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Keeping Your California Pet Cool

Hot weather can be extremely dangerous for pets, who can’t cool themselves as efficiently as humans, putting them at increased risk for heatstroke. Our team at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center wants to help by explaining how the heat affects your pet, and steps you can take to safeguard them in the California heat.

Your pet’s cooling system

When we overheat, sweat glands all over our body produce sweat. As this moisture evaporates, heat is drawn from our skin, causing cooling. Pets not only have few sweat glands, but most are located in their footpads, so they have to rely on other—less efficient—cooling methods, instead of the human cooling process. These methods include:

  • Panting — Panting is the main way pets cool themselves. The open-mouth breathing evaporates the moisture on the pet’s tongue and lung tissue, and draws heat from their body. 
  • Radiation — Blood vessels in the pet’s face and ears dilate, causing blood to flow more closely to the skin surface, so the heat can dissipate into the environment.
  • Conduction — Pets lie on their sparsely haired abdomen on a cool surface to transfer body heat to the surface.

Heat’s effects on your pet

Your pet’s normal body temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees. If strenuous exercise or increased environmental temperatures, and the absence of adequate cooling methods, cause your pet’s temperature to rise above 104, they are experiencing heatstroke. This condition is considered a veterinary emergency, because the heat causes inflammation throughout the pet’s body and affects systems that include:

  • Cardiovascular — Initially, your pet’s heart rate will increase and their peripheral blood vessels will dilate in an effort to dissipate their body heat into the environment, but when these measures are unsuccessful, the heart cannot pump blood throughout the body, resulting in low blood pressure and shock.
  • Pulmonary — Direct lung tissue damage causes respiratory distress.
  • Kidneys — Direct kidney cell damage from the heat and dehydration cause kidney failure.
  • Gastrointestinal — Gastrointestinal lining injury causes bacteria to leach into your pet’s bloodstream.
  • Nervous system — Brain cell damage causes cerebral swelling, bleeding, and cell death.
  • Coagulation — In severe cases, a condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) can cause bleeding throughout your pet’s body.

Heatstroke signs include excessive panting and drooling, difficulty breathing, lethargy, weakness, mental dullness, diarrhea, collapse, and seizures. Pets whose temperatures go above 109 degrees, and whose temperature remains elevated for an extended time period, have a poorer survival prognosis.

Pets at higher heatstroke risk

While all pets are susceptible to heatstroke, some are at higher risk, including:

  • Brachycephalic pets — Flat-faced pets (e.g., pugs, Boston terriers, bulldogs, and Persian cats) have less surface area in their mouth, so their panting is less effective, putting them at higher heatstroke risk.
  • Obese pets — An overweight pet’s extra fat layers act as insulation, inhibiting their body’s ability to cool down.
  • Senior pets — Senior pets can’t regulate their body temperature as well as young pets, putting them at increased risk.
  • Puppies and kittens — Puppies and kittens haven’t developed the ability to properly regulate their body temperature, and they are also high energy, putting them at higher risk.
  • Ill pets — Pets who have a health condition such as heart disease or a thyroid condition are also at increased risk.

Steps to safeguard your pet from heatstroke

You can protect your pet from heatstroke by following these steps:

  • Never leave your pet in the car — Pets should never be left in an unattended vehicle, because temperatures can skyrocket on warm days, and parking in the shade or leaving windows cracked doesn’t prevent the temperatures from reaching dangerous levels.
  • Hydrate your pet — Ensure your pet has access to several fresh water sources, and take water and a bowl when you go out, so your pet can drink when needed.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise — Limit your pet’s outdoor activity on hot, humid days, and take frequent breaks in the shade to allow them to cool down.
  • Leave on your air conditioner — Leave your house with your shades drawn and your air conditioner running to ensure your pet stays cool.

Pet first aid for heatstroke

If you suspect your pet is suffering from heatstroke, steps you should take include:

  • Find a cool area — Move your pet to a cool area that is out of the sun and well-ventilated.
  • Offer your pet water — If your pet is conscious, offer them water to drink. Don’t attempt to pour the water in their mouth, which could lead to aspiration pneumonia.
  • Cool your pet — Use tepid water or wet towels to cool your pet—never use ice or ice water, which can lead to shock.
  • Seek veterinary care — Get your pet to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible. If their signs subside once you start cooling, they should still be evaluated by a veterinary professional to ensure they sustained no internal damage.

