Dazed and Confused: What You Need to Know About Cognitive Dysfunction in Your Pet

As your four-legged friend ages, you may notice they are losing their sharpness. Perhaps they’re going to the pantry door to be let outside, or they’ve forgotten where you’ve placed the food dish. These signs can be associated with cognitive dysfunction, a common condition in senior and geriatric pets. 

What is cognitive dysfunction in pets?

Cognitive decline is not considered a normal aging change for pets, although its occurrence does increase with advanced age. As your pet ages, their brain undergoes changes that can be seen as differences in awareness, deficits in learning and memory, and decreased responsiveness to stimuli. Although the initial signs are mild, they increase over time as cognitive function continues to decline.

What are cognitive dysfunction signs in pets?

Cognitive dysfunction is often chalked up to normal aging changes in pets, but it’s a true disease that can be diagnosed and treated. When determining if your pet has cognitive dysfunction, look for the following signs that fall under the acronym DISHAA:

  • Disorientation — Disorientation and confusion are commonly seen in pets with cognitive dysfunction, similar to that seen with people with Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than forgetting where they left their keys, your pet may get lost in familiar areas, not recognize familiar people, or go to the wrong side of the door when going outside.
  • Interactions — The interactions you see between your pets may change, as may the interactions between you and your senior pet. Some pets may become more clingy and never leave your side, while others may lose interest in interacting. Your senior pet may also become irritable when approached or petted.
  • Sleep-wake cycle changes — Owners of pets with cognitive dysfunction often complain that their pet is up pacing all night long after sleeping all day. Sleep-wake cycles can flip flop, causing your pet to display irregular sleep patterns.
  • House soiling — Inappropriate elimination is another key indicator that your pet may be experiencing decreased cognitive function. Dogs may forget to signal they need to go outside, while cats may eliminate in random spots throughout the house.
  • Activity levels — Pets can become more restless and be unable to settle. They may also wander aimlessly, or develop repetitive behaviors, such as licking.
  • Anxiety — Normally relaxed pets may suddenly develop anxiety, and anxious pets may pace, pant, whine, and become more clingy than usual.

Since there is no one particular test that pinpoints cognitive dysfunction in pets, a diagnosis is made by excluding other potential causes that cause the same signs.

How can I help my pet’s cognitive dysfunction at home?

Maintaining a healthy and stimulating environment is the best way to help slow cognitive decline in your furry pal. Accomplish this management method through a daily routine of interactive play, exercise, and training. Try the following activities to help support your pet’s cognitive function:

  • Obedience training — Brush up on your pet’s known skills, like sit, down, and stay, while incorporating new ones to encourage them to think. 
  • Sport training — Put those obedience skills to work by playing new sports, such as treibball, agility, or flyball.
  • Food puzzles — Ditch your pet’s food dish and make them work for their meals by putting their canned or dry food in a food puzzle. Try putting your pet’s favorites, like peanut butter, spray cheese, yogurt, fresh veggies, and dry kibble, in a rubber Kong that you freeze overnight. Then, let your furry pal work out how to get to their meal.
  • Scent work — Cats and dogs have exceptionally sensitive noses, and their sense of smell is phenomenal. Let your pet use their sense of smell to sniff out strong-smelling treats you’ve hidden throughout your home.
  • Interactive play — While a stuffed toy or a ball can be fun for your pet, you can crank up their enjoyment from their toys by playing with them. Interactive toys and games, like feather wands and hide and seek, are best for enticing your pet to play, and for helping strengthen cognitive function. 

How can my veterinarian help my pet’s cognitive dysfunction?

Although cognitive dysfunction has no magic cure, medications, supplements, and diets are available to help boost your pet’s brain power. Medications can be used to combat your senior pet’s anxiety, or to act as a neuroprotective agent, while supplements can perform the same actions, but often to a lesser extent. Diets, whether prescription or over-the-counter, can protect against, and reverse damage caused by free radicals. These diets are also loaded with essential fatty acids, to help improve learning ability and memory. A combination of therapy options often provides the best support for your four-legged friend’s cognitive function.

Does your pet seem confused and disoriented? Are they urinating in your home, after years of no accidents? If so, your pet may be suffering from cognitive dysfunction. Contact our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team to schedule an appointment.

Feline Viral Infections: The Dangerous Triple Threat

Feline companions are special, and cat owners enjoy their purring pal’s playful, independent, and curious nature. Some pet owners mistakenly think that a cat is easier to care for than their canine counterpart. However, providing your feline companion with clean litter boxes, proper nutrition, plenty of toy mice, and regular veterinary care is critical, to ensure they thrive into their grey whisker years. 

Additionally, your cat may spend hours gazing out the window, wishing they could explore the great outdoors, and finally catch the pesky backyard squirrel. However, keeping your cat indoors is a critical component of responsible cat ownership, because outdoor cats have an increased risk of contracting dangerous infectious diseases. Our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team wants to ensure your feline friends remain healthy through all life stages, and we describe three common cat viral infections, the signs, treatment, and prevention. 

