the breaking or fracturing of a tooth. This can be because of trauma or disease, but if the pulp cavity of the tooth is exposed, inflammation, infection, or pain can result. This can be fixed with a visit to your veterinarian dental specialist and a root canal. Aside from extra teeth and broken teeth, teeth can become discolored. Teeth could be yellow, brown, or even bluish-gray. Brownish discoloration could be the result of enamel hypoplasia, whereas bluish-gray could be a sign of inflammation within the pulp cavity.

Now let’s get back to those family photos. Your dog has yellow teeth! All the possibilities of what this could mean run through your head as you simultaneously reach for your phone to make an appointment for a dental exam. You can retake those family photos once you know your pet is as happy and healthy as can be.

golden cat feeling air

Summertime and the Livin is… Itchy?

Summertime and the Livin is… Itchy?

Picture this: summer has arrived and it’s getting hotter and hotter. You don’t want to run up your energy bill so you’re trying to avoid turning on the air conditioner… but we all know that only works for so long. You need an escape so you decide to go for a walk and hope the air outside is cooler than in. You grab the leash and whistle for your boy. Together you make your way up the street and down your usual shortcut through the tall grass and weeds to your favorite park. You feel an itch begin to make its way through to your nose. Spoiler alert! Your dog sneezes first. Guess I’m not the only one, you think to yourself.

Let’s talk allergies. Or more specifically - seasonal allergies. The ones that make your throat scratchy and make you sneeze all day long during those hot summer months. You pop an allergy pill and you’re more or less ready to go. Easy enough. But here’s the thing - you’re not the only one in your household that’s likely to suffer from allergies and your furry friend can’t drive to the store for quick relief. They need you. So let’s get down to business.


What are allergies and why do they affect my pet?

How can I tell if my pet is suffering from allergies?

Let’s talk treatment and prevention

The best care is always preventative care, so preventing allergies before they occur is key. Sometimes that’s unavoidable for a few reasons. Some pets are genetically predisposed to having allergies and some allergens are airborne or saturated in the environment. But there are ways to ease the pain of allergic reactions both present and impending. The best thing you can do is avoid the allergens altogether, but as we’ve learned, that’s not always feasible. So the next best thing is to provide your pet with the best defense system possible. For dust and dander allergies, clean their environment on a regular basis. Think spring cleaning, but summer based. Wash their bedding weekly and vacuum floors and curtains biweekly. For environmental and airborne allergies, bathe them once a week. Frequent baths can dry out their skin, so make sure to ask for a shampoo recommendation at your next appointment. Remember that walk to the park you took? Go the long way and avoid the tall grass as much as possible. Wash his paws when you get back, before he goes inside to limit tracking the allergens into the house.

There are a couple of things we can do to treat allergies. Among them are antihistamines, supplements, shampoos, sprays, immune-modulating medications, and sometimes steroids in extreme cases. Make sure you don’t administer anything before making an appointment to discuss the different options and figure out the best plan for your pet. As always, our first priority is the health and happiness of your furry friend. 

Should I Spay/Neuter my Pet?

Should I Spay/Neuter my Pet?

Let’s talk spaying and neutering. First of all, what’s the difference? Both terms refer to the sterilization of pets, but spaying is mostly used when talking about females as it is the ovariohysterectomy - or the removal of the ovaries, and neutering is used when talking about males, as it is the orchiectomy - or the removal of the testicles.

Now that we’ve settled the verbiage, let’s get down to business.

So should I spay or neuter my pet?  The short answer is yes.
But let’s get a little deeper. There are a handful of reasons as to why you should spay/neuter your pet. Overall health, behavior, longevity of life, and population control.

Overall Health

The act of spaying/neutering your pets can greatly reduce the risk of major illness later in life. Female dogs that are spayed very rarely develop mammary cancer. Plus, unspayed dogs have a 200x greater chance for breast cancer than those that have been spayed before their first heat. Even dogs that are spayed after their first heat are 10x less likely to get cancer than those who haven’t been spayed at all. On the male side, neutering completely eliminates the possibility of developing testicular cancer, and is purported to reduce the risk of prostate cancer as well.