Ensuring your pet stays cool in the California heat is important to protect them from heatstroke’s dangerous effects. If your pet overheats, contact our team at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center, so we can get them the care they need.

5 Ways to Soothe Your Pet’s Allergies At Home

Allergies affect pets and owners alike, and you may feel that you have no sooner calmed one allergic reaction when another pops up. Follow our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team’s recommendations to manage your pet’s allergies and minimize flare-ups to ensure their year-round comfort. By maintaining your pet’s regular treatment regimen and implementing our suggestions, you may reduce their allergy issues’ severity and frequency.

#1: Clean your pet’s ears regularly

Many allergic pets suffer chronic ear infections that begin when the allergic reaction causes a histamine release, inflaming their skin. Pets’ ears are a prime inflammation target because of their warm, moist environment, and numerous folds and creases. The inside of the ear flap can become a reddened, irritated mess that is the perfect breeding ground for yeast and bacteria. Without proper treatment, these pathogens can become drug-resistant or move further into the ear, making treatment more challenging, so regularly use a cleaner formulated to eliminate bacteria and yeast in your pet’s ears. In addition, routine ear cleanings allow you to monitor your pet’s otic health, and to catch inflammation and infection signs early. 

#2: Eliminate your pets’ environmental allergens

Pets’ environmental allergies flare up when they walk on, lie on, or inhale their allergen. Pollen and dust most commonly cause atopy (i.e., inhalant allergies), which you can reduce by regularly vacuuming your home, frequently laundering your pet’s bedding and your linens, and running an air purifier. Before heading out for a play day with your pet, check the pollen counts, and stick to indoor activities if the pollen count is high. In addition, remember to wipe down your pet’s paws and coat to remove pollen when they come inside after being outdoors.

#3: Evaluate your pet’s diet

Although pets rarely have true food allergies, a diet evaluation can be beneficial for all allergic pets. If your allergic pet eats a colorful kibble, switch to a food that has no food coloring or artificial ingredients. To boost your pet’s skin and coat health, give them an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Other oral or topical skin supplements may also improve your pet’s skin barrier. 

If your pet has a true food allergy and is showing allergy signs, they may need a different diet (e.g., limited ingredient, novel protein, hydrolyzed prescription). If your pet continues to have allergy signs after changing their diet, they may be allergic to more than one allergen.

#4: Keep your pet on year-round, high-quality parasite prevention medication

A handful of fleas can cause a pet with flea bite allergies to become an inflamed, itchy mess.  However, flea bites can irritate pets who are not allergic, leading them to scratch already-damaged skin. Help your furry pal stay comfortable by administering high-quality parasite prevention medicine year-round, including during the winter, eliminating fleas and ticks before they bite your pet. 

#5: Adjusting your your pet’s allergy treatment

Pets’ allergy treatment options are continually improving and increasing. Did you know that as your pet ages their allergies often change, making their routine allergy treatment protocol ineffective? Fortunately, new allergy treatment options may be available, or combined in a different way to achieve optimal efficacy to successfully manage your pet’s allergies throughout their lifetime. Give your Harbor Pines Veterinary Center veterinarian a call to discuss the possibility of adjusting your pet’s allergy treatment that is no longer soothing their allergy signs. 

By implementing our pet allergy control recommendations, you can help keep your pet comfortable throughout allergy season and year-round. Contact our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team for assistance in managing your itchy pet’s allergies.

Microscopic Menaces—Flea and Tick Prevention for Pets

Fleas and ticks are sneaky—and disgusting—threats to your pet’s health and comfort, as well as your own. These blood-sucking parasites will happily feed on creatures both furry and flesh, potentially transmitting dangerous diseases. Protect your pet—and your entire home—from these microscopic menaces with year-round flea and tick prevention from Harbor Pines Veterinary Center. 

Small bugs, big deal—flea and tick hazards for pets

Fleas are tiny, flat, wingless insects capable of imperceptible speed and supernatural jumping. Ticks, on the other hand, are slow moving spider-cousins, who range in size from a tiny seed tick to a round, engorged adult. While you won’t be inviting this odd couple for a dinner party, and they certainly don’t look capable of mass destruction, they will likely come uninvited, and both can unleash discomfort and disease with their bite.