#1: Feline infectious peritonitis in cats

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is one of the most common infectious causes of death in young cats, and occurs from a mutation in certain enteric feline coronavirus (FeCV) strains. More than 50 percent of cats are FeCV carriers, and approximately 10 percent of those cats have the FIP-causing mutation, which attacks their white blood cells. Young cats, immunocompromised cats, cats who are housed in crowded catteries, and cats who are stressed, are most at risk for developing an FIP infection. Specifically, FeCV is spread by contact with an infected cat’s feces, and is not contagious to humans or other species. Additionally, cats who develop FIP may have a genetic disease predilection, and they are not considered contagious to other cats. 

  • FIP signs Signs are variable, and may include fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, yellowing of the skin, difficulty breathing, sneezing, and a pot-bellied appearance.
  • FIP treatment — No cure or treatment is available for an FIP infection, and most cats will succumb to the disease. However, supportive veterinary care can increase their quality of life.  
  • FIP prevention Although no FIP vaccination exists, ensuring your cat receives all recommended core vaccinations to prevent common cat diseases, which can make them more susceptible to an FIP infection, can help prevent disease. Bring your cat for yearly, or more frequent, veterinary visits, to check for underlying health problems, and ensure they are receiving proper nutritional support and parasite prevention. 

#2: Feline leukemia virus in cats

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a widespread, highly contagious retrovirus that causes more cat deaths than any other organism, and is a leading cause of lymphoma cancer. More than 85 percent of cats will succumb to the disease after diagnosis, which is made through a blood test. In some cases, cats who are exposed to FeLV can resist the virus and clear the infection. False-positive tests may occur, so our Harbor Pines veterinarian may recommend several FeLV tests for your new kitten, to ensure they are negative for the disease. FeLV is most commonly spread through mutual grooming or fighting, although the virus can also be transmitted through an infected cat’s bodily fluids, including urine and feces.

  • FeLV signs — Persistently FeLV-positive cats may not show disease signs for several years. Signs are variable, and may include pale gums, enlarged lymph nodes, inflammation of the gums and mouth, lethargy, gastrointestinal problems, neurologic disorders, and respiratory problems.
  • FeLV treatment — No treatment or cure is available for an FeLV-infected cat. However supportive care, including fluid therapy or immunotherapy medications, may decrease disease signs, and improve overall quality of life. 
  • FeLV prevention FeLV is preventable in cats with a vaccination series, if they have not been previously exposed. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that most kittens receive two vaccinations, plus a booster at 12 months of age. Additionally, avoid bringing an unvaccinated cat, a cat who has not been FeLV-tested, or an FeLV-negative cat, into a home with an FeLV-positive cat, to prevent disease spread.  

#3: Feline immunodeficiency virus in cats

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), which is also referred to as feline AIDS, is a highly contagious cat retrovirus, similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Like HIV, FIV is a species-specific virus that attacks the immune system, increasing the cat’s chances of contracting secondary infections that can lead to severe illness. FIV-positive cats may live long disease-free lives with regular preventive care, but they can still spread the virus. Although any cat can become infected, FIV is most commonly diagnosed in outdoor, unneutered, male cats who have increased exposure to bite wounds. 

  • FIV signs — Illness severity is variable, and signs may not occur for years after an FIV diagnosis. Signs may include lethargy, conjunctivitis, inflammation of the mouth and gums, weight loss, and fever. 
  • FIV treatment — An FIV infection has no treatment or cure. Cats who show signs should receive regular veterinary supportive care, such as intravenous fluids, to prevent dehydration.
  • FIV prevention — Keeping your cat indoors, and avoiding contact with cats who have not been FIV tested, will vastly reduce your cat’s chances of contracting an FIV infection. Scheduling yearly, or more frequent, preventive care examinations will help ensure your cat remains healthy, and decrease their chances of secondary infections or illness. 

Call our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center office if you have any questions about these feline viral infections, or to schedule your cat for their preventive care examination, to help ensure they are protected and disease-free.

Barbecue Safety for Shy and Sociable Pets

You have one pet who never meets a stranger and one who hides under the couch when you have company. You want to ensure they are both prepared for your upcoming barbecue. Our team at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center wants to help, so we are checking in on two pets whose owner is hosting an outdoor gathering, to get their thoughts on the subject.

Davey the dachshund:

“Our humans have been busy all day. They barely had time to walk me, and I noticed they left the gate open when they brought in the groceries. Maybe I will go visit my buddy down the street while they are distracted.”

Sheila the Siamese:

“I really do not like all the commotion. If Davey is leaving, I may go too, and find a quieter place to hide out until our humans calm down.”

Harbor Pines Veterinary Center (HPVC): When planning a gathering, your attention tends to be focused on preparations as opposed to your pets. Whether they take the opportunity to escape through an open door or gate, or they feel frightened because they do not like the upheaval, they can easily become lost if they run away. Ensure your pets are wearing a collar and accurate identification. The veterinary professionals at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center will be happy to come to your home to implant a microchip, which is the best, permanent method to find your pet should they go missing.

Davey:

“So many people have come to see me! I am so excited! I love meeting new people, smelling all the smells, and getting all the pets!”

Sheila:

“Who are these people, and why are they in my house? This is horrible, and I am feeling stressed and upset. I may go pee in my owner’s shoes to let them know how I feel.”

HPVC: Some pets experience stress and anxiety when around people they do not know. If your pet is shy and tends to hide when you have company, they will likely be more comfortable sequestered in a room away from the party before the festivities begin. Leave the television playing to mask any loud noises that may scare them. You can also leave a food puzzle toy to help distract them from the commotion.

