All Posts by Harbor Pines Team

Pug in the backyard

Caring for Your New Puppy – The First Steps

Caring for Your New Puppy

The First Steps

Congratulations on your new puppy! Puppies have profound impacts on our health and well-being, and you’re an amazing person for having saved a life. We’d like to give you a guide that explains what steps to take next in an easy and digestible way. You’ll learn how to take proper care of your puppy and prepare them to live respectfully in your home, along with how to cultivate a relationship with your puppy that is both happy and obedient. This will set you up for an incredible and long-lasting experience with your new companion.

Step 1 – A Puppy Exam

After you adopt your new puppy, the first thing to do is to schedule a puppy exam. If you have yet to schedule one, then just give us a call at (310) 517-1832 and we’ll get you all set. Your puppy needs an exam for a few important reasons, and we’ll go over what will be accomplished here:

  1. We need to make sure your puppy doesn’t have any health problems, congenital defects, or other issues that could cause problems down the road, so we’ll perform a thorough examination of all of their major biological systems and functions.
  2. We’ll get started on a proactive preventative health care plan. This will include a vaccination schedule for your new pet, and a parasite prevention plan.
  3. You’ll learn about what diseases are common in puppies and we’ll teach you about what hallmark symptoms to look out for so you can be sure your pup stays in good health.
  4. If your puppy is yet to be spayed or neutered, we can schedule a procedure. Spaying and neutering has extremely powerful health and behavioral benefits – such as lower cancer rates and aggression. It also saves lives – every year, millions of pets are put to sleep because of overcrowding.


Step 2 – Housetraining

Housetraining your puppy can be a bit of work, but once accomplished, it will make for a truly harmonious adaptation into your home. You’ll need to remember to be consistent and patient. Positive reinforcement will be your best ally.

Here are some helpful tips to follow:

  • Make sure to take your puppy’s food away between meals, and keep them on a consistent feeding schedule.
  • Your puppy should be taken out to urinate as soon as you wake up, and right before you go to sleep. In between, try to get close to taking them out in hourly intervals.
  • Give your puppy ample praise (or even a treat) as soon as they go to the bathroom outside.
  • If your puppy has an accident in the house, don’t scold them. Instead, clap really loudly (if you catch them in the act) to alert them, and gently take them outside.
  • If your puppy has an accident and you don’t catch them in the act, don’t scold them. Your puppy won’t be able to put the two actions together, and it will only introduce anxiety in the relationship. Accidents happen, and housetraining takes time.

Step 3 – Obedience

Teaching obedience can save your puppy’s life, and it also provides for a much happier relationship between you and your pet. In fact, deep bonding occurs when you train your puppy.

Important tips: To most effectively train your puppy, practice a few times a day, and keep intervals short (such as 5-10 minutes). Don’t repeat a command if your puppy fails to obey.


  1. Kneel close to your puppy.
  2. Hold a treat to their nose. Slowly lift the treat above them, and allow their head to follow.
  3. Their bottom will naturally begin to lower. Once it hits the floor, immediately reward them with the treat, and ample praise.
  4. Start to pair this action with the “sit” command.


  1. Find a field (or use your backyard), and click a long leash or rope between you and your dog.
  2. Follow them around, but keep a decent distance (such as 20 feet). Use a marker word, such as “yes.” Begin to slowly walk backwards, and say your marker word. Once your puppy notices you, begin encouraging them. Once they reach you, treat them immediately and give them ample praise.
  3. Begin to pair this action with the “come” command.


  1. Put your puppy’s leash on and have them sit beside you.
  2. Wave your hand (make sure it’s flat) in front of them and command “stay.”
  3. Take a couple steps in front of your dog, wait a couple seconds, and step back beside them. Immediately reward and praise if they held their stay.
  4. If they don’t stay, calmly say “oops” and return them to the initial position.

Loose-leash walking

  1. Once your puppy’s leash is on, cheerfully say “let’s go!”
  2. Encourage forward motion by patting one of your legs. When your dog walks closely to your side, reward them with praise and a treat.
  3. Every five or so steps, stop to praise them for being by your side, which is the proper place on a walk.
  4. Once your puppy wanders ahead or falls behind, just stop and let them explore.
  5. As soon as your puppy begins to come back to you, say your praise marker (like “yes”) and treat them as soon as they return to your side.
  6. If your puppy begins to pull, stop immediately. Wait frozen until they return to your side, no matter how long it takes.

We’d advise you to bookmark this guide so you always have it handy. And remember, we’re always here for you and your new puppy whenever you need us!


santa claus toy

Christmas and New Years – Common dangers to pets

The holidays are a time for joy and family – but they also pose some unique dangers to members of our four-legged family! Fortunately, these hazards to your pet’s health can be entirely avoided with a little bit of careful planning. In this article, you will learn about the most common dangers to your pet’s health over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, along with a few helpful tips on how to keep your pets happy and safe over the holidays!



Holly and Mistletoe are very common during the winter holidays, but they are both toxic to pets. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal issues and even cardiovascular problems, while holly can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

The Christmas tree also has associated dangers – the oils on the tree can be irritating to your pet’s mouth or stomach. We’d recommend making sure your pet can’t access or climb on the tree. This will also eliminate the danger of your pet tipping the tree over. Be sure to pick up any pine needles from the floor – ingesting these can cause punctures in your pet’s intestines. Also, many people are decorating their trees with “flocking” which is an imitation snow product. If your pet ingests this in larger quantities, it can cause serious problems.