Now let’s talk behavior. Male dogs who have yet to be neutered tend to be more territorial and will mark (and yes, I do mean pee!) indiscriminately, even all over the house. Intact males will also go to great lengths to find a mate, and are more likely to roam away from home, putting them in danger of being hit by a car or getting into fights with other, unknown dogs. In their journey to find a mate, they’ll also be far more inclined to hump… everything. Other dogs, the couch, your leg. Having your male dog neutered reduces the amount of testosterone in their body and can be used as a behavioral modification mechanism to calm overly excited dogs. It’s not a guarantee, however, as it doesn’t eliminate all the testosterone in their body, so be sure to give us a call if you have any behavior concerns and we’ll help figure out a solution that best suits you and your pet. Unspayed females will go into heat for four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. It’s as messy as it sounds, doggy diapers and all.

Longevity of Life

Our primary concern is always the health and happiness of your pet. What we can do, together, to ensure you share a long life - filled with walks at the park, a million games of catch, and countless belly rubs. The main reason you’re reading this right now is because you love your furry best friend and you want to make sure they stick around for as long as possible. Spaying/neutering gives you the best chance to make that happen. Pets that are fixed tend to live longer - they’re less likely to roam, which can put them in harm’s way. They’re less likely to develop mammary/testicular cancer. They’re more likely to be there, tail wagging, when you walk through the door. They’re more likely to spend their lives as your loyal companion, happy and healthy.

Population Control

Nationwide, upwards of 1.5 million healthy, adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized each year simply because there just aren’t enough homes to go around. 6.5 million companion pets enter US animal shelters every year. These are unwanted litters of puppies and kittens, they are family pets who lost their homes, they are dogs and cats just like your furry best friend. And that’s just the shelters. It’s estimated that the feral cat population in the United States is over 50 million. Spaying/neutering your pets is the only form of birth control that is one hundred percent successful. Those intact dogs that are roaming to find a mate? Imagine they hump an unspayed female and that results in a litter of puppies, puppies you may never even know exist. Imagine your female is in heat and your friend brings their new dog over to socialize but they forget to tell you they have yet to be fixed. Surprise! Puppies! To ensure there are no surprises, getting your pets spayed/neutered is important.

I want to spay/neuter my pet, now what?

The first step when you acquire a new friend is to make an appointment for a physical examination. There we can structure a plan for the happiest, healthiest life for you and your pet.

Let’s Talk Hot Weather

Picture this: summertime has arrived and that can only mean one thing. Beach days, barbecues, and long walks with your furry friend. It’s hot outside and you want to get out of the house so you grab the leash and start toward the front door. You glance at the clock on the wall and realize it’s the middle of the day – the temperature outside is at a high. You look down at your furry friend as your hand pauses on the doorknob.

Now Let’s Talk Hot Weather Risks

Summer is here, and so is the heat! That means easy days lounging by the pool, but it also means more risks for your pet. There are a few significant risks your pet faces when the days become hotter and the temperature rises. Burned paws, heatstroke, and dehydration are the most common. You’re likely aware of all of these, but maybe not just how much of a potential danger they pose during hotter months.

Burned Paws

Have you ever walked across the pavement on a hot day and had to sprint like you’ve never sprinted before because it burned your feet? When it’s extra hot outside, the pavement can burn and blister the pads of your pet’s feet and cause them immense pain. If it’s 77° outside, asphalt can be up to 125° in direct sunlight. To see if the street temperature is safe, put the back of your hand against the pavement and if you can’t keep it there for five seconds, it’s too hot for your pet. If taking them out is necessary, use dog booties or dog paw wax to help keep the sensitive pads of their feet safe. You know your pet the best. If you think they’re uncomfortable or in pain, bring them inside immediately. Tricks aside, the best rule of thumb is that if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for them.


Often caused by human error, heatstroke causes your pet’s body temperature to rise, which can lead to organ failure. The most susceptible to heatstroke are those that are elderly, overweight, or those with heart or lung disease. You’ve probably heard stories on the news of people leaving their pets in a hot car. But what you may not know is just how dangerous that situation is. If it’s 70° outside and the sign is shining, the temperature inside the car will reach 104° within just thirty minutes. After an hour, it can reach 113°. Having the window down does little to nothing to ease the temperature inside the car.