Davey:

“Yummy looking food is everywhere. I think I can convince a few partygoers to slip me a tasty morsel when my owner is not looking.”

Sheila:

“I do not want to go near the guests, but I think I will see what I can find in the garbage. People usually throw away leftover treats at parties like this.”

HPVC: You may be tempted to give your pet food from your plate, but this practice can result in gastrointestinal upset for your four-legged companion. Cooked bones are especially problematic for pets because they can fracture easily, and injure your pet’s esophagus or intestine. Inform your guests that they are not to give your pet any food. If your pet goes scavenging, they may ingest a foreign body, such as plastic wrap or corn on the cob, that would cause an intestinal blockage. Ensure all food and garbage is in sealed containers, inaccessible to your pet. Certain common foods, such as chocolate, avocados, alcohol, and onions, are toxic for your pet. If your pet ingests toxic food, call us, or Animal Poison Control immediately. 

Davey:

“I have been so excited about the party that I did not realize how hot I am. I need to take a break in the shade for a little while.”

Sheila:

“I am hot, too, and our humans have been so distracted by the party that they forgot to refill our water bowls. This is not acceptable, and I am going to sharpen my claws on their new couch to express my disdain.”

HPVC: Pets are highly susceptible to heatstroke, since they cannot sweat like humans, and dehydrated pets are more at risk. Signs include lethargy, excessive panting and drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and collapse. If your pet shows heatstroke signs, take them to a cool area, and wet their coat with cool water. They will need to be seen by a veterinary professional as soon as possible.

Davey:

“I was having fun, but now bright lights and loud noises are everywhere. I do not know what is happening, and I am so scared!”

Sheila:

“I am terrified, and I will probably have to live the remainder of my life under the bed. My heart is beating a mile a minute, and I may never recover from this horrifying experience.”

HPVC: Many pets find fireworks frightening, and some pets develop noise phobias in response to the displays. The extreme stress and anxiety can cause physiologic effects, such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and circulating cortisol levels. These conditions are not good for your pet’s emotional or physical health. When possible, avoid fireworks encounters for your pet. If this is not possible, and your pet displays extreme stress during the displays, consider noise aversion therapy to help your pet cope with their fear.

Davey and Sheila are glad the party is over. By following their cues, your pets can stay safe and stress-free at your outdoor gathering. However, if your pet encounters a problem during the festivities, do not hesitate to contact our team at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center to schedule an appointment. We want your pet to be not only safe, but also stress free.

You Need Your Medicine! Advice For Giving Oral Medications To Your Pet

At the conclusion of your pet’s appointment, the veterinary technician reviews your pet’s prescription and hands you the bottle. She asks if you have any questions.

“Well, only one,” you admit, sheepishly. “How am I going to get my dog to take this?”

If you struggle to give oral medication to your pet, you are not alone. So, Harbor Pines Veterinary Center is here to provide some inside knowledge on helping your pet acceptor at least toleratepills, tablets, and liquid medication.

Keep calm and prepare to medicate your pet

If you were at the hospital, and a nurse rushed into your room without knocking, dropped her supplies, grabbed your arm, bent it awkwardly, tried to draw blood without taking the cap off, and then spilled the vials, you’d be anxious, right? Does she know what she’s doing? 

Our pets may feel the same way. If you are nervous about a process, your pet will know. Plan ahead, have all your supplies ready, and stay calm and neutral. You want your pet to believe what you are doing is no big deal.

Change your pet’s picture

Dogs and cats build strong associations with context, and will inappropriately attach their emotions about an event to a location, person, or object, whether or not they are related. So, let’s start afresh:

  • Location If you previously medicated your pet in the kitchen, try another room. 
  • Position Instead of standing, sit down. Leaning over a pet can be threatening. For small pets, put them on a bed or chair that is safe.
  • Procedure Before you begin the medication procedure, reward your pet for simply being with you. That will relax you, too!
  • General care You can use the same location for basic husbandry, such as ear cleaning, teethbrushing, or grooming.

Smells suspicious to your pet

After you have prepared your pet’s medication, wash your hands, because the medication smell can offend cats and dogs. Don’t lose the game before you’ve started, so keep track of what you touch, and wash your hands. Use the following sandwich medicating methods.

Pills and tablets for pets

Like a sandwich, you can surround your pet’s medication experience with so many good things that they do not have time for skepticism. Bookend the medication with high value rewards, using good things, one tiny bad thing, more good things, as the basic pattern. 

  • The wrap Use an irresistible treat that can be molded to wrap the pill or tablet, taking care not to use too much, because that will encourage your pet to chew. We suggest:
    • Peanut butter, with a little flour added for easier molding
    • Cream cheese, also with flour added
    • Ready-to-use pill-hiding treats, available in most stores
    • Canned food

Do not use any food that has been used previously as the “good thing.” If your pet has dietary restrictions, talk to your veterinarian.

  • Placebo Make about six more identically sized treats, which will be your placebos.
  • Sandwich Feed your pet two to three treats quickly, followed by the medication treat, and then quickly feed two to three more regular treats. 
  • Final treat The last treat should always be visible and ready as your pet eats the last part of the sandwich. Now is not the time for savoring.
  • The ending Finish with petting, praise, or toy play. 