  • Fleas — Flea bites are irritating to pets and people. The flea’s prolific reproductive abilities mean that one flea quickly leads to an infestation—adult female fleas can lay 40 to 50 eggs per day in the pet’s environment. Every generation of young fleas can mature and return to the pet—or you—to feed, and grow the population stronger. In addition to annoyance and irritation, the most common flea health hazards include:
    • Tapeworms
    • Tularemia
    • Murine typhus
    • Bartonella
    • Cat scratch disease
    • Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which is a hypersensitivity reaction to a protein in flea saliva—one flea bite can trigger intense itching, discomfort, and secondary bacterial skin infections

  • Ticks — Ticks are heat-seeking arachnids that must feed on a host organism at each life stage. Before a tick attaches to your pet, they may have previously fed on a squirrel, deer, or possum, and picked up infectious bacteria. Common tick-borne conditions include:
    • Tick paralysis
    • Lyme disease
    • Anaplasmosis
    • Ehrlichiosis
    • Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Parasitic diseases can be crippling and significantly impact your pet’s health and wellbeing. Fortunately, transmission of these harmful pathogens can be prevented with year-round flea and tick preventives.

Every pet, every time—indoor and outdoor pets need parasite protection

All pets, including those who live strictly indoors, should receive regular flea and tick preventives. Parasites don’t wait for an invitation, and will often enter a home on the back of an indoor-outdoor pet, clothing, or shoes. Fleas can jump on a dog or cat, and ride along unseen, disguised by the pet’s thick fur. Although ticks rarely leave a warm-blooded host after they’ve climbed on, they may disembark and travel across your couch or carpet to a vulnerable indoor-only pet.

Unprotected indoor pets—especially cats—and are often the source of indoor flea infestations. Because these pets are less likely to receive a thorough once-over, owners may not find attached ticks or flea dirt (i.e., the reddish brown flea waste product) until the population is well-established or has transmitted disease pathogens.

12 months, 12 doses—year-round prevention for pets

Year-round flea and tick prevention is the only way to ensure your pet is completely protected. Because we live in a mild and relatively humid climate, fleas and ticks don’t have an off-season, and pausing your pet’s preventives increases their chances for illness and bothersome bites. Additionally, once you have skipped or forgotten a dose, you are unlikely to remember to resume your pet’s preventive.  

For the best protection, set a recurring reminder on your phone or your calendar, and dose your pet according to the product directions (i.e., every one or three months). 

The best offense—selecting preventives for your pet

The pet flea and tick preventive market is bigger than ever, and available products vary greatly in their efficacy and safety. The Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team can provide you with recommendations to match your pet’s needs, as well as your own preferences. Products are available in topical and oral formulations, and can provide protection from 30 to 120 days. 

Keeping bugs at bay—at-home pet care tips

Although some preventives include a repellant, most oral medications kill fleas and ticks only when they bite your pet. While the preventive’s speed-of-kill is fast enough to prevent disease transmission, checking your pet for visible parasites and maintaining a clean environment is still important for comprehensive protection.

  • Perform a tick-check — Give your pet a thorough once-over after outdoor activities. Carefully remove any attached ticks with tweezers, as explained here.
  • Regular grooming — Routine brushing and combing allow you to check for live parasites, skin irritations, and flea dirt.
  • Launder your pet’s bedding — Wash bedding weekly in hot soapy water to kill any parasites or eggs. 
  • Maintain your yard — Keep your grass trimmed and remove leafy debris, to discourage ticks and wildlife from hanging around your home.
  • Infestation? — Don’t panic! If you find evidence of fleas on your pet or in your home, contact Harbor Pines Veterinary Center. We can provide helpful resources for eradicating fleas from the environment, and evaluate whether your pet’s current prevention plan is adequate.   

Fleas and ticks are ubiquitous, but that doesn’t mean they have to make our pets miserable. Protect your pet and avoid unnecessary discomfort and disease with a convenient and safe veterinary-recommended parasite prevention plan. If you have additional questions about fleas and ticks, or for a personalized preventive recommendation for your pet, contact the veterinary care experts at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center.

7 Fast Facts About Heartworm Disease and Prevention in Pets

Heartworm disease is a potentially life-threatening infection currently affecting at least one million pets in the United States. Despite the availability of safe, convenient, and effective prevention, heartworm disease is more widespread than ever, and is now endemic in all 48 continental states. 

Learn how to protect your pet from this unrelenting threat. Here are seven fast facts every pet owner should know about heartworm disease and prevention in pets.

