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 info@hillandharbourvets.com.

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 info@hillandharbourvets.com 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 Pexels.com

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!

Tips for Making Those Trips to the Vet Purr-fect


According to a recent survey of pet owners, the stress of taking your pet to the veterinarian’s office is a major reason for not seeking veterinary care, particularly with regard to those frisky kitties of ours. However, because your pet needs regular preventive medical care to ensure optimal health and quality of life, here are some tips to ease the process:

Kennel/Crate. Introduce your pet to a crate or kennel before it comes time to use it to travel to the veterinary practice. Once your pet accepts and uses the crate, the crate can be used to transport him to and from the veterinary practice.

Hiding places.  Some pets feel more comfortable when they can hide. Provide a blanket in the crate for your pet to hide under. You can also use a blanket to cover the crate and give her a sense of protection.

Car rides.  Consider placing your pet’s crate on the floor of the front seat to provide a visual barrier as well as calming white noise from the engine running. Safety belts specially adapted for dogs are also available. If your pet does get car sick, speak with your veterinarian about strategies to alleviate the symptoms.

Pheromone spray.  A pheromone is a species-specific chemical naturally released by your cat/dog. These naturally occurring pheromones are available from your veterinarian, verified online pet pharmacies, and pet stores. Spray the pheromones on your pet’s bedding or on a bandanna to be worn around his neck one to two hours before coming to the veterinary practice.

Practice sessions.  Call ahead to your veterinary practice to find out when there is a quiet time to visit. During the visit, your pet can calmly walk around the practice and even enter the exam room. Use treats and positive praise with your pet as you tour around.

Distractions.  Bring your pet’s favorite treats/toys to give them something positive to focus on during the visit.

Choose a comfortable place.  If your pet is nervous when you arrive at the veterinary practice, be sure to find a quiet seat away from other pets. If necessary, you can call ahead to request that you and your pet be placed in an exam room right away to minimize stress.

The Bottom Line. Taking your pet to the veterinarian’s office should be a fun interactive experience. If you feel something could be done differently in the practice to make your pet more comfortable, do not hesitate to discuss these concerns with us. We want to make your pet’s experience positive so that we can deliver the highest quality of care.

Hill & Harbour Veterinary Center is a small animal general practice, specializing in preventative care, surgery, dental health, and emergency medicine.
Contact Us:
500 Main Street, East Greenwich, RI 02818
(401) 398-7807 ~ info@hillandharbourvets.com