Liquid medication for pets

Ask your veterinarian for some oral syringes, and follow the same pattern for tablets. Most pets quickly learn to accept syringes if they contain something yummy. 

  • Dogs For dogs, let them sample the syringe contents by offering a little from your hand, or letting them lick the end. If your dog is comfortable, place the syringe in their cheek pocket and slowly empty the contents.
  • Cats Do the same for cats, but you will need to gently hold your cat by the head and upper jaw to introduce the syringe. Remember to go slowly.
  • Treats Draw up your pet’s exact dose and mix the medication with some thin yogurt, or a slurry of canned food and water. 
  • The sandwich Most pets learn to accept tasty treats from syringes. Once your pet is happily feeding from the treat syringes, feed them from the medication syringe, followed by one or two treat syringes.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help medicating

Unfortunately, some pets have a complex history of fear and anxiety that makes safe medication a risk. If your pet has previously reacted violently to being medicated by vocalizing, struggling, scratching, biting, eliminating, or expressing their anal glands, and you have exhausted your options, please call us at Harbor Pines Veterinary Clinic. We will discuss your pet’s behavior, suggest alternatives, or modify the treatment.

Never discipline your dog or cat for their reaction, because they are responding out of fear and confusion. Punishment may escalate the situation, causing the pet to scratch, lunge, or bite, and is never justified. 

Harbor Pines Veterinary Center knows that caring for a sick pet is incredibly stressful. When your pet hurts, you hurt. When we prescribe medication for your pet, we want you to administer the medicine confidently. If you have more questions, or need to schedule an appointment, give us a call.

Mosquitoes and Ticks: How They Can Ruin Your Pet’s Summer

Picture an idyllic scene. You and your furry pal are frolicking down the trail winding through your local park, enjoying a gorgeous sunshine-filled day. As you meander down the path, your dog tugs at their leash to explore a thick patch of brush, and you follow close behind. As you walk through this brushy area into the heart of the park, your pooch is in heaven, sniffing out all the various wildlife trails. Later, as the sun begins to lower, out comes a swarm of blood-seeking mosquitoes that chases you and your dog, and you head for home, slapping at the pests as fast as you can. However, you know you and your pet, whose short fur offers little protection, have multiple mosquito bites. By the time you are safely home, you have numerous welts caused by the mosquitoes, and, worse, you feel a tickling sensation crawling up your leg and discover a tick.

Unfortunately for you, no parasite preventive can tackle heartworms, fleas, and ticks in people, but many prevention products are available for your furry pal—and, fortunately for your pet, you administered their preventive this morning before heading out on your walk, so you know they are protected from various parasitic diseases.

Without parasite prevention, your pet could have been exposed to the following common diseases.

Heartworm disease in pets

Heartworms prefer to set up shop in dogs and wild canines, although these parasitic worms can infect any mammal. However, if your dog had been unprotected during your walk, those mosquito bites could have caused more damage than itchy skin—they could have transmitted heartworm larvae. After an infected mosquito bites, heartworm larvae travel throughout your pet’s bloodstream to reach the large blood vessels surrounding the heart and lungs. In about six months, they reach adulthood and begin reproducing. However immature heartworms can also cause serious damage to your pet’s health. Dogs with heartworm disease generally cough, and the dry, hacking cough worsens with disease progression, as does their exercise intolerance and fatigue. In late heartworm disease stages, dogs can develop congestive heart failure and a distended, fluid-filled abdomen. Treatment is difficult for dogs, who must be kept exercise-restricted for 8 to 12 weeks while undergoing multiple injections administered deep into their lumbar muscles. 

In cats, asthma-like signs are the most common, so you may notice coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing. In some cases, vomiting, seizures, difficulty walking, and sudden collapse or death are possibilities. Cats have no approved heartworm treatment, which makes year-round prevention more critical. 

Lyme disease in pets

Although Lyme disease is not as common in California as along the East Coast, you could have been bitten by that black-legged tick that was crawling up your leg, and contracted Lyme disease. Fortunately, you pulled the tick off before it had a chance to attach and begin disease transmission. However, a black-legged tick that bit your pet would need to remain attached for 48 hours to transmit the Lyme bacterium, so proper prevention and a thorough tick check after being outdoors can protect your furry pal from this tick-borne illness.

If your pet contracts Lyme disease, you may notice the following signs:

  • Shifting leg lameness
  • Fever
  • Inappetence
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Tender, painful joints

Unlike people, pets rarely develop the classic bulls-eye lesion seen with Lyme disease—if they do, it’s well-hidden under their fur. In rare cases, pets can also develop kidney disease, which requires lifelong management.

Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis in pets

Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis are two similar tick-borne illnesses that can be transmitted by brown dog, lone star, and black-legged ticks. Pets with ehrlichiosis can cycle through acute, subclinical, and chronic phases if left untreated, causing a range of illness signs, including:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Poor appetite
  • Lymph node enlargement
  • Abnormal bruising and bleeding
  • Chronic eye inflammation
  • Neurologic abnormalities

Anaplasmosis can cause most of the same signs, especially abnormal bruising and bleeding, as this disease attacks the body’s platelets and affects clotting. Both these tick-borne illnesses are typically treated with a 30-day antibiotic course, with good results, and no lasting effects.