Also keep in mind that cats are often attracted to tinsel, which can cause intestinal blockage if ingested. Intestinal blockage is a very serious medical condition that usually requires surgery. Look for signs of chewing on the Christmas tree wiring – chewing on these cords can cause injury to your pet’s mouth.

A few other plants that can be harmful to pets:

  • Poinsettias
  • Amaryllis
  • Daffodils
  • Lillies



New Year’s Eve can cause quite a bit of stress in pets because of the commotion, strangers, and fireworks. It’s important to make simple accommodations for your pet for two reasons. First, it will avoid any unnecessary emotional distress for your loving pet. Second, stress from the night can cause your pet to seek escape. Holidays with fireworks typically cause spikes in run-aways.

There are two important things to do. The first is to set up a “safe room” for your pet whenever there is going to be an abnormal amount of commotion. This room should make sure to block any possible exits, have comfortable bedding set up, and soothing music playing.

The second important thing to do is to make sure your pet’s tags and microchip information are both up to date. Microchipping in particular is important – whenever a runaway is taken into a veterinary facility or animal shelter, the pet is scanned for a microchip. Microchips are much more durable than tags, which often come off after they get lost. If your pet isn’t microchipped yet – no problem! Just give us a call now. It’s fast, painless, and inexpensive. The microchip itself is only about the size of a grain of rice!


Food and Drinks

Alcohol is common around the winter holidays, and alcohol poisoning in pets is actually more common than most people think. Alcohol is toxic to pets – please never give your pet any amount of alcohol. Symptoms of mild alcohol poisoning include involuntary urination or defecation. Severe alcohol poisoning symptoms include slowed breathing or heart rate, depression, and even heart attack. Please make sure that your pet is unable to access alcoholic beverages at any time. Alcohol poisoning is a veterinary emergency.

Make sure that your pet doesn’t have access to fatty foods, poultry bones, or raw bread dough. Fatty foods (such as buttery side dishes, gravy, skin or beef fat) can cause severe gastrointestinal distress in your pet, or even pancreatitis, which can be fatal. Poultry bones are brittle and splinter easily, which can cause severe damage to your pet’s intestines. And raw bread dough contains yeast – when ingested, it will convert sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol in your pet’s stomach. The gas can cause bloating, which is a serious and life threatening condition, requiring immediate veterinary care.


We’ve covered the main dangers to your pet during the holidays, so now you can take a few simple precautions and enjoy the holiday with your two and four legged family members! From all of us here at Harbor Pines, we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year’s!

Two cute puppies looking through wooden fence

The Dangers of Table Scraps

The Dangers of Table Scraps

And 6 other Thanksgiving items that can harm your pet.

Thanksgiving is an incredible holiday to share with your friends and family – but it also presents some unique threats to your dog or cat’s health. In this article, we’re going to give you a handy list of foods to avoid feeding your pet. You’ll also learn how these foods affect your pet’s overall health – such as whether the food causes an upset stomach, or something potentially more serious.


Fatty Foods

Foods that are rich and fatty can cause severe gastrointestinal issues in pets such as vomiting, diarrhea, and Pancreatitis. Sadly, we see a marked spike in Pancreatitis cases around Thanksgiving, which is a severe inflammation of the Pancreas. Mild cases cause vomiting and decreased appetite, while severe cases can be fatal.

This is why it’s so important to make sure your pet doesn’t have access to traditional rich or fatty Thanksgiving foods such as poultry skin, buttery side dishes, gravy, or beef fat. On its own, turkey skin is already difficult for pets to digest. But on Thanksgiving, it usually has added oils, butter and spices rubbed in, which makes it even more difficult for your pet’s stomach. If you do decide to feed your pet Turkey, make sure it doesn’t have skin on it, and cut it up into bite-sized pieces. Also, it’s better to feed your pet white meat rather than dark meat – white meat is easier for your pet to digest.



Please do not give your pet bones from Thanksgiving. Bird bones are hollow and break easily. Cooked bird bones are often brittle and can splinter easily, and can get lodged inside your pet’s digestive system, causing severe damage to your pet’s intestines. This can cause infection, intestinal blockage, and even death if not treated appropriately.


Raw Foods

Some pet owners aren’t aware how dangerous raw foods are for pets. Uncooked (or undercooked) poultry can contain the bacteria salmonella. Raw eggs (commonly used in batters) can also contain salmonella. Salmonella poisoning is a serious and potentially fatal condition in dogs or cats, and usually presents with vomiting or bloody diarrhea.


Holiday Plants & Decorations

Some flowers and festive plants are actually very dangerous for dogs or cats to ingest. We’ll give you a list of some of the more common ones below, but the safest route is to simply keep your pets away from all plants and table decorations.

  • Amaryllis
  • Baby’s Breath
  • Sweet William
  • Ferns (some, but not all)
  • Hydrangeas
  • Poinsettias
  • Holly Berries
  • Mistletoe
  • For a full list of plants poisonous to dogs, see the ASPCA’s list here.
  • For a full list of plants poisonous to cats, see the ASPCA’s list here.


