How to Spot Signs of Pain in Your Pet

Pets are masters at hiding any vulnerabilities, so it can be tough to tell when they are in pain. September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, so do your pet a favor and learn the following common signs of pain to get them help when they need it.

signs of pain

1: Your pet is slowing down or acting lethargic

Pets commonly “slow down” as they age, and many pet owners chalk it up to normal aging changes. However, slowing down, exercising less, and appearing lethargic can be signs of pain. Older pets who slow down typically are affected by osteoarthritis and show their pain through decreased activity.

2: Your pet is avoiding interaction

If a pet is in pain, they won’t want to spend much time with their family. Cats, in particular, will hide, while a dog may lie in their bed and refuse to be touched or participate in playtime.

3: Your pet’s mood or behavior has changed

Pain can make pets irritable and grumpy, especially if they are touched on sensitive areas, like hips, legs, and the lower back. If your pet growls, hisses, or snaps at you when you pet them, they may be in pain.

4: Your pet is not eating as much

While some pets will eat no matter how much pain they feel—think your stereotypical
Labrador—others will turn up their noses at their normal meal. They may be tempted by home-cooked meals or canned food, but their appetite will continue to decrease until their pain is managed.

5: Your pet’s respiratory rate has increased

A pet will often breathe faster when they are uncomfortable. They may pant heavily, even while at rest, or they may take short, shallow breaths. Any change in your pet’s breathing is cause for a veterinary exam.

Signs of pain in pets can be vague and subtle, making them difficult to detect. If you think your pet is in pain, don’t delay. Contact our team to schedule an appointment for a diagnosis and treatment.

Back-to-School Time for Pets: 3 Transition Tips

Making the switch from summer to school can be rough for all family members, four-legged ones included. To help make the back-to-school transition easier for your pet, give the following tips a try.


Set up your back-to-school schedule ahead of time

Going from a leisurely wake-up time of 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. is a big adjustment, even for pets who have the entire day to snooze. Instead of abruptly switching the breakfast and walking schedule on the first day of school, ease into a new routine. Wake up a bit earlier each day to help your pet become acclimated to an earlier breakfast time. In addition, ensure they have plenty of time to eat and digest prior to that last walk before you head out the door to school and work. This may mean you need to wake up 15 to 30 minutes before the rest of the household to give your furry pal time to eat and eliminate.

Provide entertainment for your pet while you’re gone

After a summer filled with fun family activities, your pet is likely to become bored when left home alone while the kids are back in school. Provide entertainment to ward off problem behaviors like destructive chewing, excessive barking, or inappropriate elimination. Treat puzzles are a great way to keep your pet occupied for an extended period of time. These puzzles can be used with canned or dry food or a variety of fresh veggies, fruits, and other healthy snacks. You also can purchase interactive toys like a ball launcher that lobs balls down the hallway for your dog to chase or a robotic mouse that tries to outwit your cat. Leaving the TV or radio on can help break the silence, too, or you can hire a pet sitter to spend time with your furry pal.

Incorporate plenty of exercise into your daily routine

Since your family won’t have as much free time, exercise your pet intentionally. A pet who receives plenty of exercise is less likely to find their own mischief throughout the day. Plus, it provides an extra bonding opportunity when you’re short on time.

As kids get physicals and vaccinations before heading back to school, your pet also needs their annual checkup and preventive care. Contact our team to schedule an appointment.

How Do Pet Vaccinations Protect My Pet?

Your Questions Answered

Although you know your pet needs vaccinations yearly, you may not fully understand what they protect against, how they work, and which ones are necessary. Our team answers these common questions about your pet’s vaccines to clear up any confusion.

pet vaccinations
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on

Question: How do vaccines work to protect my pet?

Answer: Vaccines are designed to trigger your pet’s protective immune response to prepare them for future immunity against infectious diseases. When your pet is given a vaccine, their body produces antibodies that will reappear when a pathogenic threat reappears.

Question: What vaccinations does my pet need?

Answer: Vaccinations are divided into two categories: core and non-core. Core vaccinations are those that every pet needs, whereas non-core vaccinations are given based on a pet’s lifestyle and exposure risk. Common vaccinations for dogs generally include rabies, distemper, adenovirus-2 (i.e., hepatitis), and parvovirus.

Canine non-core vaccinations include bordetella (i.e., kennel cough), leptospirosis, Lyme disease, parainfluenza, and canine influenza.

For cats, core vaccinations include rabies, calicivirus, panleukopenia, and feline herpesvirus-1.

Feline non-core vaccinations include feline leukemia virus (although all cats should have an initial series) and chlamydophila.

Instead of giving every pet the same set of vaccines, our team will discuss your furry pal’s lifestyle with you to determine what exposure risk they have and which vaccinations would be best.

