Pet Health

Pet Health Advice

We believe patient health to be our #1 priority, with preventive medicine the first standard of care. We know your trust and confidence in us will be rewarded with a long and healthy relationship for you and your pets!

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Canine Influenza

Canine Influenza
Authored by: Dr. Mark Rishniw, ACVIM

Just like people, dogs can be affected by different strains of influenza, a highly contagious respiratory infection. There are two strains of canine influenza known to affect dogs internationally. H3N8 broke out around 2004 in Florida and continues to cause sporadic disease; H3N2, a milder strain first seen in Chicago in 2015, is closely related to an Asian strain first identified in 2006. These viruses are different strains of Influenza Type A. Whether or not H3N2 will have the staying power of H3N8 remains to be seen.

After exposure, some dogs will produce enough antibodies that they don’t have any signs of illness. The signs in both strains range from fevers, listlessness, coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose to life-threatening pneumonia, but typically it’s much like having kennel cough.

Where have cases been reported?

In May 2017, canine H3N2 influenza was diagnosed in dogs in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana, and Illinois. This was the same, newer strain of H3N2 involved in the 2015 outbreak in Chicago. More cases are possible as this outbreak may or may not spread.

For the newer H3N2 strain, geographic locations expanded in the months after the initial outbreak in March 2015.

What are the signs?

There is a mild form of the disease and a more severe form that is accompanied by pneumonia.

Mild form
Dogs suffering from the mild form of influenza develop a soft, moist cough that persists for 10 to 30 days. They may also be lethargic and have reduced appetite and a fever. Sneezing and discharge from the eyes and/or nose may also be observed. Some dogs have a dry cough similar to the traditional kennel cough caused by
Bordetella bronchiseptica/parainfluenza virus complex. Dogs may also have a thick nasal discharge, which is usually caused by a secondary bacterial infection.

Severe form
Dogs with the severe form of influenza develop high fevers (104⁰F – 106⁰F, 40⁰C – 41⁰C; normal is 101⁰F – 102⁰F, 38⁰ – 39⁰C) and have clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates and effort. Pneumonia may be due to a secondary bacterial infection.

Fatal cases of pneumonia resulting from infection with influenza have been reported in dogs, but the fatality rate is less than 10 percent. Most dogs recover in two to three weeks.

How is canine influenza transmitted?

A dog is most likely to be contagious before showing any signs at all.

Influenza viruses are hardy: they do not persist in the environment for very long. However, they do spread easily between individuals. Transmission generally requires direct contact with an infected and contagious dog’s fresh saliva or oro-nasal secretions. The problem is that an infected dog is usually contagious before showing any clinical signs. Therefore, apparently, healthy dogs can transmit the disease.

When should I see the veterinarian?

A dog living in an area where outbreaks are being reported should be considered to have canine flu until proven otherwise. If your dog is from such an area, or there has been mention of canine flu on your local news, and he has a cough (and especially if he’s feeling sick), see your veterinarian. Don’t ignore it. Canine flu is very contagious, so clinics might request that you come in through a separate entrance.

The tests and treatments your veterinarian might recommend depending on the severity of the illness. For mild disease, the veterinarian might take samples to identify the cause but only treat the signs. For more severe cases, chest X-rays (radiographs) are often taken to look for pneumonia. Dogs with severe disease can require hospitalization with oxygen and fluid therapy.

The very young and seniors (who may have compromised respiratory systems or concurrent diseases associated with age) may be more likely to have severe signs of illness.

Should I vaccinate?

As with human flu shots, a vaccine for one strain doesn’t help prevent another strain. The existing vaccine for H3N8 does not prevent the new H3N2. The new vaccine for H3N2 that became available in late 2015 does not protect against H3N8. As with most infectious respiratory disease viruses, the vaccine does not protect completely against or eliminate the virus but reduces how ill your dog can be with it as well as lessening your dog’s ability to transmit the virus to other dogs.