Foil and Plastic Wrap

We’d advise you to dispose of these as soon as you’re done using them. There are two risks that aluminum foil and plastic wrap carry. First, your pet will have a chance to lick the fatty substances that the foil or wrap was holding, which can cause the issues we talked about in the Fatty Foods section. Second, and possibly more alarmingly, if your pet manages to swallow the foil or wrap, it can cause intestinal obstruction. This is a very serious and potentially fatal condition, and often requires surgery.


Delicious desserts are everywhere on Thanksgiving (thank goodness!). But pets do not handle sweets well. Chocolate can be very harmful for pets (especially dark or baking chocolate), and the common artificial sweetener xylitol (commonly used in gum or sugar-free baked goods) can be deadly if consumed even in small amounts. Please make sure to keep all sweets out of reach of your pets.

Bread dough

If your dog or cat ingests raw bread dough, the yeast inside it continues to convert the sugars in the dough into carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. This is dangerous for a couple reasons. First, alcohol is toxic to pets. And second, and more seriously, the carbon dioxide gas can cause bloating. Bloating can actually be extremely dangerous in pets – it’s a potentially fatal condition that requires immediate veterinary care.

If your pet does ingest any of these items, please call us right away. We are always here for you. From our family here at Harbor Pines, we wish you and your family an incredible Thanksgiving holiday!

Black Cat sitting on the grass

5 Pet Safety Tips for Halloween

5 Pet Safety Tips for Halloween

Halloween is great fun, but unfortunately is a very dangerous time for pets. In this article, you’ll learn about the most common threats to your pet’s health and well-being. You’ll also learn tips on how to avoid those threats so that you can plan a fun, safe, and worry-free holiday for both your two and four-legged family members!


Danger 1 – Candy

Sadly, many dogs and cats are harmed every Halloween because of candy-related incidents. Candy is probably the largest threat to your pet’s well-being on Halloween, as it is commonly left in places where your pet can access it. Make sure that ALL candy is stored in a place that your dog or cat is unable to access, such as a closed cabinet.

Chocolate (especially dark or baking chocolate) is very dangerous to dogs and cats, and can even be lethal. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, or seizures. Halloween candy also often contains the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is very dangerous for dogs – even small amounts can cause sudden drops in blood sugar, causing seizures. And while xylitol is yet to be linked to danger in felines, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Danger 2 – Animal Cruelty

Tragically, there is a spike in animal cruelty cases around Halloween. Vicious Halloween “pranksters” have been known to tease, injure, steal, or even kill pets on Halloween night. Black cats are at especially high risk for these heinous crimes. In fact, many animal shelters refuse to adopt out black cats during October because of this problem.

Please, keep your pets out of the front yard during Halloween. This is incredibly important. Sometimes the danger extends a few days before and after Halloween too. And make sure your dog or cat is microchipped. If they aren’t, call us – it’s quick, painless and affordable.


Danger 3 – The Door

During Halloween night, your pet has a much higher chance of running away than normal occasions. This is because doors are frequently opening, there are numerous strangers around, there is often a lot of noise and commotion, and pets are often highly stressed. All of these factors make it imperative that you take extra precautions to ensure that your pet can’t escape.

Make sure your pet can’t get to the door that’s being opened for trick-or-treaters. You’ll either want to make sure that they’re gated into an area that doesn’t have access to the door, or to even give them a secure room that they’ll feel comfortable in, with no way to escape. Besides, dogs are especially territorial, and even normally kind dogs can growl at trick-or-treaters if they feel strangers are invading their home.


Danger 4 – Costumes

There’s nothing we love more than an adorable pet costume! However, for some pets, it causes a large amount of stress. The ASPCA recommends only putting your pet in a costume if they show no signs of anxiety or discomfort when wearing it. And if you do use a costume for your pet, you’ll need to make absolutely sure that it doesn’t inhibit their breathing, movement or the ability to open or close their mouth. Also, make sure nothing is dangling from the costume – this can often be a choking hazard, as many pets will gnaw at it. And oversized costumes can get caught on various items, which can lead to potentially dangerous situations.


Danger 5 – Decorations and Wires

Jack-O-Lanterns are fun and festive, but they are often knocked over by curious or unsuspecting pets. Alarmingly, this is a fairly easy way to start a fire. Curious kittens are at especially high risk of getting burned by investigating the glowing object. Other wires and decorations can present dangers or even strangling hazards, so make sure that any such object is carefully out of reach of your dog or cat.

From all of us at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center, we wish you and your pets a very happy Halloween! Just make sure to follow these tips, and you’ll have a fun, safe and worry-free time! And as always, know that we’re here if you ever need us or have any questions!


brown cat close up face

Feline Hyperthyroidism – The Basics to Know

Feline Hyperthyroidism

The Basics to Know

Feline hyperthyroidism is a very common health condition in aging cats. Because the thyroid hormone affects nearly every organ in the body, it can have very serious repercussions for untreated felines. In this article, you’ll learn the basics of the disease, along with symptoms to look out for, how it affects your cat’s health, and how it can be treated. By learning this, you’re putting yourself in a fantastic position to be able to look out for your loving companion!