Though not sensationalized like being left in a hot car, being outside, even in your backyard or on long walks can be just as deadly if it’s hot enough. But heatstroke can be avoided by following these easy steps. Limit exercise on hot days – the best time to be outside is either early morning or late evening when the temperature drops. Pets with white-colored ears need extra precautionary care because they are more susceptible to skin cancer; pets with shorter snouts are more susceptible to breathing problems. If being out during the day is unavoidable, have your pet walk on grass if at all possible. Providing shade is key – tree shade and tarps are optimal because they don’t obstruct airflow. Dog houses are actually a bad idea during the summer because their closed spaces obstruct airflow, effectively making things worse. If it’s extra hot, add ice cubes to your pet’s water bowl. You can make DIY popsicles with peanut butter, or provide cooling mats or bandanas to help keep your pet comfortable. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t shave your dog. You’d think doing so would keep them cool, but it actually has the opposite effect. The layers of their coats protect them from sunburn as well as overheating. It’s also a good idea to brush your cat more often than normal as it can prevent problems caused by excessive heat.

Always make sure your pet has access to fresh, cool water so they don’t become dehydrated.


Without continual access to fresh water, your pet is at risk to become dehydrated. When this happens, blood becomes very thick because the heart is forced to work extra hard in order to pump enough blood to organs throughout the body. Left untreated, dehydration can lead to circulatory shock and organ failure.

If you think your pet is suffering from any of these things, bring them in immediately. Their well-being is the priority, both yours and ours.

Now picture this: you take your hand off the doorknob and look to your pet. “Let’s stay inside today”, you say as you hang the leash back up. Your furry friend’s tail wags as you turn together and walk back into the depths of the air conditioning, safe for another day.

Let’s Talk Heartworms

Picture this: you and your dog are outside, frolicking beneath the sun on a warm,summer day. Not a care in the world beyond tossing the ball as far as you can and having your furry friend run to get it, tail wagging, darting through the tall grass. You feel something on your arm and you swat at it, coming away with a mosquito smashed between your fingers. Something tickles the back of your brain, a piece of knowledge that has settled there, waiting to be picked up. Heartworms.

What are heartworms and where do they come from?

Heartworms come from larvae that is transported from an infected mosquito to anunsuspecting host. This can happen anywhere there are mosquitos, but especially wherever there are hot spots along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and along river tributaries. Once the larvae has been planted onto its new animal host, it grows into adult worms that live in the blood vessels that distribute to the heart and lungs of your pet. The most vulnerable of the unsuspecting hosts are animals that are kept outdoors,though any dog or cat can be infected from a mosquito bite. Dogs can be infected multiple times, leading to different stages of infection in the same host. The very presence of the parasite can stress the animal’s heart and cause inflammation of the blood vessels and lungs, and in some cases the worms can make their way into the heart. Heartworms as a disease is progressive and if left untreated, will only get worse and can even cause death.

How do I know if my pet has been affected?

Symptoms can vary, depending on a few different factors. The number of worms, the immune response of the infected pet, how long they’ve had the heartworms, and the activity level of the animal all factor in to what kind of symptoms they’re displaying and the severity of how they’re presented. The more active the animal, the more pronounced the symptoms. Heartworms can live upwards of five years, and left untreated, can cause serious health problems for your pet, even death. Possible symptoms for dogs include coughing, exercise intolerance, stunted growth, labored breathing, discoloration of the skin, spitting up blood, fainting, bleeding of the nose, and accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. Possible symptoms for cats include coughing, asthma-like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, and weight loss. If your pet displays any of these symptoms, take them in immediately to get tested. Pets should be tested annually anyway, which can be done during a routine visit for preventative planning. The best care is preventative care, but if you think that your pet may be infected, acting fast is crucial.

I think my pet has been infected… what do I do?

If you think there’s a possibility that your pet may have been infected, even if you’re unsure, give us a call and we’ll get them tested and take the appropriate steps for treatment. There is just one drug available for heart worm treatment for dogs and is administered by being injected deep into muscles in the back of the dog. One third of dogs will experience side effects from the drug, including localized pain, swelling, and soreness. Dogs should be kept in a confined area with little to no activity for up to amonth after, as even after treatment, dead heartworms can cause respiratory problems.Your pet will need to be retested after six months to ensure the heartworms are gone.For cats, unfortunately, there are currently no effective treatments, so preventative care is imperative.

Let’s talk prevention.