#1: Heartworm disease is transmitted to pets by mosquitoes

When mosquitoes bite and feed on a dog, cat, or wild mammal infected with heartworm disease, they ingest the larval stage of Dirofilaria immitis—a blood-borne parasite. Once inside the mosquito, Dirofilaria immitis progress to their infective stage. When the mosquito takes their next blood meal from your pet, the infective larvae are transferred through the bite wound to your pet. The larvae then move through the tissues and slowly migrate toward their final destination—your pet’s lungs and heart—where they mature into adult worms over the next six months, with females reaching up to 14 inches long.

#2: Heartworm disease is deadly but preventable in pets

Once an adult infection is established, the worms severely damage the heart and major lung vessels by creating intense inflammatory reactions and altering normal function. These changes to vessel and heart chamber walls, as well as the worms themselves, over time create resistance to normal blood flow and heart muscle contraction, ultimately leading to deadly consequences, including:

  • Congestive heart failure — As the heart muscle weakens, fluid backs up into the lungs and abdomen.
  • Caval syndrome — This condition, which is also known as cardiovascular collapse, occurs when the worms form a blockage in the heart. Death may be rapid, especially if the blockage happens during exercise. 
  • Worm embolism — Worms or worm segments may form a blockage in the major vessels and obstruct blood flow. 
  • Sudden death — Cats may experience a fatal reaction to immature worms in their respiratory system.

These emergencies are easily avoidable with consistent year-round heartworm prevention dosing and yearly screening tests at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center. Heartworm prevention is available as 6- or 12-month injections for dogs, and once-monthly chews or liquid applications for dogs and cats. When given as directed, veterinarian-prescribed heartworm prevention has an almost 100% efficacy rate—however, only a single missed dose allows heartworm disease to take hold, so vigilance is required.

#3: Heartworm disease may go unnoticed until your pet is in late illness stages

Early stage heartworm disease is almost impossible to identify. Dogs may experience mild signs, while cats may have no visible signs during the entire infection. Signs for either species can seem vague and non-specific to many owners, but should always be investigated by a veterinarian. Early signs in dogs may include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Fatigue after mild exercise
  • Weight loss or changes in appetite

Because cats experience heartworm disease differently, their clinical signs are more misleading—and may not be apparent at all.

#4: Cats can get heartworm disease, but differently

Unlike dogs, cats are not natural heartworm disease hosts, so the heartworm life cycle is not assured. Cats can rid their body of circulating immature heartworms (i.e., microfilariae), so despite an infective mosquito’s bite, true infection and disease may not occur. However, if a few microfilariae escape the cat’s defenses and mature to adulthood, the cat will experience heartworm disease. 

Clinical signs in cats are often nonspecific, or can mimic respiratory disease, making diagnosis a challenge. Signs may include:

  • Cough or wheezing
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Collapse
  • Seizures

Many cats show no signs at all or, because of a sudden obstruction in their heart or lungs, the first sign may be sudden death. 

#5 Heartworm disease treatment is available only for dogs

If your dog tests heartworm disease-positive, treatment is available—but does come at a cost. Canine heartworm treatment is expensive, the recovery process is lengthy, requiring four to six months of strict crate rest, and serious side effects can occur as the worms die off.

Unfortunately, no safe treatment is available for cats, although medical management can help keep your cat comfortable for as long as possible. With dedicated veterinary-supervised care, cats can outlive their heartworms, which only live about two to three years in cats.

#6: Prevention is the safest and most affordable option for your pet

Without a doubt, heartworm prevention prescribed by your pet’s veterinarian is the best way to ensure their protection against this devastating disease—and for cats, the only way. Prevention is available in monthly oral or topical treatment for dogs and cats, and 6- or 12-month injections for dogs. With so many products on the market, you can easily feel overwhelmed, but our veterinarian can make specific recommendations that will suit your pet’s age, breed, and individual preferences. 

#7: Year-round dosing and annual testing are essential for pets

Heartworms don’t take a winter vacation, so while you may see fewer mosquitoes during the cooler months, year-round dosing is necessary to prevent a surprise infection. Annual heartworm screening tests at your pet’s yearly visit can help us identify early disease or—ideally—ensure your prevention plan is working.

Help us break the hold of heartworm disease on pets—call Harbor Pines Veterinary Center to schedule your pet’s heartworm screening test, or to discuss preventive options for your pet.