A little background

Thyroid hormones have many essential tasks – such as regulating the body’s metabolic rate, heart and digestive function, muscle control and bone maintenance. Hyperthyroidism arises from an increase in the production of thyroid hormones due to an enlargement of the thyroid gland. This is usually caused by a non-cancerous tumor. When the corresponding excess of thyroid hormones is left untreated, especially for a long period of time, it will wreak havoc on several important systems inside your cat’s body. This is very serious, and can be life threatening.



  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased fecal volume
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity


Secondary Conditions

Kidney Disease
There is strong evidence to suggest that feline hyperthyroidism leads to a significant increase in risk of kidney disease. Some studies suggest that up to 40% of cats with hyperthyroidism develop kidney disease. Troublingly, hyperthyroidism often masks the development of kidney disease, which can often allow the disease to progress to late stages without the pet owner knowing there was anything wrong.

The kidneys act as a filter for waste in your cat’s bloodstream. As kidney disease progresses, the kidneys progressively lose their ability to filter harmful toxins from the blood into urine. This causes a dangerous accumulation of should-be waste products in your cat’s bloodstream. Kidney failure is a common cause of death in aging felines.
When a cat has both hyperthyroidism and kidney disease, the treatment must be very delicate. This is because hyperthyroidism can actually improve kidney function through increasing blood flow to the kidneys. When hyperthyroidism is treated, the increase in blood flow vanishes, and the cat can suddenly appear to be very sick because the kidney disease is no longer masked. These cats need to be monitored very closely, and require extra cautious care strategies.

Heart Disease
When hyperthyroidism goes untreated for a long time, many cats begin to develop an enlargement of the left heart ventricle. The left heart ventricle is responsible for pumping blood into the circulation system through the aorta. If this is left untreated, it will eventually compromise the normal functioning of the heart. Sadly, this can ultimately progress to heart failure. Heart failure occurs when the heart’s ability to pump blood is compromised. It is always a serious and life threatening situation that requires immediate veterinary care.
Consequently, many cats who are treated for hyperthyroidism also require treatment for the secondary condition of heart disease. There is some very good news though – often times when the hyperthyroidism is treated, the cardiac conditions improve or even resolve completely!



Anti-thyroid drugs do not cure hyperthyroidism, but they can be very useful in controlling the disease. These drugs work by reducing the thyroid hormone output from the thyroid gland. The advantage of going this route is that the medication is typically readily available and relatively inexpensive. However, this is not usually very practical lifelong treatment, as your cat will require multiple doses each day, which can be difficult to stick to with the regularity it requires.

Removal of the thyroid glands is a relatively simple procedure that has a high success rate for curing hyperthyroidism. This can be an attractive course of action, as it eliminates the need for a long-term and intensive medication regiment. However, there may be added risks for older cats with secondary conditions (such as heart or kidney disease), which means this won’t be an appropriate course of action for some felines with hyperthyroidism. The procedure has an inherent risk of damaging the parathyroid glands, which have other crucial functions.

Radioactive Iodine Therapy
When possible, radioactive iodine therapy is quickly becoming the treatment of choice for cats with hyperthyroidism. Radioactive iodine is injected and absorbed into your cat’s bloodstream. This is fantastic, because the iodine is taken in by the thyroid glands but no other bodily tissues. The radiation destroys the defective thyroid tissue without damaging anything else, and most cats return to normal hormone levels within just two weeks of treatment. Radioactive iodine therapy is curative, has no serious side effects, and does not require surgery or anesthesia.
If you notice any symptoms of hyperthyroidism in your cat, or if you have any further questions about the disease and its complications, please contact us at (310) 517-1832. We’re always here for you!


Black dog portrait

Preventing Heat Stroke in your Dog

Preventing Heat Stroke in your Dog

Heat stroke is a life threatening condition that is particularly dangerous for dogs. It is always an emergency. And with this Summer looking especially hot, it’s vitally important to understand how to keep your pup safe in the heat. Fortunately, it’s simple! In this article, you’ll learn the basics of how your dog keeps cool. You’ll learn how heat-stroke affects dogs, signs and symptoms, how to treat it, along with the most commonly dangerous situations. Finally, we’ll teach you easy tips on how to help keep your companion comfortable in the heat!


How a dog keeps cool

Dogs can’t perspire in order to cool themselves like humans do. Dogs mainly rely on panting in order to cool themselves, which allows them to exchange warmer body temperatures with the cooler air outside. However, when the surrounding air is not significantly cooler than their body temperature, their cooling process can’t work. Panting also becomes much less effective when there are high levels of humidity – such as in a parked car. This often leads to a dangerous rise in body temperature, and can trigger heat-stroke.


Heat stroke – the basics

Remember, dogs have much less efficient temperature regulating mechanisms than we do. Heat stroke occurs when these mechanisms are overpowered by the environment. Certain breeds (especially small snouted breeds, like pugs), older dogs, along with pets with medical conditions, are more susceptible. Moderate heat stroke (body temperature of 104-106 degrees) can be treated with prompt veterinary care and first aid. Severe heat stroke (above 106 degrees) is life threatening, and can cause permanent damage to your pet’s vital organs.


