Cold Weather Pet Care

You’re probably already aware of the dangers that pets face during the hot summer months, but did you know there are just as many dangers during the cold winter months? Pets are susceptible to frost bite and hypothermia just like we are and can be injured from chemicals that are used to combat the freezing temperatures. But as always, a little bit of research and planning can help prevent injuries from occurring.

These 5 tips will help keep your pet safe and healthy during the winter months.

  1. Know the limits: Know what your pet’s limits are for cold weather and adjust accordingly. Just like people, pets’ cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and health. You will probably need to shorten your dog’s walks in very cold weather to protect you both from weather-associated health risks. Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be more prone to slipping and falling. Long-haired or thick-coated dogs tend to be more cold-tolerant, but are still at risk in cold weather. Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection, and short-legged pets may become cold faster because their bellies and bodies are more likely to come into contact with snow-covered ground. Pets with diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) may have a harder time regulating their body temperature, and may be more susceptible to problems from temperature extremes. The same goes for very young and very old pets. If you need help determining your pet’s temperature limits, consult your veterinarian.
  2. Check the paws: Check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of ice ball accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes. During walks, your dog’s feet, legs and belly may pick up de-icers, antifreeze, or other chemicals that could be toxic. When you get back inside, wipe down (or wash) your pet’s feet, legs and belly to remove these chemicals and reduce the risk that your dog will be poisoned after (s)he licks them off of his/her feet or fur. Consider using pet-safe de-icers on your property to protect your pets and the others in your neighborhood.
  3. Make some noise: A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor and feral cats, but it’s deadly. Check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to encourage feline hitchhikers to abandon their roost under the hood.
  4. Stay inside. Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are more resistant than people to cold weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue. Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods in below-freezing weather. If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia. Frostbite is harder to detect, and may not be fully recognized until a few days after the damage is done. If you suspect your pet has hypothermia or frostbite, consult your veterinarian immediately.
  5. Be prepared: Cold weather also brings the risks of severe winter weather, blizzards and power outages. Prepare a disaster/emergency kit, and include your pet in your plans. Have enough food, water and medicine (including any prescription medications as well as heartworm and flea/tick preventives) on hand to get through at least 5 days.

We hope these tips have been helpful, but please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions at (401) 398-7807 or

You Got a New Pet for the Holidays, Now What?

There is so much planning that goes into adding a new pet to the family. What type of pet, the breed, where to get the pet from, housing or bedding needs, food and more. After all this careful planning you may find yourself asking, what do I do once I get the pet?

There can be so many differing opinions out there on the internet that can lead to confusion. We always recommend referring to reputable sources and websites, and of course your pet’s veterinarian. To help you set your new pet up for success, the doctors at Hill & Harbour Veterinary Center have put together a list of their top tips of what to do now that you have added a new member to the family.

New Cats

Dr. Packard, our resident cat whisperer and the proponent for our certification as a Feline Friendly Practice (which we hope to have in early 2021), shared her top tips for ensuring your new kitty is off to the very best start.

1.  Like puppies, kittens need socialization too!  The socialization stage for kittens begins very early at about three weeks of age and ends between 12 and 16 weeks of age.  Kittens should be gently handled for at least 5 minutes each day throughout the socialization period to bond with humans and develop into friendly, calm, and well-adjusted cats.  Every effort should be made to avoid adverse experiences
during this time which can lead to a chronic fearful response.

2.  Teach your kitten early to love her carrier.  This will save a lot of frustration when she needs to be transported as well as reducing her anxiety when traveling to veterinary visits.  Please visit our website here for instructions on helping your cat become comfortable with her carrier and tips for picking the best carrier.  

3.  Environmental enrichment is important to prevent kittens and cats from becoming bored, which can lead to maladaptive behaviors such as overeating and litter box issues.  Places to climb such as cat trees, toys that satisfy their natural desire to hunt, and acceptable substrates for scratching are all important to keep cats happy. Visit Ohio State University’s Indoor Cat Initiative for information about creating an enriched environment for your kitten.