Question: Why does my pet need vaccinations if they rarely go outside?

Answer: Do you have a house cat who never steps a paw outside? Or, maybe your tiny Chihuahua is trained to use puppy pads, so they rarely venture outdoors. Despite a decreased exposure risk, these pets also need preventive vaccinations. Wildlife can sneak into attics or basements and expose your pet to rabies or other transmissible diseases. You also may need to board your pet in an emergency situation, and boarding facilities require pets to be current on vaccinations to protect not only them but their other pet guests.

Vaccinations cause few, if any, side effects for most pets and generally protect against far worse diseases. Contact our team for questions about which vaccinations would be best for your pet.

Preventive Screenings for Senior Pets

4 Reasons Why Your Senior Pets Need Early Detection Screening Tests

senior pets

It’s no secret that our pets do not live long enough. Along with a shorter lifespan—in relation to their human family members—come rapid health changes, particularly in their later years. Although young pets can develop health issues seemingly overnight, it is much more common in senior pets. We can closely monitor their health and spot subtle changes by performing regular early detection screening tests during your senior pet’s preventive care appointments. Here are four common conditions we can more successfully treat in older pets with early detection.

1: Osteoarthritis in pets

Although osteoarthritis is commonly associated with senior pets, it can occur in much younger cats and dogs. Through regular screening exams that include a gait evaluation, orthopedic examination, and lifestyle questionnaire, we can determine what course to take to prevent or manage this degenerative joint disease. By proactively preventing osteoarthritis and taking action at the first signs, we can preserve joint cartilage and keep your pet mobile and active.

2: Kidney disease in pets

Many older cats develop kidney disease, although this condition can be difficult to diagnose until roughly three-quarters of kidney function is lost. At that point, blood work changes can be seen; however, a specific kidney function test can be performed on pets to detect earlier changes in the kidneys. Including this test as part of your senior pet’s preventive screenings can help diagnose kidney failure at its earliest—and most treatable—stage.

3: Dental disease in pets

Almost all pets over age 3 suffer from dental disease, and senior pets often have gingivitis and loose and infected teeth. Oral bacteria from dental disease can travel to the heart and kidneys, causing systemic infection. Frequent oral health exams can help us monitor your senior pet’s dental health and prevent infection and pain.

4: Cancer in pets

Various types of cancer that affect bones, blood, skin, or organs can be detected through preventive screening tests before signs and the condition have progressed. The more advanced a cancer is, the more difficult it is to treat, especially if it has had a chance to spread to other body parts or organs.

Has your furry pal reached senior status? It may be time to schedule more frequent wellness visits, including preventive screening tests. Contact our team to schedule an appointment.

Lost Pet? Find Them with 4 Simple Steps

More pets go missing over the July Fourth holiday than at any other time, so if your furry pal is afraid of fireworks, learn how to find them if they take off in a panic. Follow these four steps for the most effective ways to find a lost pet.

lost pet
Photo by Blue Bird on

Step 1: Share your pet’s picture on social media

Who isn’t on social media nowadays? Even at work, you likely have a large portion of your network scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. Post the clearest, most recent photo you have of your pet on all of your social media pages. Include a description and the location where they were last seen. Also, share the post in lost pet groups, buy and sell groups, and neighborhood chat pages. Finally, encourage your network to share your post to increase the chances of it being seen by someone who has seen your pet.

Step 2: Contact local animal shelters and veterinary hospitals

If someone picks up a pet on the run, they may take them to an animal shelter or veterinary hospital. Here, they will scan your pet for a microchip and hold them for an owner to reclaim. Contact every shelter and clinic near your home to see if your pet has turned up. Finally, email a picture and description to each facility.

Step 3: Enlist family and friends to comb your neighborhood

Nothing beats a dedicated search party to comb the neighborhood. Go armed with your pet’s favorite treats and toys—think smelly snacks and squeaky toys. Knock on every door, calling your pet’s name as you go. Listen for yelps, whimpers, and cries, as your pet may be hurt or stuck somewhere.

Step 4: Contact your pet’s microchip registration company

Your pet’s microchip registration company may have a service that issues a lost pet poster to the area’s veterinary hospitals and animal shelters. In addition, contacting the company will put out the alert that your pet is missing. Their employees likely will assist you with any available resources they have.

In honor of National Lost Pet Prevention Month, schedule an appointment with our team to have your pet microchipped to help ensure a happy reunion.