Don’t leave your pet unprotected against the threat of parasites. Contact our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team, who can recommend the best parasite prevention options to keep your furry pal safe from disease.

Is My Dog the Only One? Odd Dog Behaviors Unraveled

There’s no question about it—dogs do some weird stuff. Whether they’re rolling on the ground to cover themselves in horrible smells, or chowing down on grass outside, dogs have some odd behaviors. The real questions—why do dogs do what they do, and is there a reason behind the behavior? To clear up any confusion, our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team discusses your canine companion’s unusual antics, and explains some reasons for your pup’s weird behavior.

Question: Why does my dog eat grass?

Answer: Dogs don’t have bovine ancestors in their family tree, so why do they seem to love munching on grass? Some dogs may eat large quantities of grass to purge their bodies, using the high fiber content to push out intestinal parasites or spoiled food. Many dogs become nauseous and may vomit after eating grass, so they may instinctively eat grass if they feel the need to vomit. However, in most cases, dogs who eat grass simply like the taste or texture, especially grass that’s freshly covered in morning dew. But, if your dog routinely vomits after eating grass, schedule a physical exam with our team to ensure nothing more serious is occurring.

Q: Why does my dog scoot along the carpet?

A: Typically, dogs don’t need to wipe after going to the bathroom, so why does your dog occasionally drag their hind end along your carpet? This scooting behavior has more to do with alleviating the uncomfortable pressure of overly full anal glands than any other reason. The anal glands are two small sacs right inside your pet’s anus that fill with a thin, foul-smelling fluid. Normally, this stinky fluid is naturally expressed when your pet defecates, but if your dog has diarrhea, inflammatory skin issues, or another medical condition, the glands may not empty on their own. As fluid builds up, so does pressure, which causes your pet to lick, chew, or scoot. If the glands are not emptied, your dog can suffer from an anal-gland infection, impaction, or abscess, so contact our team if you notice your pet scooting.

Q: Why does my dog kick the ground after going to the bathroom?

A: You may think your pooch is wiping off their feet after going to the bathroom, or covering up the evidence like a cat, but they’re more likely spreading their scent. Not only do feces and urine contain a great deal of pheromones and scent markers, but also your dog’s paw pads. By kicking up the grass or dirt after eliminating, your dog is marking their territory in an impressive way.

Q: Why does my dog hump other dogs, people, or things?

A: While humping by intact dogs can be tied to reproductive purposes, most pets are spayed or neutered. After reproductive urges are eliminated as a potential reason, the typical cause for your dog’s humping, whether another dog, a person’s leg, or a favorite stuffed toy, is overexcitement. When your dog becomes over-stimulated through play or new experiences, they may not know how to act, and turn to humping as an outlet for their excess energy. This behavior is generally benign, but can cause altercations between dogs, and can become a serious issue if your large-breed dog knocks down children or the elderly. When your dog becomes overly agitated, ask them to perform a series of tricks, like sit, down, and shake, to help them focus on you and redirect their energy.

Q: Why does my dog eat feces?

A: Dogs are gross. Scooping “tootsie rolls” from the litter box may be a highlight of their day, but dogs will also eat their own feces. Most commonly, this feces-eating behavior, or coprophagia, is chalked up to your pet’s palate, meaning they simply like the taste. In some cases, coprophagia can be spurred by a nutritional deficiency or unclean living conditions.

Q: Why does my dog like to roll in dead and other foul-smelling things?

A: Again, dogs are gross. They enjoy all manner of disgusting things, like rolling in dead animals or other nasty smells. Your dog may seek out the same smelly spot to roll in on their daily walk, effectively covering up their own scent. This masking technique may be vital for stalking prey, but such behavior is now outdated and unnecessary for domesticated dogs.

Your dog’s unusual behavior may actually be a cry for help. If your furry pal is exhibiting odd behavior, they may require veterinary attention for a medical condition. Contact our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team for an appointment.

5 Common Pet Emergencies that Require Immediate Veterinary Care

Our four-legged companions are family, and fill our lives with wet noses, cozy cuddles, and adventure. Regular preventive veterinary care, proper nutrition, exercise, and bonding time are essential aspects of caring for a pet. However, the curious and sometimes mischievous nature of pets may lead to an unexpected emergency veterinary visit, and being prepared will ensure you are ready to make decisions if your pet is injured or suddenly becomes sick. Our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team wants to ensure you can recognize the clinical signs of a veterinary emergency, before your furry friend gets into trouble and needs immediate care. We describe five of the most common pet emergencies and signs; however, never hesitate to contact us immediately if you are worried about your furry pal, whether or not your concern is included below.

#1: Medication ingestion in pets

According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), more than 40% of calls in 2019 were attributed to medication poisoning. Many common over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription human medications, including ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and anti-anxiety and blood pressure medications, are dangerous to pets, who cannot metabolize these drugs the same way as humans. Ensure all medications are out of paws’ reach, and keep bags or purses zipped. Medication toxicity signs may not be immediately obvious, but never hesitate to seek immediate veterinary care if you suspect your pet has ingested human medication. In some cases, you may be advised to induce vomiting in your pet, but you must do this only under your veterinarian’s direction. 