4.  It’s natural for cats to scratch! But you can live harmoniously with your cat and still maintain nice furniture by enriching your home with items that your cat can scratch.  Visit the American Association of Feline Practitioners for information about preventing or stopping inappropriate scratching.

5. Cats are territorial, so care must be taken when introducing a new kitten or cat to other household cats.  Click here for step-by-step instructions on making these introductions go smoothly.

New Exotic Pets

Dr. Snow is our resident small mammal and exotic veterinarian (yes, he sees cats and dogs too). He offers a huge wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to these pets. Now that Dr. Snow is a member of our practice, we are able to offer appointments for a variety of pocket pets and birds.

1) Pocket pets are a large category of small, household mammals including (but not limited to) guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, mice/rats, chinchillas, hedgehogs and gerbils. Although we group them together like this, each of these animals has very specific requirements and needs. These animals make wonderful pets and companions and are typically low-maintenance.
2) Small pets require unique housing and diets and have very different requirements between species.  For example, guinea pigs are similar to humans and primates, and require vitamin C in their diet on a daily basis.  Improper caging and diets (referred to as husbandry) can often lead to disease over a period of time.  Researching what your pet needs before purchasing it, is important to make sure the proper care is provided.  Your veterinarian can also help you make sure the husbandry you are providing is
appropriate for your new pet.
3) Just like our dogs and cats, pocket pets also require routine veterinary care.  Annual visits and exams are an essential part of preventative medicine for these animals.  Many of these species are experts at hiding pain and disease, making regular checkups an important part of their care. For more information and resources about small pet care, visit this website.

New Dogs

Dr. Schoen rounds out our list with his top tips for new puppies. Whether you are a new dog owner, or you haven’t had a puppy in a while, these 5 tips are sure to help make your puppy’s transition into your family a smooth one.

1) You should have your new puppy seen by us within the first 14 days of adoption so that we can answer any of your questions that you may have, to ensure that they are healthy, and to vaccinate them in a timely fashion.

2) Prepare yourself to find a trainer ASAP.  ALL new dogs (and owners) can use professional advice on how to ensure that their pet remains happy, well trained, and anxiety free.  The sooner you start the training process the better the outcome.
3) Keep your new pet isolated from other pets in the household until we have seen your newest addition and have ensured that your pet is healthy and free of infections and parasites.

4) Ensure that your puppy is eating an AAFCO accredited (should be seen right on the food bag’s label), nutritionally complete, puppy diet that is formulated for the correctly sized (small, medium, large breed) dog.  Also ensure that you are using a proper measuring cup and following the feeding guidelines outlined on the back of the bag of food.

5) Did you know that you can watch Hill and Harbour’s NBC 10’s PetPro segments right from our website where you can see Dr. Schoen answer some of your most common veterinary questions?  Check out the various topics that he has chatted about and have all your queries answered!

Congratulations on the latest addition to your family!

Thank you for entrusting your new family member to us. We look forward to meeting your new pet and to helping you keep them healthy and happy. Wishing you and your family the very best in 2021.

5 Pet Myths: Debunked!

Is a dog’s mouth cleaner than a human’s mouth? Do cats always land on their feet? There are plenty of adages and myths surrounding our furry friends. Sometimes these
misconceptions can impact their health and lives. Let’s take a look at some common
myths about pets.

Myth 1: Dogs eat grass only when they are sick

Truth: Eating grass doesn’t always mean your dog is sick, although sometimes it does. Some dogs eat grass because they like the taste or are trying to fulfill a nutritional need. It could also mean that they are bored or they are using it to help with digestion.

Myth 2: Cats always land on their feet

Truth: Cats do possess a “righting reflex” that helps them correct their bodies when they fall, however the height of the fall will affect how they land. A low height could result in a cat landing on their side and a higher height can cause serious injury.