Help Cool Your Pet in the Summer Heat

Summertime is full of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, although high temperatures and humidity can make it uncomfortable for your pet. Help your furry pal beat the heat with the following tips to have a cool pet.

cool pet
Photo by Jack Geoghegan on

1: Fill up a wading pool for your pet

If you have a swimming pool, your pet may feel uncomfortable in the deep water. Give them a child’s wading pool instead to get their splash on. Fill the pool with a few inches of water, toss in some waterproof or water toys, and let your pet jump in. They’ll have a great time splashing around as they try to catch their floating toys, and they’ll stay cool at the same time, all without you worrying about chlorine or deep water.

2: Freeze “pup-sicles” for your pet

Ice cream is a fantastic way to cool off on a hot day, and, while your pet can’t share your
chocolate sundae with you, they can have their own special “pup-sicles.” Create frozen treats for your pet from their canned food, yogurt, tuna, peanut butter, or a combination of their favorite snacks. Freeze the concoction in a rubber Kong, or use a silicone ice cube tray for smaller treat portions.

3: Use water toys to play with your pet

Some pets love trying to catch running water, so hook up a sprinkler or fill up squirt guns if your pet is the sort who tries to bite the stream from the hose. Be careful to avoid shooting water directly in your pet’s face or eyes, and take a break if they become too excited.

4: Take a walk on the beach

For a fun socialization session that allows your pet to stay cool, head to a pet-friendly beach with your pal. Ensure you bring a beach umbrella for shade and plenty of fresh water because your pet shouldn’t drink from lakes and oceans. Spend a couple of hours letting your pet frolic in the waves with other pets, then head home before your furry pal gets too much sun.

Heatstroke is a serious condition that can quickly turn fatal without treatment. If your pet shows signs of overheating—excessive panting, confusion, staggering while walking—contact our team immediately for emergency care.

Adopt a Shelter Cat Month

3 Ways to Help Your New Shelter Cat Feel at Home

June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, although welcoming a new cat into your home and family is an excellent idea any time of year. However, naturally, your new feline friend may be unsure and anxious in their new surroundings. Try the following suggestions to help them quickly become a comfortable part of your family.

shelter cat

1: Give your shelter cat time to settle in

It can be scary to move somewhere new, especially for a cat. Since they cannot understand you when you tell them they are now in their forever home, be forgiving and patient as they acclimate to their new life. As a general rule of thumb, give your new cat three days to feel nervous and overwhelmed, three weeks to settle in, and three months to build trust and bond with you.

climbing tower

2: Set up a private area for your new shelter cat

Cats can be reclusive and secretive creatures, particularly in a new environment. Give your new cat a private space so they can explore at their leisure without feeling forced to interact. Provide the necessities, including:

  • Two litter boxes with different types of litter
  • Food and water dishes placed in the opposite corner of the litter boxes
  • A cat climbing tower
  • A cat scratching post
  • Cozy beds placed in the open or small spots to give your cat options
  • Cat toys

As you learn more about your new cat, you’ll be able to provide their favorites, but for now, offer
them a variety so they can pick and choose.

pets inside the house

3: Avoid immediate introductions to other pets in your household

While you may wish your new cat and current pets will become best friends at first sight, that is rarely the case. Instead, give your new cat time to settle in, then slowly introduce them through sight and smell. Erect a physical barrier to allow your pets to see each other, and swap bedding so your pets can learn each other’s scent. When your pets seem comfortable seeing and smelling each other, remove the physical barrier and let them meet on neutral ground.

Congratulations on your new cat! Ensure they are in tip-top shape by scheduling a wellness visit with our team.

Hiking and Ticks

How to Tackle Ticks Safely When Hiking with Your Pet

Nothing sends the creepy-crawlies up your spine more than spotting a tick prowling across your pet’s skin. When taking advantage of the beautiful summer weather to go hiking with your pet, help them stay safe from ticks and tick-borne illnesses by following these tips.

hiking and ticks

1: Administer year-round tick prevention to your pet

Nothing is more effective at keeping hungry ticks at bay than tick prevention. Whether you
administer a topical solution to your pet’s skin or give them a flavored chew, you’re creating a
shield against ticks and the diseases they carry.

tall grass

2: Keep your pet out of prime tick habitat when hiking

Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not fall from trees or jump great distances to latch onto you
or your pet. Instead, they “quest” for their prey, meaning they climb up the stalks of tall grasses,
weeds, and shrubs and stick their front legs out, waiting for a warm body to wander by and become a host. So, although your pooch would love to sniff around in the tall brush, keep them
to closely trimmed trails or paved paths.