As with most animal care, prevention is the key to everything. Chances are, you already knew about heartworm medication, but now you know just why it’s so important. We recommend it as a year-round treatment, as it’s impossible to accurately guess just when mosquitoes will be present, and we want to keep your pets safe at all times.Medications are available only by prescription and accessible in-office. Most heart worm medications are given monthly, and the most important thing is to stick to the regimen for your pet, as a lapse in medication can lead to infection. A good trick to ensure you remember every month is to set a reminder on your phone. Some manufacturers of medications also offer monthly email reminders. If you miss a dose, contact us immediately to have your pet tested. It’s important to note that some medications may also protect against other parasites, both internal and external but no single medication can guarantee 100% protection against all parasites, so it’s important to schedule that initial preventative planning appointment to discuss your pet’s needs and what is best for them.Now picture this: your dog brings back the ball, joy in his every step as he bounds back to you. You discard of the squashed mosquito and grab the ball as your phone dings – a reminder that it’s time for this month’s dose. You scratch your good boy behind the earsas you throw the last ball of the day, happy in the knowledge that your furry friend is safe thanks to his heartworm medication.

Dog looking at food in the plate

5 Holiday Items That Can Hurt Your Pet

5 Holiday Items That Can Hurt Your Pet

The Holidays are a wonderful time to enjoy good company and great food. But some holiday food items and items are actually toxic to pets, and can cause serious health issues – such as the painful and life-threatening illnesses pancreatitis and bloat. In this article, you will gain a handy list that explains which common holiday foods and items are harmful for your pet. This way, with some easy planning and a bit of caution, you can just relax and enjoy the holidays!


#1 – Fatty Foods and Table Scraps

Any fatty meats are very harmful to dogs – such as pork products, meat drippings, turkey skin, and table scraps. This can cause a host of stomach issues, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and internal injury. More troublingly, fatty foods can cause pancreatitis in dogs.

Pancreatitis is a serious and potentially life-threatening illness. Older and overweight dogs are especially at risk. The pancreas is an organ in your dog’s body that is responsible for helping to digest food through the release of enzymes. Normally, these enzymes are activated only once they reach the small intestine. When a dog experiences Pancreatitis, the enzymes are activated before they normally would be, and can damage the dog’s pancreas and surrounding internal organs and tissues. This is very painful, and can cause devastating effects. This is why it is so important to never feed your dogs fatty foods. Symptoms of pancreatitis include:

  • Vomiting
  • Hunched Back
  • Bloated Stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

Pancreatitis requires immediate veterinary care. If you notice any of the symptoms in your dog, please call us immediately at (310) 517-1832. We’ll need to stabilize your dog’s condition, monitor their vitals, treat their pain levels, and administer intravenous fluids.


#2 Bread Dough

Unbaked bread dough should never be ingested by dogs or cats. This is because it contains yeast. As a pet ingests the raw dough, yeast transforms the dough’s sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide expands within your dog’s stomach, and can cause bloating. This is a life threatening medical emergency, and must be treated by a veterinary team right away. Bloat is one of the leading causes of death in dogs.

Some of the symptoms of bloat are:

  • Unsuccessful vomiting attempts
  • Atypical behaviors
  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Hunched appearance
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Off-color gums
  • Flatulence
  • Coughing and gagging
  • Licking the air


#3 Bird Bones

In order for a bird’s body to be able to support flight (even turkey), their bones must be hollow. This is why you should never allow your dog or cat to ingest bird bones, as these bones can easily splinter during digestion. If the bone splinters, it can cause severe damage to your pet’s intestines. This damage can cause infection or an intestinal blockage, both of which can be serious. Intestinal blockage is especially dangerous, and almost always requires immediate surgery by a veterinarian.

The symptoms of intestinal blockage vary based on where the blockage occurs. If the blockage occurs in their throat, they may lick their lips, swallow excessively, or vomit immediately after being fed. If the blockage exists in the stomach, they may vomit a few hours after their meal. If the blockage occurs somewhere in the small intestine, they may vomit, diarrhea, or exhibit a bloated stomach.


#4 Alcohol

Alcohol poisoning is surprisingly common in dogs and cats, and incidences swell around the holiday season. This is usually due to pets getting into drinks that are left unattended. Alcohol is absorbed quickly either through your pet’s digestion or through their skin. It can be very serious, and can even cause death (usually by heart attack). Please make sure your pet never has access to anyone’s alcoholic beverage (or foods that are made with alcohol, such as rum cake).