Myth 3: A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth

Truth: A dog’s mouth contains almost as much bacteria as a human’s mouth. Aside from bacteria, there are parasites that can live in a dog’s saliva. We would not recommend allowing your dog to lick you on the face, give mouth kisses, or share food. Always wash your hands after your dog has licked them.

Myth 4: Dogs are colorblind

Truth: Dogs can perceive color, but not every color, and as a result, they do not see color as vibrantly as we do. Dogs can only see shades of blue, yellow, and green and their vision is blurrier in brighter light. However, they make up for their sight disadvantages with their incredibly strong sense of smell.

Myth 5: It’s ok to skip flea and tick preventatives during the winter

Truth: Fleas can survive in temperatures as low as 33 degrees and ticks can survive in temperatures as low as 40 degrees. With our unpredictable New England weather, temperatures can fluctuate, which bring these critters out of hibernation. It’s not worth the risk of disease transmission or flea infestation when you skip doses.

We hope we were able to clarify some of these common myths regarding your pets. If you ever have a question about your pet’s health or behavior, please contact Hill & Harbour Veterinary Center at (401) 398-7807 or at

Fall Dangers and Your Pet

There is a chill in the air, the kids are back to school (virtual or in-person), we’ve put our white pants away and started unpacking our sweaters and sweatshirts.  Pumpkin spice is everywhere you turn and before long the leaves are going to change color and start falling.  Autumn is a favorite season for many people, but it can come with some common pet emergencies.


Certain types of mushrooms can be toxic for our pets and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, tremors, seizures, liver and kidney disease.  It can be difficult to identify which mushrooms are toxic or safe, so we recommend removing any mushrooms that may be growing in your yard.  If you walk your pet, be hypervigilant for any mushrooms you could encounter.


Acorns contain gallotannins, which if ingested in large quantities, can cause significant GI issues such as vomiting or diarrhea, lethargy and abdominal pain.  Because of their size there is a risk of causing an obstruction in the GI tract.  Another thing to consider is if your pet steps on an acorn in the yard it can injure their paw or get stuck between their paw pads.  Raking the acorns from your yard will eliminate this risk.


A common fall chore is to monitor and refill antifreeze levels in your vehicle’s radiator.  Dogs and cats are attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze that may be left in puddles on the ground.  The lethal dose is low and toxic potential is high when ingested.  Because the ethylene glycol is absorbed so quickly through the GI tract, that decontamination and treatment must be initiated within 3 hours of ingestion for cats and within 8 hours of ingestion for dogs, for a good prognosis. Signs of early ingestion include acting drunk or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy.

Be sure to quickly clean up any spills.  You can use cat litter, sand or a professional grade absorbent.  Once the coolant has been absorbed, put on rubber gloves and wipe up the absorbent material with paper towels.  Place the paper towels into a trash bag and immediately place it in a garbage can.

Compost Piles

Composting has become very popular recently, however poorly contained or maintained compost piles can be dangerous for your pet.  With some exceptions such as raisins, grapes or xylitol containing product, most food put into compost bins aren’t directly poisonous to pets. Other compost risks include foreign body obstruction from food items such as fruit pits, watermelon rinds and corn cobs.

The process of decomposition, however, may result in the development of toxic material. Mold that grows on or in food products such as cheese, dog food and bread in compost piles may contain tremorgenic mycotoxins, which are harmful to animals. Signs of agitation, hypersalivation, elevated body temperature, panting, vomiting and ataxia are seen anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours of ingestion. These signs can progress to severe hyperthermia, tremors and seizures that require immediate veterinary care for the animal to survive.


Mothballs can be toxic when ingested.  Mothballs come in three different formulations: naphthalene, paradichlorobenzene and camphor. Of these, naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene are the most common, with naphthalene generally considered to be the most toxic. Clinical signs include vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain and seizures.  Mothballs do not show up on x-rays which can make them difficult to diagnose.  If you use mothballs, make sure to keep them out of reach of your pets.  