Signs and symptoms

  • Rapid panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Sticky saliva
  • Red or pale gums
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Vomiting (sometimes with blood)
  • Diarrhea
  • Coma


What to do

If your dog is showing any signs of heat stroke, you need to call us immediately – it’s an emergency situation. If immediate veterinary care is unavailable to you for some reason, take the following steps: Immediately remove your dog from the hot area. Lower your dog’s temperature by wetting them with cool water. If it’s a smaller dog, the water should be lukewarm. Increase air movement around them with a fan. Make sure not to use cold water – if you lower your dog’s body temperature too quickly, it can trigger other life-threatening situations. Take your dog’s rectal temperature every 5 minutes. Once they are down to 103 degrees, dry them off, and cover with clean towels so they don’t continue to lose heat. Your dog may be dehydrated, or have other complications, so bring them to us (or a nearby veterinarian) ASAP.


Preventing commonly dangerous situations

  • Even if the windows are rolled down, the car is an extremely dangerous place to leave your pet. Just don’t ever do it. The car essentially acts as an oven, causing temperatures to rise quicker than most realize. Temperatures in a parked car can quickly rise to upwards of 120 degrees.
  • If your pet has breathing problems, obesity, heart disease, or old-age, you need to be sure to keep them with access to a cool, shaded spot with water at all times.
  • Limit exercise on especially hot days – jogging is especially dangerous. Don’t go on hikes with your dog in the heat. Often times pets will try to keep up, and then just collapse from heat stroke.
  • Avoid surfaces like sand/asphalt or concrete – prolonged exposure can quickly cause increases in body temperature.
  • Never muzzle your dog in the heat – you’re taking away their best way of temperature regulation.
  • Always provide access to water.
  • If your dog is outdoors during the day, always provide a shaded area with plenty of water.


Three ways to keep your dog comfortable

  1. Conduction – One way that pets keep cool is by transferring body heat to a cooler surface, especially through the belly. This is why it’s important to provide them with cool surfaces to lay on, such as tiled areas, or a hole in the shade.
  2. Convection – Your dog relies on air movement to speed the loss of heat. This is why dogs love to stick their heads out of the car when you drive. Set up cross breezes for your dog – whether through fans and open doors, or air conditioning.
  3. Evaporation – Humans can perspire in order to be cooled by evaporation, but dogs need a little help. Consider periodically wetting your dog down with a cool, damp towel, or allowing them to go for a (supervised!) swim.



7 Pet Safety Tips for July 4th!

7 Pet Safety Tips for July 4th!

More pets are lost on the 4th of July than any other day of the year. Beyond that, it is usually a highly stressful time for our pets, and leaves them severely anxious and afraid because of the noise, commotion, and amount of activity. There are also other common dangers that you should be aware of. We want to help you make this holiday as safe, fun, and worry-free for both you and your pets. In this article, you’ll learn easy tips that you can follow in order to make sure that your pet is happy and safe this holiday!


1 – Sedatives

Pets that get very anxious from the fireworks and commotion can benefit immensely from a prescribed sedative or calming agent – such as Zylkene. Before we can prescribe your pet a sedative though, your pet is required by law to be up to date on their annual exam. If it’s been over a year, just give us a call and we’ll get you in before the 4th! Also, it’s important that you never give your pet anti-anxiety medication or sleep aids that are meant for humans, as this could be incredibly dangerous for your pet.


2 – Microchipping

Your first priority should be making sure that all of your pets are microchipped. If a pet does escape and they are brought to a veterinary facility or animal shelter, the first thing done is microchip scanning. If the pet has a microchip implanted, the owner’s contact information is immediately available to the facility. This is crucial, as a large amount of collars get damaged or lost when a pet escapes, whereas a microchip is a permanent form of identification. It is a quick, inexpensive, and relatively painless procedure. If your pet isn’t microchipped yet, please call us and set up an appointment.


3 – Never use fireworks around pets

Often times, fireworks are curious and interesting to pets when they are lit, before they begin making a lot of noise. If given the opportunity, pets will often investigate, which can cause burns, trauma, and even serious injury if the pet gets too close. Don’t let pets around used fireworks either, as many fireworks use toxic substances and heavy metals in their chemistry.


4 – Setting up a safe environment

Keep your pet at home, and create an escape-proof and relaxing room for them, preferably in a quiet part of the house. If you plan on having guests over, make sure that your pet isn’t able to run out when doors and gates are being opened. In their dedicated room, turn on a familiar television station, or play continuous and soothing classical music to help mask the noise of nearby fireworks. This is very important, because the loud noises will cause your pet to seek safety, and often causes them to desperately try to escape.


5 – Alcohol is toxic to pets

Keep your dog or cat away from alcohol at all times. This includes alcohol-infused dishes, such as rum-soaked cakes or other deserts. The kidneys of pets are not equipped to process alcohol like people can, which means even a small amount can result in a dangerous situation for your pet. Alcohol poisoning in pets can happen quickly, and can result in symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to coma, kidney or heart failure.