Initially, the vaccine for H3N8 is given two to four weeks apart, and the second one should be completed at least three to four weeks before the dog goes anywhere like a boarding kennel or dog show. The H3N2 vaccine must be given twice spaced three weeks apart. Flu viruses require relatively close contact to spread from individual to individual and do not persist well in the environment.

A regular kennel cough vaccination will not prevent influenza.

To decide whether or not your dog should be vaccinated for either strain, talk to your veterinarian about the likelihood of any dog getting either strain in your area.

How is a diagnosis made?

In a perfect world, there would be a simple test that could be performed on a single sample and yield unequivocal results, but that’s not the case with canine flu. Tests that broadly detect influenza A virus should effectively detect both H3N8 and H3N2 strains. However, tests targeted directly at the older H3N8 are unlikely to identify H3N2 infection because of limited cross-reaction between their respective antibodies. Commercial PCR assays against H3N2 are currently unclear and it has been reported that tests used in several laboratories will not detect this virus. Testing for viral shedding (e.g., viral antigen ELISA, PCR, virus isolation) is effective but needs to be done as early in the course of the disease as possible because shedding is generally early and brief. Checking blood for antibodies tends to be more effective later on, but that’s only if the test can detect the strain involved. More information about specific testing for H3N2is expected in the near future as we continue to learn about this virus.

What is the treatment?

Dogs with mild signs receive supportive care, typically fluids, cough suppressants, or anti-viral medication, depending on their signs and how long the dog has been sick. Severely affected patients usually get antibiotics to prevent or treat pneumonia. Pneumonia cases often require hospitalization.

In high-risk cases, antibiotics are given to control secondary infections. Pneumonia results from secondary bacterial infections (i.e. bacteria invading the lung after the virus has damaged the tissue and compromised its ability to defend itself). Pneumonia in dogs is almost always secondary after some other condition has damaged the lung, and treatment is similar regardless of the cause. Unlike other pneumonia or respiratory diseases, the anti-viral medication oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) can be helpful but only if used early in the course of infection or to prevent infection in exposed dogs.

Rapid onset of disease – four to six hours – is matched by an equally rapid improvement in clinical signs after treatment begins.

Can influenza be prevented?

The best preventative measures are to limit or prevent exposure as lifestyle plays a factor in the risk of getting either strain of flu. Dogs that go to daycare, dog parks, performance competitions, dog shows, training classes, or boarding kennels have a higher risk. Dogs that spend most of their time at home or rarely come into contact with other dogs have a lower risk.

Don’t let your dog socialize with coughing dogs.

Can people or cats be infected by dogs?

There is no evidence that people can get H3N8. While there is also no evidence that people can contract H3N2, studies in Asia have shown limited transmission to cats. Sheltered cats in Indiana were found to have H3N2; however, the canine vaccine will not work for cats. In Asia, the H3N2 strain that infected cats and caused disease was considered to be of avian origin. Current information about the U.S. H3N2 strain suggests that it might be of porcine origin.

Hot Weather Tips For Your Pet

Hot Weather Tips For Your Pet

Summertime is a time for fun and frolicking but it’s also fraught with danger for our pets. When the temperature rises, we need to take extra caution to make sure our pets are okay in the heat. Here are some key tips to help keep your pet cool and safe.


Despite the warnings, every year, pets die after their owners leave them in a parked car that overheats. Within just a few minutes, a car can get extremely shot, stifling, and deadly. Dr. Ernie Ward did an experiment on a warm summer’s day in which he sat in a parked car with the windows cracked. He wanted to see just how hot it would get. Within 30 minutes it was 117 degrees inside the car. “Never, ever leave your dog in a parked car on a warm day,” he pleads at the end of the video he made to document his experience. That goes for any pet, by the way!


When it starts getting warm outside, take your dog or cat to the vet for a full check-up. The check-up should include a heartworm test and a flea and tick protection plan. These are year-round issues but in the summer months, with much more outdoor time, it’s especially important to monitor them.