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning:

  • Depression
  • Involuntary urination or defecation
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate (this usually indicates an advanced case)



#5 Holiday Plants 

Pet owners often decorate their homes with festive plants around the holidays. However, many of these plants are actually toxic to pets. A couple common Christmas plants that are toxic to pets are mistletoe and holly. These can cause gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems. Other common holiday plants that are dangerous for pets to ingest are:

  • Lillies
  • Poinsettias
  • Daffodils
  • Amaryllis

Christmas trees can actually be a hazard for pets as well. Tinsel commonly attracts cats. When ingested, this can cause intestinal blockage, which, as discussed in item #3, is a serious and life-threatening emergency. It’s also important not to let your pet eat the pine needles either, as these can puncture your pet’s intestines.


With some simple planning, you can make sure your pet stays out of danger’s way, and you can enjoy the holidays with friends, family, and plenty of delicious food. Our team at Harbor Pines wishes you the happiest of holiday seasons, and if you ever need us, we are always here for you and your pets.



Brown dog sitting in the grass

Heatstroke in Dogs

Heatstroke in Dogs

We’ve experienced record temperatures in Los Angeles this year. This means that many dogs at are a higher risk for heatstroke. Heatstroke is an emergency situation that can be fatal. A dog’s body isn’t designed to cool down as efficiently as a human’s body. Their body’s are much better at insulating them from the cold than radiating excess heat away. Happily, preventing heatstroke is actually fairly simple! In this article, you will learn about the most common risk factors for heatstroke (including breed, lifestyle, etc). You will also learn about symptoms of heatstroke, along with what to do if you believe your dog is showing symptoms of heatstroke. In the next few minutes, you will learn advice that could save your dog’s life!


Risk Factors



There are certain breeds of dogs that are at increased risk for heatstroke, typically because of their amount of fur, the length of their nose, or their weight. These include:

  • Any dogs that are overweight/obese
  • English Bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • French Bulldogs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Shih Tzus
  • Pekingese
  • Boxers
  • Chows



Dogs are at extreme risk when it’s hot and they have limited access to shade and water. In order for a dog’s cooling mechanisms to work, they need access to a cool and shaded place, along with water to keep their system hydrated. One way a dog radiates heat is through their feat pads, so when they can’t avoid heated ground (such as pavement), it can create a dangerous situation for them.

Certain lifestyle-s put dogs at heightened risk as well, such as dogs who are very active for any reason.



You may very well be aware that it’s dangerous to leave a dog in a hot car. However, what most pet owners don’t know is just how deadly this can be, even with temperatures usually just considered warm, or with windows partially cracked.

On a typical 85-degree day, it will take about ten minutes for the inside of a parked car to heat to 102 degrees. Within a half hour, it can climb to a blistering 120 degrees. And rolling the windows down part way actually doesn’t help much – your car will still essentially function as an oven. It is even dangerous to leave a dog in a car covered by shade during a hot (or warm) day.

Important note: If you ever see a pet (or child) inside an unattended car or vehicle in extreme weather, for any period of time, we urge you to immediately call law enorcement. It is an emergency situation.


Dogs suffering from severe heatstroke usually exhibit obvious symptoms. However, even mind heatstroke is an emergency situation, and you need to pay close attention to your dog for any of the following symptoms if they are at risk biologically or environmentally.

  • Rapid or excessive panting
  • Sticky or goopy saliva
  • Pale or red gums
  • Bright red tongue
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Vomiting (especially with blood)
  • Diarrhea
  • Shock
  • Coma

What to do

If you believe your dog could have heatstroke, you need to act quickly. Heatstroke can be fatal in only minutes. You will need to take your dog to see us (or a local veterinarian if you’re traveling), but first, you must take the following steps:

  1. Get your dog out of the hot environment immediately.
  2. Take your dog to a spot that is cool that has access to running water (ideally a tub). A hose works if a tub is impractical. Immediately begin running cool (but not cold!) water over their entire body. Spend extra time at their head and the back of their neck – this is where many large arteries are, so it will help them cool faster. Again, it is crucial that you don’t use cold water, as this can actually make the situation even more dangerous.
  3. If you have put your dog in a bathtub, make sure their head is elevated above the water level at all times. Do not allow water to enter their nose, even when rinsing.
  4. Take your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer (if you don’t have one, we recommend buying one now) every five minutes. As soon as your dog’s temperature reaches 103 degrees, you can stop the cooling measures.
  5. Take your dog to a cool, shaded place with drinking water. Allow them to drink as much water as they like. Dry them completely with a clean towel.
  6. Apply a cold pack (such as frozen vegetables) to the top of their head.
  7. Massage your dog’s legs vigorously. This will increase circulation, which decreases the risk of shock.
  8.  Call us (or a local vet if you’re traveling) immediately for further instructions. Even if your dog seems fine, it’s important to realize that heatstroke can often cause dangerous secondary conditions that you can’t see with the naked eye.