#2: Dangerous human food ingestion by pets

Some human foods, like baby carrots, are perfectly safe for most pets; however, always avoid sharing your plate with your pet to prevent them from ingesting a toxic or too-rich food. Many people foods are the culprits for veterinary emergencies, including chocolate, raisins, grapes, sugar-free treats, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, chives, and leeks. Additionally, some toxic foods can cause kidney failure, hypothermia, or life-threatening anemia in pets, who metabolize differently than humans. Pets are also sensitive to rich, fatty foods, which can cause gastrointestinal (GI) distress and inflammation, including pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a potentially deadly inflammatory condition that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration.

#3: Trauma and bleeding in pets

Pets who take an unplanned outdoor adventure, or cats who think they can fly from the third story window, are at risk of being hit by a car or breaking bones. Additionally, pets who are hit by a car are often in shock and may not immediately limp or show trauma signs. Bring your pet to our hospital for immediate care if they experience any trauma, or have any of the following signs:

  • Vocalizing or biting when touched
  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop after five minutes
  • Puncture wounds from another animal, whether or not they are swollen or bleeding
  • Exposed bone, tissue, or muscles
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Inability to stand or walk normally
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Bleeding from any orifice, or when urinating or defecating
  • Difficult or labored breathing
  • Pale, blue, or bright red gums

#3: Allergic reactions in pets

Like humans, pets can be allergic to foreign substances or proteins, and are at risk for severe or anaphylactic reactions. Insect stings, chemicals, or certain grasses commonly cause pet allergic reactions. Vaccine reactions are rare, but can occur. During your preventive care visits, ensure you let your veterinarian know if your pet has previously had a vaccine reaction. Vaccines are vital to protect your pet from dangerous, sometimes deadly, infections. Medications are available to prevent vaccine reactions or treat an allergic reaction, whose signs include:

  • Rectal temperature higher than 102.5 degrees
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face or muzzle
  • Lethargy
  • Extreme itching
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Decreased appetite

#4: Retching and bloating in pets

Large-breed and deep-chested dogs are most at risk for bloat or life-threatening gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV). which can occur following a large meal that was quickly ingested. Dogs with GDV will attempt to vomit, or retch, without producing any vomitus. If your pet appears nauseous or has a distended abdomen, take them for immediate veterinary care. Nauseous pets will often drool excessively and appear to be smiling. Other causes for vomiting, retching, or nausea that require emergency care include:

  • Liver, kidney, or other disease causing sepsis
  • GI blockage 
  • Toxin ingestion

#5: Straining in pets

Pets who vocalize while attempting to urinate or defecate may be experiencing a urinary blockage or constipation. These conditions are extremely painful for pets, and dogs and cats will posture as if they need to eliminate, without any result. Male cats are most at risk for urinary blockages, which can lead to kidney failure and death without treatment. 

Our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team hopes your pet never requires emergency care, but if you notice any sudden signs or are ever concerned about your pet’s health, call our office, or bring them to the closest emergency veterinary hospital if it’s after hours.

Cat Home Design with Tiffany the Tortie

Have you ever wondered how to improve your indoor cat’s environment? Staying indoors keeps our cats safe, but boredom, stress, and frustration can lead to behavior and health problems. Meet Tiffany the Tortie, cat home design expert and our guest writer this month. This talented feline designer knows first-hand what indoor cats need to stay healthy and happy at home. Read on for Tiff’s tips to make feline home design magic.

#1: Cat basics: Food, water, and litter

Tiffany: “When designing your cat’s space, remember that cats like a regular routine with predictable food, water, and litter resources. An enriched environment provides choices. Set up several feeding stations throughout the house. We cats naturally eat an average of 12 or more small, same-size meals throughout the day, and remember—canned food more closely mimics our natural diet. In the wild, our water source would not be next to our food source, so provide fresh water in separate locations, also remembering that some cats prefer pet fountains to bowls. Lastly, note that we have litter substrate preferences. Some of us like clay litter, although most prefer clumping litter. Our litter box should be located separately from feeding areas.”

The Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team agrees with Tiffany. Meeting your cat’s needs in an enriched home environment is all about location, location, location. When feeding your cat, remember that grazing is good, but does not equate to free choice or unlimited volume. Always ensure the total daily food volume is appropriate. Consider feeding your cat on an elevated surface if dogs or toddlers roam the floor. And, always provide one more litter box than the number of cats.

#2: Places to scratch and climb

Tiffany: “If your home is small, don’t worry. Cats need vertical space, and love to monitor the floor below from a safe, elevated spot. Climbing towers are great, especially with hammocks for resting at the top, but you can save money by using what you already have. Provide a way to the upper bunk bed, for example, or simply stack sturdy items that cats can climb. Locate this elevated cat condo by a window so your cat has a sunny spot to nap, or to “stalk” birds and chipmunks outside. For scratching, most of us prefer a sturdy sisal post placed in a high-traffic area.”

Tiffany knows what cats want for climbing and scratching. Cats scratch to mark their scent, groom their nails, deal with stress, and to stretch. Cats like to stretch their full body length when scratching, so make the post tall. 

#3: Cat food puzzles and toys

Tiffany: “We cats love, and need, to practice our hunting behavior. We want to figure out a problem—stalk, chase, pounce, and catch—and get a reward. For example, reward us after laser-light play so we don’t get frustrated. When you pull a feather string-toy, let us catch it for a brief period. While you are at work, provide passive play opportunities through food puzzles or foraging toys. Start with easy treat toys, and then move to more difficult puzzles. You don’t have to buy expensive toys. Get creative and make them from toilet-paper rolls or crumpled paper. For those of us who like to play in water, place a ping-pong ball in a shallow container of water, and watch us go nuts!”

