Category Archives for "Safety"

July Fourth is an essential summer celebration for most Americans and a time to enjoy fireworks displays and gathering with friends and family. Pets, however, may suffer anxiety, stress,or physical harm, or get lost because of large gatherings, loud fireworks, and summer heat. The Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team wants to help pet owners keep their pets safe this year, so here are five July Fourth safety hazards and tips to avoid them. 

#1: Pet fear and anxiety from fireworks noise

Two-thirds of dogs have noise aversion, a treatable anxiety condition that causes extreme, fearful responses to loud noise. Fireworks are a top trigger, along with thunderstorms, construction noise, and more. If your pet is scared of fireworks, they are also more likely to develop fears of other noises or separation anxiety, and you should seek treatment from your veterinary team. Untreated noise phobias will worsen over time, but early intervention will help your pet stop panicking, feel better, and prevent the problem from progressing.

Noise aversion treatments for fireworks include keeping your pet indoors in a safe, quiet area, playing calming music, using calming species-specific pheromones, and administering prescription anti-anxiety or sedative medications before the event. If you know noises bother your pet or you’ve noticed the following signs during other noise events, ask your veterinary team to assess your pet and prescribe appropriate medications:

  • Pacing, hiding, or clinginess
  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Attempts to escape or run away
  • Destructive behavior
  • Trembling or cowering
  • Vocalization

#2: Pet injury from fireworks

Pets who get too close to fireworks risk injury from burns and explosions. Always keep pets indoors in their safe, quiet space if you or your neighbors plan to set off fireworks. Fireworks can be unpredictable, and your pet will be safer away from the launch site. If your pet gets injured, immediately head to the nearest veterinary emergency facility.

#3: Pet illness from holiday food and drink

What pet hasn’t been tempted by tasty food or drink left out by unsuspecting guests? Eating rich or unfamiliar foods can lead to stomach upset or pancreatitis, and eating inedible objects such as corn cobs can lead to life-threatening intestinal obstructions. Many party foods also can be toxic to pets, causing signs ranging from lethargy and vomiting to seizures and death. Tell your guests to avoid feeding your pets, promptly discard their trash, and pay close attention to dishes containing the following toxic foods:

  • Chocolate
  • Grapes or raisins
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Garlic
  • Onions

#4: Pet heat stress and heatstroke

Pets cannot dissipate heat by sweating, which makes them more susceptible to heatstroke than humans. Pets exposed to high summer temperatures and sun for too long can experience an elevated body temperature, which damages the brain and vital organs and can lead to death. Pets at the highest risk for heatstroke include puppies, kittens, seniors, thick-coated breeds, overweight or obese pets, flat-faced (i.e., brachycephalic) pets, and pets with underlying medical conditions. Keep pets inside when temperatures rise or give them frequent breaks from the outdoors, and provide plenty of cool water and shade when outside. 

#5: Lost pets

Pets left outdoors and unsecured can easily run away if noise from fireworks or crowds spooks them enough. More pets are lost during the July Fourth weekend than any other time of year, leading to overcrowded shelters and difficulty in finding their families. Ensure pets are kept inside during frightening events, regardless of how you think they may react—better safe than sorry.

If your pet does get away from you, you’ll want them to have proper identification so they can be returned. Ensure your pet has up-to-date ID tags on their collar, and consider microchipping pets who aren’t already. The microchip can be scanned by shelter staff, police, and veterinary facilities to locate your contact information and reunite you with your pet in the event they run away.

By safeguarding your pet from these hazards, you can ensure both of you enjoy the Independence Day celebrations. Contact us to schedule a visit or consultation if you think your pet may need medications to help them cope with noise anxiety, or with questions about July Fourth pet safety. If your pet suffers an injury or ingests a toxin during the holiday, contact a local veterinary emergency facility, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, or the Pet Poison Helpline.

Assessing and Improving Senior Pet Quality of Life


As much as we wish, pets don’t live forever, and because of their relatively short lifespan, we see them getting older every day. Pets are more prone to health problems as they age, and may develop chronic or terminal ailments, including kidney or liver disease, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, or cancer. Chronic disease, or treatment side effects, can make pets feel unwell and impact their overall quality of life (QOL). Some pets with chronic disease can live happily for many years, while others will suffer, despite treatment. Harbor Pines Veterinary Center wants you to have the tools to assess your senior pet’s quality of life, so you can spot changes sooner, and discuss them with your veterinarian. 