Veterinary care

Once at the veterinary hospital, we will begin administering intravenous fluids and electrolytes. Once we believe your dog’s condition to be stable, we will begin checking for secondary conditions. These include brain swelling, clotting problems, blood pressure levels, kidney failure, and neurological issues. If there are signs of a secondary condition, we will immediately act to treat your dog. Remember, with heatstroke, fast action is everything!

Heatstroke is a scary topic. We get that. Every year, so many dogs are lost to it. However, if you follow this guide, take preventative measures, and are quick to take action, you are taking an important step in protecting your beloved companion. Please make sure to bookmark this guide, and share with your friends. And remember, if you ever need us for anything, we are always here for you.

-The Harbor Pines Team


Poodle Puppy dog

Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Prevention

Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Prevention

Keeping up with regular flea, tick, and heartworm prevention can go a long way in protecting your pet’s health! However, it can be difficult to remember every month. It might help to know a little bit more about the benefits of these treatments, how to use them most effectively, and how to establish the routine that will work best for your schedule and budget.

Below, we outline some of the main parasites and infections along with how to prevent and/or treat them. There are many different products on the market, but your vet can help you sort through them to find the best option for your family.



Fleas are pervasive in the environment, fluctuating with the seasons and by geographic area. In areas with cold winters, using flea preventatives might be sufficient during the warmest 6 months of the year. In warmer areas, however, (like Los Angeles) flea prevention is most effective if continued year-round.

Dogs and cats become infected with fleas when they go outside, but they can also bring fleas into the house with them. Therefore, it is important to protect your outdoor animals as well as your indoor animals and to treat both the indoor and outdoor environments in the case of an infestation. If you believe you have a flea infestation, consult your vet and/or an extermination professional about how to safely eliminate them.

To check if your pet has fleas, comb through their hair with a flea comb or a very fine hair comb. You might see fleas, eggs, or dark specks of “flea dirt” (flea excrement). Comb these out of the fur and dunk the comb in soapy water to kill the fleas. Fleas like to hang out around the face and the tail, so you can part the fur in these areas to check for them. Other symptoms that your pet has fleas include scratching, excessive licking, biting or chewing, and head shaking. These symptoms can progress to hair loss and “hot spots,” which might be an indication that your pet has an allergy to fleas that will require further treatment by your veterinarian.

Fleas can leave eggs around your house, in bedding and carpets, and under your furniture. Frequently vacuuming your home and washing your animal’s bedding in hot water can aid in prevention. Make sure not to bathe your dog for a few days after a topical treatment to avoid washing it off.

Prevention and Treatment: Flea treatments come in different forms. Topical treatments can be applied monthly on the skin between the shoulder blades by parting the fur. Oral pills are also available by prescription. Alternatives include sprays, flea collars, dips or rinses, and shampoos. Some treatments that are made for dogs can be toxic to cats, so make sure to read the labels carefully and use a product appropriate for your pet’s age, weight, and species.



Ticks feed on an animal’s blood and can transmit a variety of diseases in their host. Some of the more common tick-borne illnesses include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Bartonella (“cat scratch fever”), among others.

There are many different kinds of ticks and diseases that they carry, varying by region and climate. In general, ticks like warm climates and are more prevalent in the warmer months of the year. It is always a good idea to check your pet for ticks after they spend time in an area where ticks are prevalent, such as heavily wooded areas or tall grasses. Removing ticks within the first 24 hours can help reduce the risk of disease transmission.

