Category Archives for "Safety"

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.

Let’s Talk Hot Weather

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

Now Let’s Talk Hot Weather Risks

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

Burned Paws

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Let’s Talk Heartworms

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

What are heartworms and where do they come from?

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

How do I know if my pet has been affected?

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

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

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

Let’s talk prevention.

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

Dog looking at food in the plate

5 Holiday Items That Can Hurt Your Pet

5 Holiday Items That Can Hurt Your Pet

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


#1 – Fatty Foods and Table Scraps

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

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

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

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


#2 Bread Dough

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

Some of the symptoms of bloat are:

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


#3 Bird Bones

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

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


#4 Alcohol

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

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning:

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



#5 Holiday Plants 

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

  • Lillies
  • Poinsettias
  • Daffodils
  • Amaryllis

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


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



Call Now Button