6 – Keep away from table food

Barbecues are very common on July 4th. And while most people enjoy barbecued food immensely, many common foods can be unhealthy or even dangerous for pets. Some common foods to keep away from your pets are:

  • Raw/Undercooked meat
  • Avocado
  • Citrus
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Cherries
  • Apple seeds
  • Caffeine
  • Coconut
  • Nuts
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Yeast dough


7 – Substances that are dangerous

There are many common substances and liquids used on the 4th of July that are dangerous to pets. Make sure to keep your pet away from any of the following:

  • Insect Repellant (that isn’t made specifically for pet use)
  • Glow Jewelry
  • Lighter fluid
  • Matches
  • Repellants that contain Citronella (such as oils, candles, and insect coils)

If you have any other questions about how to best enjoy the 4th of July while keeping your pet safe, give us a call or ask us during your next appointment! We’ll talk to you soon!


Does your pet have spring allergies? – How to know and what to do!

Does your pet have spring allergies? – How to know and what to do!

Springtime brings the wonderful bloom of flowers – but with this bloom comes the release of large amounts of pollen in the air. Many humans are acutely aware of this, as it means the advent of allergy season. But what many people don’t know is that pets can have seasonal allergies too, though they usually have different symptoms than the ones humans experience. In this article, you will learn the basics of how allergies affect a dog or cat, how to tell if your pet has seasonal allergies, and a few easy steps that you can take for your pet to ease the intense discomfort of Spring allergies!

The Basics of Spring Allergies

As incredible as the immune system is, it sometimes makes mistakes. Allergies are a result of a hyper-sensitive immune system. When an allergen (like pollen) is inhaled or absorbed through the skin, it stimulates histamine production. This causes inflammation, as the immune system mistakenly believes it is under attack. The resulting effort of the immune system to rid the body of the foreign invader is what causes those deeply uncomfortable symptoms in humans and pets. Humans typically experience respiratory symptoms (like sneezing and congestion), while pets are a bit more prone to skin symptoms (like excessive itching and hot spots).

On rarer occasions, weight gain can be caused by illnesses, such as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurs when insufficient thyroid hormones are produced. Thyroid hormones help to regulate the metabolism. This is usually a readily treatable disease, but many pets suffer for a long time without treatment because their owners don’t realize there is an underlying medical condition to their excessive weight.


Symptoms of Spring Allergies

As we mentioned, Spring allergies typically cause more skin-related symptoms in pets than respiratory symptoms (though it’s not too uncommon for cats to have respiratory symptoms). This is because dogs and cats have many more histamine receptors in the skin than they do in the nose. When histamine is released, the pet experiences an itchy sensation, which typically makes them want to scratch the affected area. The scratching actually generates more histamine production, causing a vicious circle. This causes all sorts of secondary symptoms (even infection), and with it, intense discomfort. Unfortunately, allergic reactions tend to worsen as your pet ages.
Be on the lookout for any of these common symptoms of Spring allergies in your pet:

  • Chewing at the feet
  • Intense scratching
  • Rubbing of the face
  • Constant licking of the side or groin areas
  • Inflamed ears with a foul odor
  • Hot Spots (raw and bleeding skin) – most commonly in dogs
  • Wheezing and sneezing – most commonly in cats

What to Do

First off, if you notice your pet is suffering from any of the symptoms above, we highly recommend giving us a call and scheduling an appointment so that we can help alleviate your pet’s suffering and guide you on ways you can help between appointments.

There are three different ways that you can help ease the suffering from your pet’s allergic reaction: removing the allergen (as much as possible), giving your pet medication and supplements to curb the symptoms, and administering allergy shots for your pet. Shots are typically reserved for pets with more severe reactions. We’ll go over each of those three now!

Removing the allergens

There are a few easy things that you can do right now to remove the sources of pollen that may be irritating your pet. We’ll list them below:

  • Wipe your pet’s feet with a damp cloth when they come inside so that you remove the pollen they would otherwise track in.
  • Wash or change your pet’s bedding at least once a week so that pollen doesn’t accumulate where they sleep.
  • Bath your dog or cat once or twice a week to remove any allergens in their coat – we can even recommend a medicated shampoo to use on your next visit (different pets may require different medicated shampoos).
  • Keep windows and doors shut when possible so that pollen doesn’t enter your home.

Medication and Supplements

Fortunately, there are helpful treatments and supplements that you can use to ease the discomfort your pet is feeling. For any medications (such as antihistamines), it is very important that you consult with us first so that we can tell you whether or not your dog or cat can take it, and instruct you on dosage. We will list different treatments that may be helpful below, but it is a very good idea to give us a call before starting these:

  • Topical Therapies – such as anti-itch solutions and shampoos. These offer immediate but short term relief. If you are bathing your pet, talk to us about using hypoallergenic or oatmeal shampoos.
  • Fatty Acids – New research has demonstrated that Omega-3 fatty acids can prove especially helpful at working with your pet’s immune system to decrease histamine production. Not every pet benefits from Omega-3’s, but some show quite an improvement. Call us for a recommendation on dosage and brand.
  • Antihistamines – You have to be careful with these, because if done without proper veterinary guidance, they can have nasty (and even dangerous) side effects. However, when administered under proper veterinary guidance, antihistamines can prove very effective at curbing the symptoms of allergies. They are especially effective when used in conjunction with topical therapies, fatty acids, and the allergy removal strategies we shared above.