How to remove ticks:
Some people do not want to touch ticks, in which case you can always bring your pet to the vet to have them removed. However, if you’d like to give it a shot at home, here are some tips:

  1. Use narrow tweezers to slowly pull the tick out by the head, trying not to leave any mouthparts behind.
  2. Kill the tick by submerging it in rubbing alcohol, bleach, or vinegar, or simply cover the tick completely with clear tape. You might want to keep the tick to have it identified in the event that your pet gets sick.
  3. Wash the site with soapy water and then wash your hands.
  4. Monitor the area for signs of infection (redness, swelling, heat, or pain) and call your vet if you are concerned.
  5. If you notice any of the symptoms below over the next several months, bring your pet to your veterinarian.

Signs and symptoms of tick-borne illness include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Jaundice (yellow skin or yellowish tinge to the whites of the eyes)
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Anemia or pale gums
  • Limping, stiffness, or arthritis
  • Skin rashes, bruising, or clusters of small spots of blood under the skin

Of course, finding ticks on your dog is itself an indication that they could be at risk. The best way to find out if your pet has a tick-borne illness is to get a blood test performed in conjunction with a physical exam by your veterinarian. If left untreated, chronic disease can cause serious complications.

All of this goes for you and your human family members too! Most of the diseases our dogs can get from ticks are diseases humans can get as well. If you and your dog go for a hike in the woods, or if you cuddle up with your pets after they’ve been outside in an area where ticks are prevalent, do a quick scan to make sure no ticks have crawled onto you. Ticks especially like the armpit area, the groin, and behind the ears.

Prevention and Treatment: Many of the treatments for fleas can also treat or prevent ticks, though not all of them. For example, Frontline Plus treats ticks, while Advantage II does not. If your pet tests positive for a tick-borne illness, treatments might include antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and anti-parasitic medications.


Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite in the blood of mosquitos. When the mosquito feeds on your pet’s blood, it deposits larvae called microfilariae into the bloodstream. These larvae develop into the larger worms that lodge in your pet’s heart and blood vessels.

Heartworm disease is a heartbreaking experience to go through with our pets and can be very damaging and fatal. Symptoms include a persistent cough, weight loss and loss of appetite, vomiting, and fatigue after even mild exertion. Heartworm disease, if untreated, can progress to heart failure and eventually death.

The prevalence of heartworm varies by geographic region and increases during the hotter months, but cases have been noted throughout the U.S. The American Heartworm Society recommends continuing heartworm treatment year-round, even during colder months. If you miss more than one or two doses, your pet could become infected. It is a good idea at that point to get your pet tested for Heartworm and then continue your monthly preventative. Conveniently, most heartworm prevention medications also treat other internal parasites like roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm, so your pet will be protected for these as well!

Prevention and Treatment: There are treatments available for heartworm infection in dogs, though difficult and costly. However, there are currently no safe or effective therapies available for treating cats. While heartworm disease can be devastating for your pet, heartworms are easily preventable by keeping up with monthly preventatives such as Heartguard Plus.



In all of these cases, the best treatment is always prevention! Prevention of the parasites is much easier and more affordable than treating the diseases. Work with your vet to determine what combination of treatments will work best for your pet. If looking for low cost alternatives, just check with your vet to make sure that these products will be effective, and use all products as directed.

It can be a lot to remember to do this every month, so consider setting a reminder for yourself on your phone or calendar, and always write down what day you’ve given the treatments. Then congratulate yourself for taking excellent care of your pet! And remember, if you ever need us, we’re only ever a phone call away at (310) 517-1832!


A cat is lying on its side and enjoying sunbathing in the garden

Why Spay/Neuter your pet?

Why Spay/Neuter your pet?

Spaying and neutering are common procedures performed by veterinarians and encouraged or required when adopting from shelters. But what are these procedures and why are they so important? Spaying – a surgery to remove a female animal’s uterus and ovaries, and neutering – a surgery to remove a male animal’s testicles, prevent the animal from reproducing. This can have significant health benefits for the animal and can curb some unwanted behaviors. It’s also the most important way to reduce the pet overpopulation crisis. Below are some of the benefits of spaying and neutering and answers to common owner questions and concerns.


Health benefits

In female dogs and cats, spaying reduces the risk of pyometra (a dangerous infection of the uterus that requires surgery), uterine cancer, and mammary tumors or breast cancer. Neutering males reduces the risk of testicular cancer, perianal tumors, and enlargement of the prostate. For outdoor cats, spaying and neutering can help prevent FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, sometimes called Feline AIDS) and FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus), which are spread through contact with other cats, by reducing their fighting and mating behaviors. All of these health benefits will allow your pet to live a longer and healthier life!