When Slowing Down Is More Than Old Age: Arthritis 101 in Pets

Arthritis is one of the most common diseases in dogs, and affects roughly 20% of the total canine population. Arthritis often goes undiagnosed in cats, largely because performing an orthopedic examination is difficult, and because many cat owners don’t realize their cat is suffering from arthritis pain. Whether or not your pet has been diagnosed with arthritis, knowing what causes this degenerative joint condition, and its prevention, is important for your four-legged friend’s future health, happiness, and mobility.

What is arthritis in pets?

Arthritis in pets is painful joint inflammation caused by progressive cartilage degeneration. In normal joints, the cartilage acts as a shock absorber, and prevents the two bone surfaces from rubbing. In arthritic joints, the cartilage deteriorates because of repetitive stress, trauma, disease, or normal wear-and-tear. As the bones begin rubbing together, their surfaces become rough, grind against each other, and cause more pain and inflammation. Arthritis is most frequently seen in the hip, elbow, knee, wrist, and lower back, but can occur in any joint. 

Are some pets at a higher risk for arthritis development?

While any pet can develop arthritis, certain factors can increase the likelihood of occurrence. If your pet falls into one of the following categories, or has one of the following conditions, they may be more likely to develop arthritis:

  • Overweight or obese
  • Large or giant breed
  • Long-bodied with short legs
  • Extremely active
  • History of trauma (e.g., fractured leg, cranial cruciate ligament rupture)
  • Hip or elbow dysplasia
  • Luxating patellas
  • Joint infections

What are arthritis signs in pets?

Arthritis signs in pets can be subtle until the disease progresses far enough to cause significant pain and mobility issues. If your pet has developed arthritis in one or more joints, you may notice:

  • Reluctance to play
  • Lethargy
  • Sleeping more
  • Limping or lameness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Pain when touched
  • Licking, chewing, or biting at the affected area
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Difficulty getting up
  • Reluctance to use stairs or jump on furniture
  • Difficulty posturing to urinate or defecate
  • Inappropriate elimination

Pets typically do not yelp, whine, or cry out when they have arthritis pain. They’re often stoic and do not voice any discomfort, so watch carefully for changes in your pet’s behavior and mobility. 

How is arthritis in pets diagnosed?

The key to successful arthritis management in your pet is an early diagnosis. Understanding the disease process and its effect on your four-legged friend will help you provide the best care for them as they age. 

If Dr. White suspects your pet has arthritis, he will perform an orthopedic exam in addition to a standard physical exam. By assessing your pet’s gait and range of motion, he can determine which problem areas are painful. Blood work and tick-borne illness testing may also be necessary, to rule out infections that could be causing your pet stiffness and decreased mobility. In some cases, X-rays or advanced imaging performed at a specialty hospital may be needed, to assess soft tissue structures (e.g., ligaments, menisci) and bone changes in the joints. 

How is arthritis in pets treated?

Since arthritis in pets is a progressive condition, early diagnosis and treatment are essential. The disease cannot be cured, but can be managed successfully, granting your pet a good quality of life. Arthritis management options include:

  • Pain-relieving medications — Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are often the first line of defense for arthritis pain relief. Other options may include steroids or opioids, but many pets do well with long-term NSAID use. However, these medications can have side effects, so close monitoring of your pet’s health is essential.
  • Surgery — If your pet has a torn cranial cruciate ligament or suffers from hip dysplasia, orthopedic surgery can repair or correct the problem.
  • Weight management — One of the best ways you can help reduce your pet’s arthritis pain is by managing their weight, starting from a young age. Each additional pound over your pet’s ideal weight contributes a great deal of excess pressure on sore joints.
  • Appropriate exercise — Daily exercise is crucial for keeping muscles strong, but arthritic pets often no longer feel like exercising and playing. Stick to low-impact activities, like swimming or walking, to avoid too much strain on painful joints. 
  • Joint supplements — High-quality joint supplements that contain ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and green-lipped mussel, are great for reducing joint inflammation and supporting joint cartilage health. These products are best started early in the disease process, or as a preventive measure.
  • Alternative therapies — Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, hydrotherapy, and laser therapy, are an effective complement to traditional Western surgical and pharmaceutical treatments. 

Multimodal treatment is the best, most effective method of managing your pet’s arthritis. As the disease progresses, other therapies may become better options for keeping your furry pal comfortable and mobile.

