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Let’s Talk Teeth

Let’s Talk Teeth

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

What exactly is periodontal disease?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say Cheese!

Say Cheese

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

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

Periodontal Disease 

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

Feline Stomatitis

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

Dental Caries

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

Enamel Hypoplasia

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


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

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

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

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

golden cat feeling air

Summertime and the Livin is… Itchy?

Summertime and the Livin is… Itchy?

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

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


What are allergies and why do they affect my pet?

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

Let’s talk treatment and prevention

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

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

Should I Spay/Neuter my Pet?

Should I Spay/Neuter my Pet?

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

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

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

Overall Health

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


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

Longevity of Life

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

Population Control

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

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

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

Brown dog sitting in the grass

Heatstroke in Dogs

Heatstroke in Dogs

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


Risk Factors



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

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



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

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



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

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

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


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

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

What to do

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

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


Veterinary care

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

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

-The Harbor Pines Team


Poodle Puppy dog

Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Prevention

Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Prevention

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Signs and symptoms of tick-borne illness include:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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


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

Why Spay/Neuter your pet?

Why Spay/Neuter your pet?

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


Health benefits

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


Behavioral benefits

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


Pet overpopulation

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


Common concerns

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds expensive!

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

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

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

Will my pet gain weight?

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

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


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!


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!


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