Behavioral benefits

Many people choose to spay and neuter their pets to reduce unwanted behaviors. For example, female cats are prone to pacing and yowling when in heat, while intact male cats will roam and urine-mark as a territorial and sexual behavior. Un-neutered dogs and cats are much more likely to be hit by a car or suffer bites from other animals. These behaviors can lead to damage to your home and costly vet visits. By neutering male dogs, you will reduce urine-marking, excessive barking, mounting of other animals, people, or objects, and other aggressive or dominant behaviors that could cause fights with other dogs. Spaying females will prevent the messy heat cycle. Once spayed or neutered, your pets will be less preoccupied with fighting and finding a mate and will tend to be more affectionate and attentive to you. While unwanted behaviors are reduced, your pet will still have the same personality and will remain bonded to you and protective of you and your family. These benefits can be achieved at any life stage, so it’s never too late to spay or neuter!


Pet overpopulation

Millions of dogs and cats are euthanized around the U.S. every year due to overpopulation, overcrowding of shelters, and lack of homes for the animals. This includes puppies, kittens, and perfectly healthy, adoptable animals. Routinely spaying and neutering is not only beneficial to your pet, it is the most effective way to combat the problem of pet overpopulation and reduce homelessness and euthanasia of dogs and cats. While it is tempting to let our pets have their own litters of cute puppies or kittens, this adds to the number of animals needing homes and takes homes away from the millions of animals already living in shelters.


Common concerns

Despite the many benefits of spaying and neutering, many owners are understandably concerned about their pets undergoing these surgeries. Below are answers to some of the most common questions and concerns regarding spaying and neutering.

Doesn’t my pet need those body parts and hormones?

While reproductive hormones are natural and beneficial in many ways, the health and behavioral benefits of spaying and neutering outweigh the costs. For certain breeds, such as Golden Retrievers and large breed dogs, there could be benefits to having the surgery a bit later. Ask your veterinarian when to best spay or neuter your pet, based on their breed and lifestyle, and how to mitigate the risk of unintended breeding in the meantime. If you are not concerned about the behaviors of an intact animal, there is also the option to have a hysterectomy or vasectomy, which leaves the ovaries or testicles intact and will therefore have less of an impact on the animal’s hormones. However, these procedures are much less commonly performed.

My dog/cat should get to have at least one litter first. I don’t want to emasculate my dog/cat.

Our dogs and cats don’t necessarily have the same desires or social expectations that we humans feel, so it’s best not to anthropomorphize too much! By spaying and neutering, you are sparing your pet from a lot of unpleasant experiences – going into heat, being pursued by other animals, getting into fights, and the risk of illnesses and cancers discussed above. It’s a small price to pay, and your pets will be happier and healthier for it!

Sounds expensive!

Spaying and neutering is very routine and a relatively inexpensive surgery. Think of it as an investment! Compared to the cost of raising a litter, pets roaming and getting lost, getting into fights, damage to the furniture from urine-marking, or treating other health issues that result from your pet remaining intact, this one time surgery is much more affordable! In the long run, it will save on your pet’s health care costs. Many areas have local low-cost options as well. Some shelters and non-profits offer lower costs with the help of government subsidies and donations. Make sure to check with your vet to find the best option and to make sure that your pet receives adequate follow-up care.

Will it hurt? I don’t want my pet to go through unnecessary pain.

Spaying and neutering are two of the most common procedures your vet performs. While all surgeries come with some amount of risk, these are definitely safer, more routine surgeries. Your pet will be asleep under general anesthesia throughout the surgery and will not feel anything. Afterwards, you will be sent home with medication to keep your pet comfortable. Remember never to give your pet human medicine without the approval of your veterinarian. Human Advil, for example, is especially toxic for dogs, and Tylenol for cats.

Will my pet gain weight?

The most important thing you can do to keep your pet at a healthy weight is to make sure they get exercise and eat a healthy diet! If your pet is overweight, try reducing their food intake by 20%, and cut down on treats or eliminate human food from their diet. Your vet can help you make a plan for this. Spaying or neutering is not the main factor in your pet’s weight.

Spaying and neutering is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your pet. Make sure to consult with us about any questions or concerns you may have!


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