Arthritis is a painful, progressive condition that responds best to early diagnosis and treatment. If you notice your four-legged friend slowing down or struggling to rise, contact Harbor Pines Veterinary Center for an appointment.

What Happens During My Pet’s Professional Dental Cleaning?

People aren’t the only ones who need dental care to support oral health. By age 3, most pets have some form of dental disease, which can have serious negative health effects if not addressed. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily is a great way to support their dental health, but your pet also needs regular dental exams and may require professional dental cleanings to prevent periodontal disease and infection from progressing. 

If your veterinarian recommends a professional dental cleaning for your pet, you may have questions and perhaps even feel a bit nervous. That’s why our team at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center is making it our mission to take the mystery out of the dental cleaning process so you can feel good about supporting your pet’s oral health and overall wellbeing.  

What is dental disease in pets?

Dental disease is one of the most common conditions seen by veterinarians and is caused by oral bacteria that deposit plaque on your pet’s teeth. The plaque hardens into tartar in 24 hours unless regularly brushed away, which makes daily brushing important. The bacteria from plaque and tartar can move below the gumline as well, attacking the periodontal ligaments that anchor the teeth in their bony sockets. Periodontal inflammation and infection eventually lead to ligament breakdown, and the affected tooth roots become infected and loose, causing significant pain for your pet—whether or not they show their discomfort. Additional problems caused by dental disease include:

  • Damage to the kidneys, heart, and liver
  • Tooth-root infections
  • Abscesses

How do I know if my pet needs a dental cleaning?

Most veterinarians recommend that pet owners have their pet’s mouth examined annually as part of their wellness check. A dental exam is about more than ensuring your pet’s teeth are pearly white and their breath smells good. It also gives your veterinarian an idea of your pet’s overall dental condition and provides you the opportunity to ask questions and receive advice about how to provide at-home dental care for them. 

What is involved in my pet’s dental cleaning?

A professional dental cleaning will include the following:

  • Pre-procedure medication to help your pet relax — Before general anesthesia, pets first receive medication to help them relax. This reduces the amount of anesthesia needed during the procedure, making the process safer.
  • Anesthesia for your pet’s comfort and safetyPet owners often ask why their pet needs general anesthesia for a dental cleaning. Anesthesia is critical to ensure your pet is safe and pain-free and allows veterinarians to do the following:
    • Ensure your pet is comfortable and still 
    • Prevent debris from entering their airway
    • Access the entire oral cavity
    • Take dental X-rays 
    • Clean below the gumline, where periodontal disease lives

Your pet’s safety is of the utmost importance, and your veterinarian will perform a variety of pre-anesthetic tests, including a thorough physical exam and blood work, to evaluate your pet’s health and screen for conditions that could increase their risk from anesthesia. Based on test results, your veterinarian can formulate a customized plan to prevent your pet from feeling any pain or anxiety, while keeping them as safe as possible during their dental cleaning. 

  • Dental X-rays of your pet — After your pet is asleep and attached to monitoring equipment, full-mouth dental X-rays are taken. As much as 60% of your pet’s tooth structure lies below the gumline, and X-rays allow veterinarians to detect underlying problems, such as abscesses, fractures, bone loss, and root resorption. By reviewing your pet’s dental X-rays and examining their mouth, your veterinarian can note periodontal issues and create a customized treatment plan for your pet.
  • Scaling away plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth — Sticky plaque begins to form on your pet’s teeth hours after eating and can harden into cement-like tartar. The cleaning portion of your pet’s dental procedure involves scaling (i.e., the thorough removal of plaque and calculus from the tooth crown, as well as below the gumline.) After scaling, any rough enamel imperfections are polished to ensure the tooth surface is smooth.

  • Extracting any of your pet’s diseased teeth — Pets often need teeth extracted to remove an infection source or a painful fractured or decaying tooth. If extractions are necessary, your veterinarian will notify you. Once you give your approval, your veterinary team will use nerve blocks and pain medications to keep your pet as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
  • Debriefing to support your pet at home — After your pet’s dental cleaning and recovery period (during which your pet’s vital signs are monitored as they awaken from the anesthesia), your veterinarian will explain what took place, and what you should do to continue your pet’s at-home oral care.

Your pet likely will need their teeth professionally cleaned at some point in their life, and now that you’ve had an inside look at the safe and effective procedure, our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team is ready to schedule their next wellness and dental examination.