Allergy Shots

For some pets, it may be appropriate to administer long-term allergy shots. This is usually reserved for pets with severe allergic reactions. We would first perform an allergy test in order to determine what allergen is bothering your pet, and then set up a schedule of shots. It usually takes time for these to work, but they can prove to offer your pet long lasting relief!

Allergies can be a miserable experience for humans and pets alike. In this article, we have covered seasonal allergies from pollen, but pets can also be allergic to food or even flea bites! Please know that as your partner for your pet’s health, we are always here to help!

Healthy dog on the grass

Help your pet shed the pounds!– Get your pet bikini ready!

Help your pet shed the pounds!– Get your pet bikini ready!

The percentage of overweight or obese dogs and cats has grown extraordinarily high – some surveys put it over 50%. This is very sad, because the extra pounds decrease a dog or cat’s life expectancy, puts your pet at risk for certain health conditions, and harms their quality of life. In this article, you will learn the different possible causes behind your pet’s weight gain, how it affects your pet’s life, and easy tips that you can implement right now to help your pet shed those pounds so that they are happy and healthy this Spring!


Why is my pet overweight?

Many pet owners don’t realize that the recommended portions on the pet food bags aren’t necessarily accurate for their pets. The unique nutritional requirement of your dog or cat depends on several variables, such as health, medical history, age, genetics, breed, lifestyle, and other factors. Your pet needs a veterinarian to assess their nutritional requirements and set their daily food portioning.

Another common cause of weight gain is feeding dogs or cats pet food that is excessively high in carbohydrates. Unfortunately, many commercial dry pet foods are high in carbohydrates – likely because carbohydrates are a less expensive energy source than proteins. This is a problem because dogs and cats evolved as carnivores, and their digestive system wasn’t meant to handle such large amounts of grains. It is perfectly alright for your dog or cat to have some amount of carbohydrates in their diet, but if it becomes their main source of energy it is likely to cause weight gain.


On rarer occasions, weight gain can be caused by illnesses, such as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurs when insufficient thyroid hormones are produced. Thyroid hormones help to regulate the metabolism. This is usually a readily treatable disease, but many pets suffer for a long time without treatment because their owners don’t realize there is an underlying medical condition to their excessive weight.


How does it affect my pet?

One of the most heartbreaking ways is the diminished quality of life that overweight pets experience. Overweight pets commonly suffer from labored breathing, reduced flexibility (which makes self-grooming difficult), poor body-temperature regulation, and persistent illnesses. And tragically, overweight pets have a significantly shorter life expectancy than pets at a healthy weight.


Being overweight also puts your dog or cat at increased risk for several health conditions. Overweight cats are 2-4 times more likely to develop diabetes than cats at a healthy weight. Overweight dogs are at increased risk for diabetes as well. Overweight pets are at especially high risk for developing arthritis, as the increased strain on their joints quickly wears away cartilage. Obesity can also cause liver problems, increased risk of cancer, heart disease, skin problems, and weakened immune function.

How to help

The first thing to do is to bring your pet in for a physical examination! We may want to screen for endocrine disorders (such as Hypothyroidism or Cushing’s syndrome) in order to see if there is an underlying (and treatable!) medical condition to your pet’s excessive weight. On your visit, we will be able to assess your pet’s current nutrition intake and educate you on what food to use, along with the unique portion and frequency that your dog or cat requires. We will also give you lifestyle tips for your pet’s specific situation, and will help you create a plan to get your pet’s weight under control!



A great rule of thumb is to look at the ingredients on your pet food’s nutritional information – if you can’t understand or pronounce any of the first three on the list, you probably shouldn’t buy it! Your pet’s food should be as close to their natural dietary needs as possible – this means real meat with a full array of vitamins and minerals, as well as a low or moderate amount of carbohydrates. It is important not to put your pet onto a “crash” diet where you immediately and severely reduce their calories – that can cause serious health risks. Try to limit the amount of treats you give your pet – many owners equate treats with love, but this can cause harmful eating habits. During your next visit, we will educate you on the specific food brands that are best suited for your pet’s dietary needs.

Exercise & Lifestyle

Many pets become overweight because of a sedentary lifestyle and lack of stimulation. If your pets sit at home all day without much to do, they probably spend most of the day sleeping and lounging around. Dogs should go on regular walks, though it is very important to ease into an exercise routine. We can help you formulate an effective exercise routine for your dog’s unique needs on your next visit. Cats should have plenty of toys that stimulate their hunting instincts – such as the poles with a feather at the end of it. And food puzzles can be a wonderful way to stimulate their minds, slow their eating (which is great for digestion), and help them shed the pounds.

Remember… being overweight might seem cute, but it is a serious negative for your pet’s health, well-being and longevity. But you are never alone – we are always here to make sure you have a dedicated partner for all of your pet’s needs!


brown cat looking at camera

Caring for Senior Cats – What to Know

Caring for senior cats – What to know

It is a wonderful fact that cats are now living longer than ever. But as cats age, they become susceptible to particular health issues, and will require changes in the way you care for them. It is important to learn about these issues, as it is typically much easier and affordable to treat problems early on. In this article, you will learn when a cat is considered a “senior,” common health issues for aging cats, and proactive steps you can take right now to enhance and extend the life of your faithful companion!


