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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.

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.

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

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

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

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

Keep calm and prepare to medicate your pet

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

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

Change your pet’s picture

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

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

Smells suspicious to your pet

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

Pills and tablets for pets

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

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

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

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

Liquid medication for pets

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

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

Don’t be afraid to ask for help medicating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heartworm disease in pets

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

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

Lyme disease in pets

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

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

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

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

Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis in pets

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

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

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

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

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