How to assess quality of life

Your pet’s QOL depends on multiple intertwining variables that change over time. Your senior or chronically ill pet may have a bad day, and then a good day, so you must assess QOL frequently to watch for trends. You should consider each of the following categories when you evaluate your pet’s QOL, and assign each category a score, to objectively track changes over time. A low score in any category can mean your pet is suffering, despite an acceptable overall score.

  • Pain — Uncontrolled pain can arise from many sources that cause suffering. For example, painful conditions such as arthritis, tumors, eye conditions, and severe dental disease can lower QOL, although pain medications and other treatments can help control pain.
  • Breathing — Breathing is necessary for life, so pets who struggle generally have low QOL. Breathing can be compromised by heart conditions, or cancer that spreads to the lungs.
  • Nutrition and hydration — Chronic disease often causes weight loss, dehydration, nausea, and poor appetite. Pets who don’t eat generally feel unwell, and may have a low QOL. Subcutaneous fluids, tube feeding, anti-nausea medications, and appetite stimulants may help.
  • Hygiene — Sick pets may frequently soil themselves and therefore have chronically poor skin and coat condition. Cats may be unable to groom themselves. QOL can remain high in this category if you devote the necessary time to keep your pet’s skin and coat clean, dry, and free of parasites or mats.
  • Behavior and engagement — If your pet’s demeanor has changed and they no longer seek attention or spend time with you, their QOL may be low. Try to remember what your pet was like before their illness, and consider whether they can still enjoy previous activities.
  • Mobility — Can your pet move around the house well enough to get to their food, water, and bed? Is moving painful? You can use wheelchairs, slings, toe grips, and strategically placed rugs to improve your pet’s mobility, keeping them on one house-level to ensure they stay close to their necessities.
  • Good versus bad days — Try using a calendar to mark off each day as good or bad. More bad days than good may indicate that QOL is dipping.

What to do if your pet’s quality of life is low

Contact your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s condition, and whether they have any viable treatment options. Your veterinarian is an objective source who can help you determine if your pet is in pain, if treatment could improve their condition, if household changes could help, or if it’s time to consider humane euthanasia. Have an open, honest discussion about your goals, values, and finances, and consider potential treatment success rates, costs, and side effects. If you pursue additional treatment, assess your pet’s QOL frequently to ensure they’re getting better, not worse. If your pet’s QOL remains low and your pet has more bad days than good, talk to your veterinarian about hospice care or euthanasia. Nobody wants to make that choice, but humane euthanasia can be your final gift to your pet to relieve their suffering.

Many pets develop health conditions as they age, and a quality of life assessment can help you determine next steps. We’re pet owners, too, and we understand the turmoil a pet illness can cause. If you’re concerned about your senior pet’s quality of life, or want to discuss hospice care or euthanasia, call us to schedule a consultation with our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team.

5 Most Common Holiday Pet Hazards to Avoid

As the holiday season gains momentum and you become overwhelmed with planning menus, juggling guests, and creating festive displays, your furry pal’s safety may become lost in the chaos. During the holiday season, your pet faces many potential dangers, especially when you are focused on other things. To help you ensure your four-legged friend safely enjoys the holiday season, our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team describes the most common hazards, and how to avoid an emergency.

#1: Do not share popular holiday dishes with your pet

Although your furry pal may give you a sorrowful stare as you fill your plate with holiday fare, do not surrender to your guilt. Many holiday specialties can cause your pet serious digestive issues. Do not share the following foods with your pet:

  • Turkey and ham — Holiday main dishes can be the most hazardous for pets. Turkey skin, dark meat, and ham have a high fat content, and if your pet eats these, they can develop pancreatitis. The seasonings and spices you add to these meats can be toxic to pets if they ingest them in large amounts. In addition, turkey and ham bones—cooked or not—can splinter or lodge in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract, causing severe illness. 
  • Garlic, onion, leeks, and chives — Many of us frequently add these Allium plants to our holiday side dishes. Do not feed your pet any foods that include these flavor enhancers because they can destroy your furry pal’s red blood cells, and cause anemia.
  • Unbaked yeast dough — Ensure you leave rising yeast dough well out of your pet’s reach—especially not on your kitchen counter. Unbaked yeast dough expands in your pet’s stomach, and can result in a bloated abdomen, gastrointestinal obstruction, and alcohol poisoning. 
  • Nut mixes — Ensure you place small dishes of mixed nuts and dried fruits—potential choking hazards—out of your pet’s reach. In addition, keep your pet away from those tempting party mixes, because many ingredients are toxic, especially macadamia nuts, raisins, and currants. 
  • Desserts — While chocolate’s toxicity to pets is well-known, a lesser-known sweet treat is xylitol—a popular sugar substitute. Many sugar-free desserts, candies, and cookies contain xylitol, which can cause your pet to experience a severe blood sugar drop and liver failure.
  • Alcohol — As the festive atmosphere rises, ensure your thirsty pet does not imbibe in spilled cocktails or those left unattended for a lengthy time. A small amount of alcohol can poison your pet, leading to a hospital stay.

#2: Keep holiday decor out of your pet’s reach

Many holiday decorations can be dangerous to your pet, and you should keep them out of their reach, or choose pet-friendly alternatives. The most common holiday decoration hazards include:

  • Pumpkins, squash, and gourds
  • Corncobs and cornstalks
  • Burning candles
  • Glass figurines and ornaments
  • Holiday lights and extension cords
  • Christmas tree stand water
  • Pine needles
  • Tinsel
  • Toxic plants

Holiday season decoration displays can be stunning, but—to prevent your pet from experiencing gastrointestinal obstructions and toxicity, and starting a house fire—you must ensure they cannot access hazardous items.

#3: Keep guests’ medications and snacks away from your pet

If you are hosting family or friends in your home during the holidays, instruct them to keep their suitcases zipped, and their purses out of your pet’s reach. Better still, advise them to keep their bedroom door closed—after verifying that your pet is not in the room—to prevent your curious pal from sniffing out candy, sugar-free gum, protein bars, and medications in unattended suitcases and purses. Your guests may have brought along items your pet finds interesting, and your furry pal can develop an emergency health issue that is potentially fatal, particularly if they ingest heart or blood pressure medication. 

#4: Don’t force your pet to wear an uncomfortable holiday costume

While some pets may love the attention that comes with dressing up, holiday costumes can make many pets uncomfortable—even panicked. If your pet enjoys wearing a costume, check the clothing’s fit before the big day. Ensure the costume does not slip or restrict your pet’s breathing, eyesight, or movement. Eliminate accessories that can be easily chewed off and swallowed, such as button

s, bows, and zippers. Pets who display stress or anxiety signs—such as stiffened body posture, widened eyes, or a hunched back—are likely uncomfortable in a costume, so you should stick to their birthday suit or festive collar.

#5: Shelter your pet from boisterous holiday celebrations

Having several unfamiliar people in your home can unsettle even the most laid-back pet, and—when the noise level rises and open space diminishes—your furry pal can quickly become anxious and afraid. Gift wrappings, ribbons, party poppers, and small party favors pose additional pet hazards. 

Protect your pet from the boisterous holiday chaos and overly friendly guests by providing a safe haven. In a quiet room far from the festivities, create your pet’s sanctuary. Post a stay out sign on the door, furnish the room with cozy bedding, and give your pet an engaging toy and a treat puzzle. You can also leave soft music playing or turn on a quiet television show to help drown out the party noise. Calming products, such as pheromone sprays and diffusers, supplements, and body wraps, can also help soothe the anxieties a houseful of guests can cause your pet.

Proper preparation can help keep your furry pal safe from holiday hazards, but occasionally your pet may tangle with a dangerous item or eat a toxic food. If your pet gets in trouble this holiday season, contact our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team for help.

6 Steps to Successful Pet Weight Loss

Is your Chihuahua looking chubby? Does your poodle have a paunch? Is your Himalayan lying around more than playing? Sadly, they’re not alone. According to a pet owner and veterinarian survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than 50% of U.S. dogs and cats are overweight or obese, yet only 39% of dog owners and 45% of cat owners would describe their pet as such.