Proactive Tips To Prevent Behavior Problems in Puppies

You’ve spent endless hours scrolling through pictures of adorable puppies, extensively researching the intricacies of every breed imaginable, and compiling a list of potential puppy names. Bringing a puppy into your home is truly magical, from their floppy ears and adorable rolls, to their sweet puppy breath and wet noses. But a puppy is a lifelong commitment, and while everything they do is darn cute right now, they can easily develop some bad habits that won’t seem so cute in the years to come. Lay a strong foundation for your puppy by following these tips from Harbor Pines Veterinary Center for preventing behavior problems. 

Do your puppy research

Before bringing home a puppy, spend time researching which breed would best fit your lifestyle. Are you a marathon runner, or a couch crusader? Do you have young children or other pets to consider? If you impulsively choose a puppy because they are cute, you could run into behavior problems down the road because you are not compatible. For example, if you choose a highly active breed of puppy who needs a lot of exercise, and you work long hours that means they will be home alone for long periods, they will likely react poorly—not because they are “naughty,” but because their need for companionship isn’t being met. Think also about your needs, and consider the following when assessing a breed:

  • Energy level
  • Compatibility with children and other animals
  • Common behavioral issues
  • Size and coat type, especially if you are an allergy sufferer
  • Common medical conditions 

Of course, every puppy’s personality is unique, but by understanding a breed’s general characteristics, you will be better prepared to make the right decision. 

Prepare for your puppy—and then prepare some more

Many behavioral issues arise from a lack of planning, time, or commitment to training. Set your puppy up for success and make their transition smooth by having all their essential needs on hand before you pick them up. Speak with your veterinarian if you aren’t sure what you need, but start with these basics:

  • Leash, harness, and adjustable collar — Avoid your puppy getting loose or lost by keeping them securely on a leash with a collar and identification tags.
  • Crate — Instead of giving your puppy free roam of the house when you are away or unable to supervise them, leave them in a secure crate. You will need to train your puppy to accept their crate. 
  • Food and water bowls — A healthy, happy puppy’s basic needs include regular access to water and an age-appropriate diet. 
  • Puppy food — Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
  • Baby gates — Puppies like to explore, and many household items, such as electrical cords, can be dangerous. Use baby gates to block access to potentially dangerous areas or items—and items you would rather not be chewed. 
  • Dog bed and blanket — Supervise your puppy in their bed or crate initially, to ensure they do not nibble on their bed or blankets. 
  • Chew toys — It’s no secret that puppies like to chew. Appropriate chew toys help prevent your puppy from chewing on your furniture, shoes, and other belongings.
  • Carpet cleaner — Let’s get real—potty training can be a slow process, and chances are your puppy is going to have some accidents. Accept this as a reality, and invest in a quality carpet cleaner. You can thank us later. 

Find a qualified puppy trainer

Puppies are similar to children and rely on you to provide them with boundaries, and to teach them appropriate behavior through positive reinforcement. But, puppies don’t come with training manuals, and knowing where to start can be difficult. One option is to find a qualified dog trainer who can not only train your puppy, but also teach you training skills to continue the training process. Most trainers offer private instruction and group classes. Many pet supply stores offer puppy classes that provide socialization and behavioral training. Group classes are great for you to meet and bond with other puppy parents in the trenches, and for your puppy to make friends. 

Your veterinarian can provide you with tips for choosing a trainer, and may also recommend area trainers. A good trainer should address the following:

  • Inappropriate chewing
  • Nipping and biting
  • Jumping
  • Potty training
  • Crate training
  • Leash manners
  • Meeting new people and animals
  • Mental and physical enrichment 

Practice patience and consistency with your puppy

Training is an essential part of being a responsible dog owner, and lays the foundation for your puppy to enjoy a comfortable, safe, happy life. Before deciding to bring a puppy home, ask yourself if you can commit to their training. You will need time, patience and a consistent approach to teach your pup the skills they will need to live their best life. But, along the way, you and your puppy will be building a strong bond.

Our team at Harbor Pines Veterinary Center is here to help you navigate all the ups and downs of puppyhood. Bring in your new puppy for a visit, and let us welcome you both to our family. Contact us to schedule your new puppy’s first wellness appointment.