Hopefully this information will make you more aware of possible fall hazards.  Our goal is to always keep our patients healthy and happy. So with this newfound knowledge, go and enjoy the fall season with safety and caution.

If you ever have any questions regarding your pet, please do not hesitate to reach out to Hill & Harbour Veterinary Center at (401) 398-7807 or

Why is my Dog so Itchy!?!?

One of the most common calls we receive during the summer is related to itchy dogs.  It seems like this time of year is the height of skin problems in our area.

An itchy dog can present in several different ways, including scratching, rubbing, licking, hair loss, body odor and ear problems. So, that brings us to the question…

Why is my dog so itchy?

  • Fleas or Mites– Fleas are more abundant during the hot summer months.  Proteins in the flea’s saliva can cause an allergic response in some dogs.  Year-round flea and tick prevention is recommended to prevent a flea infestation.
  • Staph, Yeast or Bacterial infections- Skin infections are often accompanied by hair loss, scaling and odor.  Excessive scratching, rubbing or licking of the feet is common in dogs with yeast or bacterial infections.  An anti-biotic or anti-fungal medication would be recommended in this situation.
  • Food Allergies- The most common food allergens are animal proteins.  If your veterinarian suspects food allergies, they may recommend a food elimination trial or a veterinary prescription diet.
  • Seasonal Allergies- Seasonal pollen fluctuations can cause an allergic response in dogs who are hypersensitive to these things.
  • Environmental Allergies- Some dogs can be allergic to factors in the environment such as dust mites, certain grasses, trees, molds and more.

Successful treatment relies on finding the underlying cause of your pet’s signs and symptoms.  Prior to your appointment it is important to keep track of your pet’s symptoms.  The doctor will want to know what symptoms your pet is experiencing, are they licking or scratching?  How long have these symptoms been present?  Are there times when the symptoms appear worse or better?  All of this information will help the doctor to determine what is causing your pet’s problem. 

The veterinarian will develop an individualized treatment plan that will address your pet’s current symptoms and also the underlying cause.  Treatments options can vary between medicated shampoos, steroids, allergy medications, antibiotics and more.  In some cases, allergy testing is warranted. The ultimate goal is to get your pet comfortable and healthy. If your pet is experiencing itchiness or skin issues, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Hill & Harbour Veterinary Center at (401) 398-7807 or

July 4th Safety Tips for Your Pets

Parties, fireworks, barbecues, and other 4th of July traditions can be great fun for people but for pets it can be scary and downright dangerous. Did you know that more pets are lost on the Fourth of July than any other date? Fireworks and other noisy celebrations can scare pets causing them to run away. In addition, holiday foods and beverages can cause stomach upset, or even toxicity, and summer heat can be harmful.

By taking certain precautions, you can ensure your pet will have a happy and safe holiday.

In Advance:

  • Make sure your pets have identification tags with up to date information on them. 
  • If your pet is microchipped, check that your contact information in the microchip registry is up to date.
  • If your pet isn’t microchipped, speak with your veterinarian about this valuable tool.
  • Take a current photo of your pet.
  • Make sure your yard is secure.

Safety During 4th of July Celebrations:

  • Leave your pets at home if you go to parties, firework celebrations, or parades.  Unfamiliar situations, crowds, and noises can scare pets increasing the risk of them running away. 
  • Consider putting your pets in an escape proof room or crate during parties.  If this isn’t an option, place signs on gates to remind guests to secure gates after use.
  • Avoid feeding pets table scraps and ensure your guests don’t either. 
  • Too much sun/heat can be dangerous for pets.  Keep them inside if it is extremely hot and humid.  Make sure there are shady areas for them and plenty of water.  Knowing the signs that a pet is overheating is important as well.
  • Keep glow sticks, sparklers, fireworks, and skewers away from pets. Decorations should also be out of reach for curious pets.