Without a clear understanding of their pet’s obesity and how to address the issue, many pet owners are unintentionally shortening their pet’s life. Overweight pets have an increased risk for many conditions, including arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart and respiratory disease, and kidney failure. Help ensure your pet has a better—and healthier—tomorrow by checking out these six steps to successful pet weight loss from Harbor Pines Veterinary Center.

 #1: Visit the veterinarian

Your pet’s annual wellness examination is a great opportunity to ask about their weight and overall body condition. But, if your pet is between appointments and their weight or appetite suddenly changes, don’t wait—they may have an undiagnosed medical condition or be experiencing pain.

When you visit Harbor Pines Veterinary Center, our veterinarian will rule out medical causes, such as thyroid dysfunction and endocrine disorder, measure your pet’s current weight and body condition score (BCS), review their daily feeding and exercise regimen, and assess their pain. They will then use this information to create a customized treatment plan, make tailored food recommendations, and suggest low-impact exercise. 

#2: Feed only your pet’s daily calorie requirement

Generally speaking, healthy pets gain too much weight because they consume too many calories and do not exercise enough. And, for most pets, the food they eat isn’t always in their bowl—table scraps and treats are known culprits for weight gain.

One of the best ways to promote and maintain your pet’s ideal body weight is by feeding a calorie-restricted diet. In other words, calculate your pet’s correct daily caloric intake and feed only that amount, ensuring you measure the portion exactly. You can adjust the amount during high activity (e.g., hiking, swimming, or sport training). Your Harbor Pines Veterinary Center veterinarian can help you calculate how many calories your overweight pet should consume for safe weight loss.

#3: Feed your pet on a meal basis

Free-feeding and automatic feeders contribute to pet weight gain by encouraging pets to graze throughout the day, which promotes overeating and prevents you from monitoring your pet’s food intake. Small-portioned meals at set times encourage your pet to eat on a schedule, which accelerates their metabolism and provides steady energy. When you are changing your pet to a meal-based schedule, set their food out for 20 minutes, and then remove any uneaten portion. After several days, your pet will be hungry at the scheduled times.

#4: Exercise your pet daily

Physical exercise is a cornerstone for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. But, true exercise requires an increased cardiovascular effort—not your average walk around the block. This means a steady, brisk walk for dogs, and short, intense activity bursts for cats using toys with dynamic prey-like motion (e.g., feather wands, balls, or laser pointers). Overweight pets will not have the stamina for sustained exercise, so begin with short sessions to prevent exhaustion and injury, and gradually increase the distance or duration as your pet improves.

Other low-impact activities that will build your pet’s core strength, balance, and coordination include swimming, underwater treadmill therapy, and rehabilitation exercises.

#5 : Monitor your pet’s body condition score

The traditional weight scale isn’t the most reliable way to chart your pet’s progress. Instead, we encourage pet owners to measure their pet’s body condition score (BCS). This approach scores your pet from one to nine on various characteristics using visual and tactile assessments to evaluate their overall body mass compared with an “ideal.” The characteristics include:

  • Palpable ribs — You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs easily, without applying pressure. 
  • Visible waist — When viewed from above, your pet should have an hourglass shape, with a well-defined waist after the last rib.
  • Defined “tuck up” — When your standing pet is viewed from the side, their underline should gradually slope upward, or “tuck up” from the last rib to the groin. In cats, the abdominal fat pad (i.e., primordial pouch) should be small. 

We recommend checking your pet’s BCS monthly during their weight loss journey. If your pet’s score falls outside the ideal range (i.e., four to five on this nine-point scale for cats and dogs) or they aren’t improving, schedule a follow-up appointment at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center for advice on adjusting your feeding and exercise regimen. 

#6: Engage your pet’s mind with enrichment activities

Depression, boredom, and anxiety can cause overeating and reduced activity, so you also need to engage your pet’s brain with mentally stimulating challenges. Pet enrichment toys and activities encourage your pet to use natural behaviors, such as foraging, hunting, manipulating objects, and problem solving. Replace your pet’s boring food bowl and ignite their curiosity with interactive options, such as:

  • Puzzles and treat dispensers — Your pet must use their nose, paws, and minds to free the food from inside these intelligent toys.  
  • Food enrichment — Fill toys such as Kongs and lickable mats with your pet’s food to encourage slow, mindful eating and better digestion. 
  • Snuffle mats — Hide dry food or treats in a dense woven mat or scatter them in untreated grass or a pile of towels and let your pet sniff out each piece.
  • Foraging toys — Hollow mice toys make a great hide-and-seek game for cats.