Is my cat a senior?

The short answer is your cat is probably a senior at 10 years old. The long answer is that it’s complicated; different cats age at different rates. Factors like genetics, diet, weight, exercise and environment can all contribute to when your cat starts to possess senior traits.


Common health issues


Cats are notoriously good at hiding health problems, which can make it difficult for pet owners to notice when something’s wrong. One of the best things you can do for your cat is to educate yourself about common health issues and watch for any deviations from your cat’s normal behavior. This, in tandem with regular wellness screenings with us, is incredibly powerful for your cat’s health and well-being. We can’t stress enough how important it is to catch these problems early!

Below, you’ll learn about some of the most common health conditions in senior cats, along with the changes in behavior and symptoms to look out for.

Chronic Renal (Kidney) Disease


Common symptoms: Cats usually show no symptoms until stage 3 or 4 of the disease, when the kidneys are operating at less than 25% of their usual capacity. The earliest signs you will notice will be excessive thirst and urination. Once the disease is advanced, common symptoms are vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, dehydration, diarrhea and mouth sores.

Chronic Renal Disease is common in aging cats, and is always very serious. The kidneys’ most important job is to filter waste from the blood. When they begin to lose their ability to do this, waste products can begin to build to dangerous levels in your cat’s bloodstream, causing a health emergency. Chronic kidney disease usually happens over the course of months or years, and can ultimately damage the kidneys so severely that they can’t function.

Treatment: The appropriate treatment of kidney disease depends on the stage the disease has been caught at. If we catch it early (like stage 1 or 2), it is much easier to slow its progression by treating the underlying cause of the condition, meaning your cat will have an excellent prognosis. Beyond the early stages, we will make specialized changes to your cat’s diet, and monitor for infections. With proper veterinary treatment, even cats with very limited amounts of kidney function can still survive for a long time.

The 4 stages of chronic renal disease:

Stage 1 occurs when waste filtering slows and waste begins to appear in the blood. There are no easily visible signs, and the only way to diagnose is usually through a laboratory test.

Stage 2 occurs when there is a further slowing of waste filtration and an imbalance of water in urine. Some cats will exhibit increased urination.

Stage 3 occurs when kidney filtration becomes seriously impaired – often at less than 60% of normal capacity. You will commonly see excessive thirst and urination in cats.

Stage 4 occurs when kidneys work at less than 25% of normal capacity and the toxic buildup begins to affect organs in the body. Cats typically appear very sick at this stage.



Common symptoms: Weight loss, excessive appetite, shortness of breath, increased excitability, increased thirst and urination, increased fecal volume, as well as vomiting or diarrhea.

Hyperthyroidism is a very common condition in senior cats and is characterized by the increase in the production of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones affect nearly every organ in the body, which causes dangerous secondary problems.

Heart Problems – Thyroid hormones stimulate a faster heart rate and stronger heart contraction. This can cause some cats with untreated hyperthyroidism to experience a thickening of the left heart ventricle, which can impede the heart’s functioning and even cause congestive heart failure. Fortunately, once hyperthyroidism is treated, cardiac problems often improve.

Hypertension – Excess thyroid hormones often cause high blood pressure, which can lead to a range of secondary problems such as damage to the brain, eyes, kidneys and heart. Once the hyperthyroidism is successfully treated, these secondary conditions will usually improve, though they can often require their own unique treatment.

Treatment: There are three avenues for treatment for hyperthyroidism: radioactive iodine treatment, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, or a long-term regiment of antithyroid drugs. The treatment of your cat will depend on the unique particulars of your cat’s condition.

Diabetes Mellitus


Common symptoms: Increased thirst and urination, increased appetite and weight loss. May also develop chronic or recurrent infections. Diabetes is especially common in overweight cats.
Diabetes is caused by a deficiency of insulin or resistance to insulin, which results in improperly balanced blood sugar levels. Diabetes typically develops gradually, meaning the symptoms are usually hard to spot at first. Treating a diabetic cat is usually more about controlling (rather than curing) the disease. It is a very serious illness – there are a range of problems it can cause, and if improperly treated it can be fatal.

Treatment: The primary treatment for diabetes in cats is usually insulin therapy. If, for some reason, insulin therapy cannot be used, there are oral medications that can be used to treat diabetes. It is also usually highly recommended to switch to a special diet that is low-carbohydrate in nature.


Being Proactive


Regular Wellness Exams

Like we said, we really can’t stress enough how important it is to catch problems early on, especially for senior cats. So the most important thing to do is to make sure your cat has biannual wellness exams where we can screen for potential problems. If your senior cat hasn’t been in to see us in the last six months, please call us or request an appointment below!

Request Appointment


Keeping your cat at a healthy weight will pay incredible dividends for your cat’s health – and your wallet! Feed your cat exactly the amount required to maintain their ideal body weight. During your next visit with our staff, consult with us on the diet that your cat would best benefit from. Different cats have different nutrient requirements, and it’s important to treat each cat with individual attention.


Make sure your senior cat doesn’t have to go far for access to food and water. Also make sure your cat has access to plenty of toys and can easily stay stimulated. Older arthritic cats especially appreciate soft bedding that is easy to get to.

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