Safety During Fireworks:

  • Keep your pets inside.  Sudden, loud noises can easily frighten your pet, causing them to run away.
  • Provide a quiet place for your pet to help them feel secure.  Playing soothing music or putting a tv on can help muffle the sound fireworks. Closing curtains or blinds will help minimize the flashes.
  • Provide distractions such as toys or treats.  A kong toy stuffed with their favorite treat may help keep their mind busy and distract them from fireworks.
  • Walk your dog earlier in the day, before fireworks start. 
  • As hard as it will be, do not reward anxious behavior with extra attention. Offering extra cuddles or soothing your pet will only reinforce their fear.
  • If your pet wants to hide, let them.  

Safety After Celebrations:

  • Check your yard for any debris from fireworks before letting your pet outside.  Even if you didn’t set off fireworks, they can make their way into your yard. 
  • Check your yard for any food scraps or other debris that could be harmful to your pet.  

If your pet still becomes extremely anxious or afraid during these celebrations even with trying these suggestions, they may need special medication to help them relax.  Our veterinarians are happy to discuss your pet’s situation and tailor a treatment plan, specifically for them. Contact us today!

Social Distancing and Exercising Your Pet

In times of social distancing, our activity options have to change but that doesn’t mean exercising our pets should stop. If your outdoor space is limited, you can still have fun at home while staying active with your pet inside. Puzzle toys, pet-safe laser pointers, feather wands, and even a condensed game of fetch or chase can all be utilized as exercise in your home. Teaching a new trick to your pet is also a good way to exercise both your pet’s body and mind.

If you’re able to take your pet outside, be sure to keep him on a leash to prevent any unnecessary close contact with other people or animals. You should avoid areas where others congregate as well as dog parks and dog waste receptacles to limit your exposure to surfaces that may harbor infectious germs. In addition to their intended use, dog waste bags act as good temporary gloves if you have to touch doorknobs and handles when taking your pet outside.

Exercising is a great way for both you and your pet to stay healthy so don’t let social distancing put an end to it!

Do not hesitate to contact your friends at Hill & Harbour Veterinary Center with any questions or concerns regarding your pet.

Is Bad Breath Normal for My Pet?

Celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month by learning the facts about bad breath and what it can mean for your pet.

It turns out that chronic bad breath or halitosis is NOT normal for pets! It can actually be an indication of a problem, such as dental disease or another underlying medical issue.

Did you know that 70% of cats and 80% of dogs have some form of periodontal disease by the age of 3?!

What is dental disease?
Dental disease is inflammation of the teeth and gums caused by a build up of plaque and tartar. This occurs both above and below the gum line. When tartar and plaque make its way below the gum line, they give off toxins which leads to bone and tissue damage. Pets with periodontal disease are possibly at a higher risk of being diagnosed with heart disease and other forms of bodily organ damage.

Signs of dental disease

  • Discoloration or build up on teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Eye swelling
  • Discomfort, sensitivity, lumps or bleeding around the mouth
  • Gum redness or inflammation
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Difficulty eating or loss of appetite
  • Drooling

How you can help your pet have healthy teeth and gums?
Regular check-ups with your veterinarian are the best way to promote oral health in your pet. At Hill & Harbour Veterinary Center, we examine your pet’s mouth during his annual and semi-annual examinations to identify any development of dental disease. During these visits we make suggestions on how to keep your pet’s mouth healthy, including:

  • Daily tooth brushing
  • Specialized dental diets
  • Water additives
  • Dental chews
  • Specialized chew toys
  • Dental cleaning under anesthesia

A great resource to visit is the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) website for a list of recommended products and more information on periodontal disease.

At Hill & Harbour Veterinary Center, we want you and your pet to be as healthy and happy as they can be. We will work with you to make the best decisions for your pet, lifestyle and budget.

If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s oral health, please give us a call at (401) 398-7807 or email to set up an appointment.

By Kathrin Umbenhaur, Client Service Representative
Hill & Harbour Veterinary Center

Keeping Your Pets Safe During the Holidays

The holidays are a time of joy, time with family and friends and exchanging good tidings. The last thing that you want is for this to be a time spent in the emergency room with your pet. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the holidays and keep your pet safe.