3: Know how to remove ticks properly from your pet

If a tick latches onto your pet, know how to properly remove it to minimize infection
transmission. Squeezing the tick’s body can cause it to “inject” disease pathogens into your pet, so use a pair of tweezers to gently grasp the tick’s head as close to your pet’s skin as possible,
then pull straight back with steady pressure. Avoid twisting when pulling since this can cause
the head to detach and remain in your pet’s skin. Monitor the area for inflammation and
infection. If you feel you will be unable to completely remove the tick from your pet, you can also bring them in and have your veterinarian remove it.

woman carrying dog while standing in the middle of the forest

4: Protect your pet from Lyme disease with appropriate vaccination

In addition to protecting your pet from ticks with tick prevention, you also can safeguard them with a Lyme disease vaccine. By vaccinating your pet—dogs only—against Lyme disease, you can greatly decrease their chances of contracting this tick-borne illness and reduce the severity of signs if infection occurs.

Before hitting the trail, protect your pet from the threat of Lyme disease with tick prevention and vaccination. Contact our team to schedule an appointment.

Have You Gained a Furry Colleague Working From Home?

3 Reasons Why Furry Colleagues Improve Your Mood While Working From Home

working from home
Photo by Ruca Souza on

Working remotely has become the new norm for many people. If you have settled into a new work-from-home routine, your four-legged family members are probably overjoyed. No longer home alone all day, they can snooze by your feet, and enjoy occasional petting—although they may walk across your keyboard, or interrupt your Zoom meetings to get your attention. We think furry colleagues are the best colleagues, and we want to see your new office mates in action. Our hospital app’s selfie feature lets you share pictures of your furry co-workers, so we can appreciate their hard work. Show us why working from home with your pet is great—here are a few of our favorite reasons:

#1: Your pet won’t let you work through lunch

It’s easy to get sucked into a project, and work until 3:00 p.m. without taking a lunch break, which we all know isn’t healthy. Low blood sugar and hunger pangs make focusing difficult, to say the least. When you’re working from your den, your pet will never let you work that long without asking for attention, or begging to go outside. Take a 15-minute walk with your pet—be sure to take plenty of pet selfies along the way—and then grab a healthy lunch, to refocus your energy and get back on track.

#2: Pet snuggles = instant stress relief

If a difficult task or teleworking drama has you feeling anxious, take a quick break with your pet. It’s amazing how watching your dog run after a ball in the backyard, or your cat bat at a feather wand, quickly melts away stress and anxiety. A quick snuggle on the couch will lift your spirits, and you’ll resume your work with a more positive outlook. Snap a cute picture to share with us!

#3: Your pet helps you feel connected while working from home

While working from home may be convenient, social isolation is a trade-off that can leave you feeling lonely. Recent market research shows that 80% of pet owners say their pets make them feel less lonely, while 54% say their pets help them connect with other people. Having a furry colleague by your side provides companionship you may be missing by not being in the office.

Download our hospital app by searching your app store for Hill & Harbour Veterinary Center. After downloading the app, select the “selfies” feature from the  drop-down menu, or access it directly from the app’s home screen. Touch the “+” symbol on the lower right-hand corner of the screen, take a picture, or select one from your album, which is undoubtedly full of pics of your precious co-worker. Tell us why you love working with your furry friend, and we’ll include your pet’s photo in our selfie carousel.

National Chip Your Pet Month

3 Reasons Why Every Pet Owner Should Microchip Their Pet

microchip your pet
Photo by Dids on

Is there any greater fear than the thought of losing your four-legged friend? No matter whether you live near a busy road, in the middle of a vast wilderness, or in a quiet suburb, you may worry about your pet slipping out an open door and becoming lost. However, with the aid of a microchip, you can greatly increase your chances of a happy reunion. Here are three reasons why you should schedule an appointment to microchip your pet.

1: Microchipping your pet is a simple process

Veterinarians can microchip your pet while they are under anesthesia for a procedure like a spay or neuter. However, sedation or anesthesia is not always necessary. A microchip is no bigger than a grain of rice and is inserted just beneath the skin between your pet’s shoulder blades. The process is similar to administering a vaccination with a slightly larger needle.

2: A microchip is more reliable than a collar identification tag

Does your pet seem as if they are always losing their collar ID tags? Although it might be a relief not to hear the jingling tags in the middle of the night, lost tags won’t do you any good if your pet goes missing. Worn or illegible tags are also common problems, which means collar ID tags are not the most reliable identification method. In contrast, a microchip is a permanent identification form. With no moving parts and nothing that requires power, a microchip will last the life of your pet. Simply remember to update your contact information as needed, and your pet will be linked to you throughout their lifetime.

3: Microchipping causes minimal discomfort

While a pet may wince or yelp when a microchip is inserted, the process is no different than administering a vaccination. The discomfort is minimal and short-lived, and pets are generally forgiving when presented with a tasty treat and some snuggles after the quick injection. Is your four-legged friend in need of a microchip to help ensure a happy reunion? Give us a call to schedule a microchipping appointment with our team.