Tiffany is on the ball with these ideas. Interactively play with your cat for five minutes several times each day, remembering that cats are naturally more active in the morning and the evening, and sleepy during the day and night.

#4: Places for cats to explore

Tiffany: Cats are both predator and prey, so set up our environment to appeal to both. The outdoors constantly changes, so rotate your cat’s indoor activities to keep them new. Provide a box with leaves and sticks in the fall. We naturally chew greens, so consider growing cat grass indoors. Tissue paper is always a favorite. Some cats like children’s play tunnels, but you can appeal to our senses with simple household items. Make a cat house out of a box by cutting windows and doors, and hide kibble inside. Cats can have fun exploring something as simple as a paper bag on the floor with a piece of kibble inside. We love ice cubes made with tuna water, or a small piece of meat in the center. We also love screened porches, but you can achieve the same effect by opening screened windows. Consider harness training to leash walk, or using a cat stroller. ”

We believe that Tiffany’s terrific tips are on target. Call the caring team at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center for more ideas on improving life for your beloved indoor cat. With a little effort, the humblest abode will feel like a million-dollar mansion to your cat.

Straight from the Source: Top 5 Pet Health Tips for 2021

Who better to give pet health advice than one of our smartest pet consultants? Gabby the goldendoodle visited Harbor Pines Veterinary Center as our guest to share her thoughts on pet nutrition, dental care, enrichment, exercise, and preventive care. Read on to learn Gabby’s top five tips for keeping your pet healthy in 2021.

#1: Pet nutritional care

Gabby the goldendoodle: “Pet parents, I’m here to tell you that no pet wants problems like arthritis and diabetes weighing us down. We want to feel our best and get up and go with you every day of 2021, and good nutrition is the foundation for good health. Schedule an appointment with the awesome people at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center to discuss the best diet for your pet. They will calculate your pet’s caloric needs and the amount of food they should eat each day. 

“You may think your pets require a wide variety of fancy treats and snacks, but take it from me—we are happy if we receive the 10% of our daily kibble as treats throughout the day. High calorie and high fat snacks and treats only set us up for problems like weight gain and pancreatitis. We’d rather keep our diet simple, steady, and the same.” 

Set up regular weight-check appointments for your dog or cat. The Harbor Pines team will use professional scales to accurately measure and record your pet’s weight, and show you how to perform a body condition score. Staying on top of any changes in your pet’s weight is important, especially if they have a chronic illness or need to lose weight. 

#2: Pet dental care

Gabby the goldendoodle: “Here’s one of the best tips I can offer for 2021—resolve to brush your pet’s teeth. If you start when we are puppies and kittens with a finger brush, we can learn to accept toothbrushing as a regular part of our time spent together. Start with weekly brushing, and progress to brushing daily. When you go the extra mile to keep us healthy and take good care of our teeth—I can tell you from experience—we truly feel loved and cherished. Always use pet toothpaste and not human products when you brush our teeth. And, remember, we also need professional dental care once per year.”

Schedule your pet’s regular professional dental checkup and cleaning at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center. When you bring your pet to our hospital for their dental care, we will make their experience stress-free, pain-free, and safe.

Gabby: “I can attest to that. And, your pet will leave with fresh breath and a great-feeling mouth.”

# 3: Pet environmental enrichment

Gabby the goldendoodle: “Like you, your pets need mental and physical work to stay healthy, so provide your pet with new learning opportunities in 2021—anything from simple training lessons at home to advanced obedience classes. At home, you can look for online classes, or set up a simple obstacle course. I guarantee that your cat or dog will feel a stronger bond with you when you work together at learning something new and fun, whether it’s a treat puzzle, a chase toy, or a climbing tree.”

All pets benefit from interaction with other people and pets. Would your cat enjoy more time in your lap at the end of each day? Would your dog enjoy once-weekly doggie day care? Our team can help you assess your pet’s feelings by understanding their body language. This way, you can ensure that play sessions with your cat or park visits with your dog are enjoyable rather than stressful.

#4: Pet exercise plan

Gabby the goldendoodle: “I’m a high-energy dog, and I can tell you from experience—exercising is awesome! I have dog friends who don’t use up their natural energy every day and have developed behavior and physical problems, and that upsets their whole family.”  

Destructive or obsessive behaviors can result from lack of exercise, so keeping pets active is the best way to add happy, healthy years to their life. Never hesitate to call a Harbor Pines veterinarian if you need advice on your badly behaved dog.

Gabby the goldendoodle: “My favorite activities are a hike, a walk, or a game of fetch, and I bet most dogs would say the same. And from what I can tell, cats love toys they can chase or bat around.” 

#5: Pet preventive care

Gabby the goldendoodle: “Last but not least, regular preventive veterinary care with the Harbor Pines team is the most important thing you can do for your pet. Regular wellness visits include a thorough physical examination, blood work, urinalysis, heartworm and fecal testing, vaccinations, and parasite prevention—I know that sounds like a lot, and some of it doesn’t sound good, but by tracking our health progress, they can find and treat any problems early and keep us healthy. And, they give plenty of treats throughout the exam. Despite the current pandemic restrictions, Harbor Pines will help ensure you get to the vet for your regular check-ups in 2021.”