  • High fat foods, such as ham, gravy, butter and desserts, may cause inflammation of your dog’s pancreas. Pancreatitis causes intense abdominal pain and vomiting and requires hospitalization to recover. Keep foods securely sealed and enclosed in a high space or the refrigerator. Secure the lid on the trash can to avoid garbage raiding.
  • Bones: chewing on bones, particularly turkey bones, can cause splintering. Once swallowed, the splintered bones can cause trauma to the intestinal tract, requiring surgery. Ham bones, while they tend to not splinter, are hard and can fracture teeth when your dog chews on them.
  • Onions and onion powder: in large enough quantities can cause a sudden onset of anemia.
  • Foreign objects: such as string (used to tie the turkey), skewers, plastic bags and turkey poppers. Your pet does not have self restraint or the common sense to avoid these objects that drip of meat juices.
  • Toxins: Mistletoe and holly are toxic plants. Caution with snow globes as they contain toxic antifreeze, which is highly toxic to pets.
  • Tree:
    – Secure the tree to avoid the tree falling onto your pet if they decide to climb.
    – Ornaments should be kept on higher branches to avoid breaking, eating and destruction.
    – Tinsel should not be used as pets love to play with it and if eaten, can cause serious injury to the intestinal tract and require surgery to repair.
    – If you put chemicals in the water of your tree, cover the bowl so your pet does not drink from it.
    – Sweep up pine needles to avoid health problems.
  • Maintain routines: With all of the people in the house, some pets may become nervous with the change in routine. Provide your pet with a retreat space to unwind from it all. Be sure to keep normal routines especially exercise for your pet.
  • Watch that door: If you expect a large number of people in your home, be sure to watch the door to make sure that there are no unexpected escapes.

If you want to offer your pet something special too, choose alternative treats such as a new toy or extra bonding and exercise time. At the end of the day, you will be thankful you did.

As always, if you are concerned about your pet’s health or behavior do not hesitate to contact us.

Wishing you and your family all the best during this holiday season,
Your Friends at Hill & Harbour Veterinary Center

Thanksgiving and Your Pets

Photo by Attila Jozsa on

The smells of Thanksgiving fill your home and everyone’s mouth begins to water … including your pet’s! This time of year brings out the counter surfing talents of your pets. Taking care to keep irresistible flavors away from your pets palate prevents unwanted illness. Many pets receive small amounts of trimmings from the kitchen throughout the year; however, Thanksgiving tends to bring out an overabundance in everyone. Here are some food items to be aware of:

  • High fat foods, such as ham, gravy, butter, and desserts, may cause inflammation of your dog’s pancreas. Pancreatitis causes intense abdominal pain and vomiting and requires hospitalization to recover. Keep foods securely sealed and enclosed in a high space or the refrigerator. Secure the lid on the trash can to avoid garbage raiding.
  • Bones: chewing on bones, particularly turkey bones, can cause splintering. Once swallowed, the splintered bones can cause trauma to the intestinal tract, requiring surgery. Ham bones, while they tend to not splinter, are hard and can fracture teeth during chewing.
  • Onions and onion powder: in large enough quantities can cause a sudden onset of anemia.
  • Foreign objects: such as string (used to tie the turkey), skewers, plastic bags and turkey poppers. Your pet does not have self-restraint or the common sense to avoid these objects that drip of meat juices.

Thanksgiving is not only a time for sharing food – it is a time to share with family and friends. If you expect a large number of people in your home, be sure to watch the door to make sure that there are no unexpected escapes. With all of the people in the house, some pets may become nervous with the change in routine. Provide your pet with a retreat space to unwind from it all.

If you want to offer your pet something special too, choose alternative treats such as a new toy or extra bonding and exercise time. At the end of the day, you will be thankful you did.

As always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns this holiday season.

Happy Holidays from your friends at Hill and Harbour Veterinary Center!