Let’s work together to put an end to the pet obesity epidemic—one meal and one walk at a time. If you’re concerned about your pet’s weight, schedule an appointment at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center.

Halloween Dangers and Your Pet: Scary Situations to Avoid

As Halloween approaches, you may think your party animal of a pet would enjoy all the hustle and bustle associated with this spooky holiday. However, many pets find Halloween celebrations stressful and scary. Protective dogs and shy cats may not appreciate the constant line of trick-or-treaters ringing your doorbell, disrupting their quiet environment. And, what pooch in their right mind would want to do their business in the yard next to a shrieking ghost?

View Halloween from your pet’s perspective, and don’t let your furry pal find themselves in a scary situation. Follow our tips to keep your pet out of mischief this spooky season, so they can receive plenty of treats for not playing any tricks. 

Be wary of yard decorations spooking your pet

That afore-mentioned ghost can really startle your pet, along with various other yard decorations that moan, howl, yell, and pop out of hiding places. You may also find that keeping your cool is tough, as you and your pup take a relaxing stroll around your neighborhood. In addition to the yard decorations’ scare factor, these animated monsters often have electrical cords running willy-nilly across the lawn. Your pet will be in for a shocking surprise, along with electrical burns, if they choose to investigate these “snakes” in the grass, so ensure all power cords are kept out of reach. 

Jack-o’-lanterns are another popular yard decoration that can be hazardous. Lit candles can singe your pet’s fur, battery-powered lights are toxic if ingested, and that rotting pumpkin that may still be sitting on the front porch at Christmas can cause a serious gastrointestinal upset.

Keep all the candy to yourself

Keeping the candy all to yourself should be an easy safety tip to follow, but pets are sneaky about snatching forbidden treats. Dangerous toxins can lurk in your candy bowl, so keep the following treats out of your pet’s paws:

  • Chocolate — This well-known toxin is still one of the most common problems for pets, especially with all the chocolate goodies available during Halloween. While a small milk chocolate candy bar likely won’t cause your pooch any harm, larger quantities can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, and a racing heart rate.
  • Sugar-free candies and gum — Xylitol replaces sugar in these sweets, and, while a healthier option, xylitol can cause a drastic drop in a pet’s blood pressure, lead to liver failure, and can be fatal for dogs.
  • Raisins — Boxes of raisins are a popular Halloween treat, but when ingested, your pet can suffer from inexplicable kidney failure. Not all pets will experience kidney dysfunction, and the number of raisins that will cause toxicity is not known.
  • Wrappers — While not toxic, candy wrappers and bags can pose a choking hazard, or create a gastrointestinal obstruction.

Watch out for home decor disasters

Be aware of which decorations pose threats. Some hazards are obvious, like lit candles and corn cobs hanging off that harvest display. Other potentially dangerous decorations include rubber eyeballs and body parts (i.e., choking risks), glow sticks and fake blood (i.e., possible toxins), and synthetic cobwebs (i.e., choking risks, or risks for entangling pets and wildlife). Instead of allowing your pet to rampage through your Halloween decor and possibly be harmed, block their access to unsafe items, and create pet-friendly decor specifically for their pleasure. Build a cardboard box haunted house for your cat, or create trick-or-treating fun for your pet with small treats and toys placed in a paper bag.

Chuck the too-tight pet costume

Although nothing is more adorable than a pet in a giggle-inducing costume—like a Chihuahua in a taco suit—most pets don’t appreciate costumes other than their birthday suit. If you choose to dress up your pet, ensure the size is appropriate, and nothing is too tight, especially around the neck and legs. Avoid dangling pieces or parts, such as buttons, ribbons, and ties, that can easily be chewed off. 

For your own costume, keep in mind that your pet may not recognize you, and become frightened, especially if you wear a mask or hood. Show your pet that the creepy creature is really you by allowing them to sniff the mask beforehand, and then putting on the mask in front of them, to help them make the association. 

Don’t let your pet stay out too late

While supervising your pet when they’re outdoors is always important, it’s especially critical on Halloween. Walk your pet before night falls, and bring them in from the backyard before it gets too late. If your pet is left alone in the yard, they may become frightened of the costumed people walking around, and search for ways to escape your yard. 