We agree with Gabby. Contact us at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center any time you have questions about your pet’s health, or when your pet is due for a regular wellness visit. Follow Gabby the wise goldendoodle’s tips, and you’ll enjoy a happy, healthy year with your pet in 2021, and for many years to come.

A Pet-Friendly Home for the Holidays

As you prepare for the holidays, don’t forget to include your furry companions in your plans, or that decorations, toxic plants, unhealthy treats, and increased activities can pose risks to your pets. Here are some tips and resources from the Harbor Pines Veterinary Center to help ensure a safe, enjoyable holiday season for all family members.

Oh, Christmas tree!

Gazing at a beautifully decorated tree can be a peaceful experience—unless your pet decides your lovely tree is a new play toy. The following pet-proofing ideas can help keep your pet safe and your tree intact:

  • Restrict access — Consider keeping your tree in an area inaccessible to your pet, or surrounded by a dog pen. 
  • Secure your tree — Use an appropriate-sized, secure tree stand to ensure your tree cannot topple over easily. Also, consider securing the tree to the ceiling with fishing line.
  • Preservatives — Cover your tree water to prevent your pet from drinking chemical preservatives added to commercial trees, and use fresh water without additives.
  • Artificial or real — Shedding needles or flocking from real trees can be ingested and cause intestinal obstruction. An artificial tree may not be as enticing for your pet to chew, and will prevent mouth irritation from tree oils. 
  • Decorative lights and cords — Strategically place lights higher up your tree. Also, a chewed electrical wire can cause mouth damage, breathing problems, or deliver a potentially lethal shock.
  • Tinsel and ribbon — Avoid glittery tinsel and ribbons that can be irresistible to your pet, especially cats, because ingestion can cause a linear foreign body intestinal obstruction.
  • Ornaments — Display your delicate glass ornaments out of your pet’s reach, and use unbreakable ornaments on your tree, especially toward the bottom. Consider using ornament anchors to keep your ornaments on your tree.
  • Ornament hooks — Use soft hooks rather than metal hooks, to prevent damage to your pet’s mouth, esophagus, stomach, or intestines if ingested.
  • Something different — Try hanging your tree upside-down from your ceiling or mounted on your wall for a change of pace, and provide the ultimate in pet-proofing.

Deck the halls!

What is a holiday without decorative plants and candles? However, look around your home from your pet’s perspective, and keep these dangerous items well out of paws’ reach: 

  • Candles — Curious cats and dogs’ wagging tails can knock over candles and result in burns, or possibly start a fire. Consider battery-operated candles as a safe alternative.
  • Plants Mistletoe, holly, and poinsettias can cause gastrointestinal upset and mouth irritation. Mistletoe ingestion can also affect the heart. Any parts of a lily, including pollen, are extremely toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure. 
  • Potpourri — Many essential oils in potpourri are toxic to cats and can cause vomiting, drooling, difficulty breathing, seizures, and possible death. 
  • Pine cones — Dogs may see these decorations as delightful chew toys, but they can cause intestinal obstruction if ingested.

Eat, drink, and be merry!

A delicious feast is the highlight of any holiday, but keep your pets out of the kitchen to reduce temptation, and put your scraps and leftovers in a tightly sealed garbage container. Many high-fat holiday foods, such as turkey skin, stuffing, and ham, can cause an upset stomach and pancreatitis. In addition to fatty foods, the following are dangerous to pets:

  • Onions, garlic, and chives — Cats can develop life-threatening anemia from eating only a small amount, and dogs can be affected by eating larger quantities. 
  • Raisins and grapes — Consumption of only a few raisins or grapes can damage some dogs’ kidneys. 
  • Bread dough — Pets who consume yeasty bread dough can develop painful gas, intestinal bloating, and alcohol poisoning from yeast fermentation.
  • Chocolate — Vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, and seizures can occur in dogs who consume a toxic chocolate dose. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic to pets.
  • Sugar-free treats Xylitol-containing products can cause precipitous drops in blood glucose, liver failure, and seizures in pets.
  • Alcohol — Pets and adult beverages don’t mix, and consumption can cause weakness, respiratory problems, or collapse.

Peace on Earth, good will toward all!

Create a “safe space” for your pet, such as a gated-off area, spare room, or crate, to help them stay calm amidst new people and noises, and prevent them from scooting out the door or getting into trouble. Make your pet’s safe space a relaxing environment by playing music or TV, with treats, toys, water, a comfortable bed, a litter box for the cat, and perhaps a food puzzle. More pets escape during holiday distractions, so now is the time to get them a nametag and a microchip, and ensure that your contact information is current.

Make a pet safety checklist, and check it twice to ensure you avoid holiday pet hazards. Let all your family members and guests know your holiday “pet rules,” and keep the phone numbers of the Pet Poison Helpline, ASPCA Poison Control Hotline, and Harbor Pines Veterinary Center, as well as the local pet emergency clinic, in a visible, easily accessible location.

Our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team wishes you and your family a safe, happy holiday season. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions about helping your pet get safely through the holidays, or suspect they got into mischief and need veterinary care.

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