5 Interesting Facts About Arthritis and Pets

Most of us are familiar with the term “arthritis.” Chances are, you know someone who suffers from this painful joint disease. But, did you know our pets can develop this condition, too? Arthritis, which refers to pain and inflammation of one or more joints, affects pets worldwide—approximately 15 million dogs in the United States alone head to their veterinarian each year because of signs of joint pain, lameness, and stiffness. Here’s what you need to know about this debilitating condition, and how your furry friend may be affected.

#1: Pets don’t typically develop the same type of arthritis as people 

When we think about arthritis in people, most of us think of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks its own joints. While this condition, known as immune-mediated polyarthritis in dogs, does occur, a different arthritis type is far more common in dogs and cats. Osteoarthritis occurs when the joint structures gradually degenerate, leading to cartilage loss, thickened joint capsules, and new bone formation (i.e., bone spurs). This combination of events eventually leads to clinical signs in our pets.

#2: Arthritis pain in pets isn’t always obvious 

Osteoarthritis is a highly inflammatory, painful disease. But, thanks to their stoic nature, dogs and cats aren’t always apt to show they are in pain, likely because of an instinctive mechanism that originally protected them from wild predators. While this may have been beneficial before dogs and cats became domesticated, masking pain only makes it harder for their owners to help them. Keeping an eye out for subtle discomfort indicators is essential for pet owners, as once obvious signs like limping are present, pain has often become severe.

Pets who are suffering from arthritic pain may pace, take a long time to find a comfortable position, be hesitant to rise or use stairs, and may have appetite changes. You’ll notice they are less willing to jump into vehicles, and they walk more slowly. Cats may lose interest in climbing, or finding high spaces. Posturing for urination or defecation may become difficult, and you may notice a decrease in hind limb musculature (i.e., atrophy). Your Harbor Pines Veterinary Clinic veterinarian is skilled in picking up subtle pain signs in pets, so ensure you always bring in your pet for their annual or semi-annual examinations. 

#3: Arthritis doesn’t occur only in older pets

While osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that generally worsens with age, wear, and tear, pets as young as a year old can develop joint inflammation—usually because of an underlying orthopedic condition. A 2013 U.K. study found that dogs between 3 and 6 years of age were 400 percent more likely to receive an arthritis diagnosis than those between 1 and 3 years old. Though this correlates with an increased likelihood of developing arthritis with age, learning that dogs as young as 3 are already at-risk was a shock. Knowing your pet’s risk factors are key in monitoring for arthritis signs, and beginning preventive measures early is best. Talk to the veterinary team at Harbor Pines Veterinary Clinic to discuss your pet’s risk factors, and to see if they require a special diet or supplement as part of a preventive regimen. 

#4: Some pets are more prone than others to arthritis

Most pets suffering from arthritis have an underlying orthopedic condition that predisposes them to degenerative joint disease. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, common ailments in dogs that contribute to arthritis include cranial cruciate disease, which  equates to the anterior cruciate ligament in people, hip and elbow dysplasia, and knee cap dislocation. A smaller percentage of pets develop osteoarthritis simply because of age and/or a genetic predisposition. Perpetuating factors for arthritis development in pets include obesity, gender, diet, and exercise habits. In many pets, a combination of factors contribute to morbidity. 

#5: Arthritis cannot be reversed, but many treatment options are available

Osteoarthritis cannot be cured because of its degenerative nature. Fortunately, because of veterinary advancements, pets can be kept comfortable while disease progression is slowed. Anti-inflammatory drugs are an osteoarthritis treatment mainstay, and newer options make these medications safer and more tolerable. A healthy diet and regular exercise are fundamental for keeping joints supple and in good shape. Certain supplements, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and fish oil, may protect cartilage, and other disease-modifying agents may aid in joint support. Chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, and cold laser therapy are other alternative options for arthritis pet patients. Talk to our veterinary team about the therapies best for your pet. 

At Harbor Pines Veterinary Clinic, we know arthritis, and we know pets. Contact us today to get answers to your arthritis questions, or to set up a consultation for your pet. We want to help your arthritic pet.

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

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

What is cognitive dysfunction in pets?

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

What are cognitive dysfunction signs in pets?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feline Viral Infections: The Dangerous Triple Threat

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

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

#1: Feline infectious peritonitis in cats

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

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

#2: Feline leukemia virus in cats

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

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

#3: Feline immunodeficiency virus in cats

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

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

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

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