In case your pet should escape—whether through the front door while you’re handing out candy, or under the fence—ensure beforehand they are wearing tags with current identification, and that their microchip is registered with up-to-date information. Proper ID will help you reunite with your lost pet if they disappear into the night.  

If your pet gets into any tricks this Halloween, our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team is here to help. Give us a call if your furry pal raids the candy bowl, eats your jack-o’-lantern, or needs a microchip inserted before October 31.

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.


“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!”


“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.


“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.”


“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. 


“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.”


“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.


“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!”


“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.

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.

Pancreatitis: Avoid the Risk

This Thanksgiving will be tempting to allow your pets to share in the family feast. You may be strong-willed and resist, but not your pets, who may jump up onto counters or get into the trash. Most people know that turkey bones are dangerous for dogs, but any unusual food, especially in large volumes, poses a serious threat—pancreatitis—to your pet’s digestive system. Read on to learn about normal pancreas function, and diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of pancreatitis in dogs and cats.

A pet’s normal pancreas

The pancreas is a digestive organ in your pet’s abdomen between the stomach and the small intestine. Normally, the pancreas secretes enzymes into the intestine that help digest food and regulate blood sugar. The pancreas has several mechanisms in place to keep the digestive enzymes from damaging the organ itself. For the pancreas to function normally, our pets must eat the same amount of the same food every day, which may sound boring to us, but is best for our pets. 

The diseased pancreas in pets

If your pet suddenly ingests a large amount of unusual food, especially high-fat food, the pancreas tries to compensate for the food overload by secreting more enzymes, and the sudden excess can begin to damage or digest the pancreas itself. The resulting inflammation is known as pancreatitis. Any pet can get pancreatitis, but miniature schnauzers are at higher risk due to their altered fat metabolism. Pancreatitis causes abdominal pain, and complications can be severe and life-threatening. 

Pancreatitis complications in dogs

Inflammation and damage from pancreatitis is usually confined to the area around the pancreas and liver, and the most common sign in dogs is nausea. In severe cases, the disease can progress to formation of a pancreatic abscess. When the disease process extends beyond the pancreas, the consequences can be disastrous. Inflammation can spread throughout the abdominal cavity and cause peritonitis. The inflammation can release toxins into the bloodstream, causing disease throughout the body. Weber-Christian syndrome, an inflammatory disease of the fatty tissues, may develop, or pancreatic encephalopathy, in which the brain is damaged when fats surrounding the central nervous system are destroyed. Also, pancreatitis can progress to disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), in which simultaneous abnormal clotting and bleeding occur throughout the body. These painful, life-threatening complications often require referral to a veterinary specialty center or a veterinary school hospital, and carry a guarded to poor prognosis.

Pancreatitis complications in cats

Cats often develop pancreatitis from other causes rather than eating a sudden fatty meal. Problems associated with pancreatitis in cats include inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, certain infections, pesticides, medications, and trauma to the pancreas. Cats can develop chronic (i.e., long-term) pancreatitis. Cats and dogs can become diabetic following pancreatitis because damage from the disease can affect blood sugar regulation. Pancreatitis signs in cats include decreased appetite and weight loss.

Diagnosing pancreatitis in pets

Pets with gastroenteritis and a gastrointestinal foreign body, among other problems, show the same signs as those with pancreatitis, but diagnosing pancreatitis in pets as soon as possible is crucial, so the disease can be treated aggressively to reduce the chance of life-threatening complications. Fortunately, at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center, we can perform a pancreatic test—the specific canine pancreatic lipase test—as well as a cat-specific pancreatitis blood test. These tests, along with in-house blood work and X-rays, allow our team to diagnose pancreatitis quickly in any pet who has inappetance, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, or a history that fits pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis treatment in pets

Intravenous (IV) fluid therapy, which helps remove toxins and aids in pancreas healing, is the most important component of pancreatitis treatment. Pets need to be hospitalized until the crisis resolves—often five to seven days—with pain and nausea medications to help relieve their discomfort. Pets are fed a controlled diet of low-fat, low-residue food, and cats are often given vitamin B12 by injection, as pancreatitis interferes with normal absorption. Vigilant monitoring for complication signs is vital.

Call Harbor Pines Veterinary Center if questions or concerns arise about your pet and pancreatitis. During your Thanksgiving celebration this year, remember that rich table food is not a treat for your pet. Keep your pet’s diet consistent, and give thanks that you have helped them avoid risking pancreatitis. 

COVID-19 and Pets: What Do We Know?

COVID-19 has surprised scientists at every turn. When they seem to have it figured out, a new syndrome develops, or another group of people become affected. Despite being originally transmitted from a bat to a human, COVID-19 did not seem to affect animals—until recently. Now, several pets across the globe have tested positive, some with respiratory illness, which may cause you concern for your furry friend. Although we are still learning about the novel coronavirus and our uncertain future, we want to share the facts regarding what we currently know about animals, COVID-19, and your pet’s risk.

#1: A small number of pets have tested positive for COVID-19

The first pets to test positive for COVID-19 were two dogs and a cat in Hong Kong, who were being held in quarantine because their owners had tested positive. None of these pets developed illness, and subsequently tested negative. Since then, several other pets have tested positive, with the results confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL), including:

  • Two New York cats — Two cats living in different households in New York tested positive after developing mild respiratory illness. One cat lived with several family members who had previously tested positive for COVID-19. The other cat was an indoor-outdoor cat whose owner did not develop symptoms, and was never tested; however, they lived in an area with a high number of cases. Both cats are expected to make a full recovery.
  • Eight large cats at the Bronx zoo — Five tigers and three lions at the Bronx zoo also tested positive after developing mild respiratory illness. One zookeeper subsequently tested positive, but was asymptomatic at the time of exposure.
  • Mink at Netherlands farms — Mink on four Netherlands farms tested positive after farmers noticed an increase in gastrointestinal and respiratory illness, and overall mortality. Several caretakers at each farm had symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and are believed to have passed the virus to the animals. Mink are not kept as pets, but they are closely related to ferrets, who have been shown through scientific investigation to be susceptible to the virus.

#2: Your pet’s risk of infection is extremely low

What does all this mean for your pet? Although pets apparently can become infected, the likelihood of your pet developing COVID-19 is minimal. To date, almost 1.5 million U.S. human COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, with only a handful of pet cases. At this point, pet infections are not likely to dramatically increase, so your pet’s risk of infection will  probably remain low.

#3: To be safe, you should take precautions to prevent infection in your pet

Although your pet will probably not become infected, the CDC recommends that you take precautions to ensure their safety, including:

  • Practicing social distancing — Prevent your pet from interacting with people outside your household by keeping cats indoors, walking your dog on a leash while maintaining a six-foot distance from others, and avoiding dog parks and pet stores.
  • Restricting contact if you become sick — If you develop COVID-19, or respiratory signs, have another family member care for your pet to prevent unnecessary contact. If you live alone, having someone outside your home care for your pet is not necessary, or recommended, unless you are too sick. While sick, you should have minimal contact with your pet, wear a face covering, and wash your hands before and after handling them, or their food.
  • Practicing good hygiene — Avoid close contact with your pet, such as snuggling, petting, and sharing bedding or food.

#4: No cases of pet-to-human transmission have been reported

Despite possible human-to-pet transmission, the reverse does not seem to hold true, with no cases of pet-to-human transmission reported to date. Although this seems unlikely to change, we will continue to monitor this situation. Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend following the above guidelines to keep yourself, and your pet, healthy.

#5: Your pet likely does not need to be tested for COVID-19

If your pet is not sick, it is not recommended they be tested for COVID-19. If your pet develops respiratory signs, call us to schedule an appointment, so we can thoroughly evaluate your pet’s condition. We can test for COVID-19, although pets can develop a number of respiratory illnesses that are more likely the culprit. Let us know if your pet has had contact with anyone known to be infected with the virus, as this will guide our diagnostic testing, and our safety practices.

We are still open for your pet’s health care needs.

Your pet’s health care is important to our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team, and we have remained open to provide essential services to our pets and pet owners. If your pet needs veterinary care, whether for vaccines or illness signs, call us to make an appointment with Dr. White.

We are here for your family members—two- and four-legged—during this uncertain time. Contact us if you have questions about your pet and COVID-19, or other healthcare concerns.

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.

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