Aim for mornings and evenings when letting your dog outside, cautions Dr. Marty Becker in his article, “Beat the Heat Tips for Your Dog.” Sometimes, though, it’s just hot all day long and Dr. Becker says, “Even in the coolest part of the day, watch for signs of trouble: Glassy eyes and frantic panting indicate a dog who needs help. Get to a veterinarian immediately if you see these symptoms!”


When the temperature outside gets hot, it can be harder to keep the indoors cool. Some people turn their air conditioning off when they leave for the day. If you have a pet at home, this could put him in danger. A article, “Summer Hazards and Your Dog,” advises: “Instead of turning off the air conditioner, try leaving it on a conservative but comfortable setting (perhaps 76°F) while you are out.” The article recommends you make sure your pet has water and, “consider closing curtains to reduce the heating effects of sunlight through the windows.”


Pets can get dehydrated or get heatstroke quickly so any pet outside needs to have plenty of water and access to shade.


Dr. Becker reminds us that some dog breeds are less tolerant of heat than others. “Remember that older, obese or short-nosed dogs (Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Boxers, Shih Tzu’s and French Bulldogs) are less tolerant of heat.”  Also, older dogs, puppies, and dogs with health issues can also be more susceptible to hot weather. Of course, you should keep a close eye on your dog in the heat, no matter what his breed, age, or state of health.

Our pets rely on us to protect them and keep them comfortable and safe year-round! Remember, if you’re hot, your pets are definitely hot.

Rattlesnake & Snake Bite Information

Rattlesnake vaccine for dogs

Rattlesnakes live in a variety of habitats.

They are found in wetlands, deserts, and forests, from sea level to mountain elevations. Rattlesnakes are most active in warmer seasons, from spring to autumn. In southern latitudes, they are occasionally found year-round.

Rattlesnake bite is a veterinary emergency.

It results in serious injury or even death to thousands of dogs each year. Rattlesnake venom is a complex mixture of toxins that spreads through a dog’s body following the bite. Red Rock Rattlesnake Vaccine was developed specifically to help defend dogs from the dangerous effects of rattlesnake venom. That’s rattlesnake protection that will put you and your dog at ease.

Dogs are at risk for rattlesnake bites.

They can encounter a rattlesnake anytime they are in a rattlesnake habitat. You and your dog may live near rattlesnakes. You may travel through or frequently visit places where rattlesnakes are found. Perhaps rattlesnakes live where you take your dog hiking, camping, or hunting. Like people, dogs may stumble upon a snake by accident. Curiosity or a protective instinct can place your dog at risk. Red Rock Rattlesnake Vaccine helps to protect her.

Damage caused by rattlesnake bites can be serious.

When injected into an unprotected dog, the toxins in snake venom are very painful and can have serious consequences. Even if your dog survives the immediate effects of a rattlesnake bite, he can be permanently injured by the venom.

Treatment of rattlesnake bites is expensive.

Treatment of snakebite may include antivenom injections that can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. The use of antivenom is associated with an increased risk of adverse effects which can complicate a dog’s recovery. Other costs of snakebite treatment may include hospitalization, intravenous fluids, other medicines, and even surgery. Vaccination can reduce the impact of snakebite, reduce or eliminate the need for antivenom, and decrease other treatment costs.

The vaccine stimulates your dog’s own immunity.

Vaccines work by stimulating an animal’s immunity to defend against potentially harmful agents. The Rattlesnake Vaccine is intended to help create an immunity that will protect your dog against rattlesnake venom.

Snakebite is always an emergency.

Even after your dog is vaccinated against rattlesnake venom, she should be taken to a veterinarian for evaluation and care as soon as possible following snakebite. Veterinarians can determine whether your dog will require additional treatment. Even bites by non-venomous snakes can lead to serious infections and antibiotic treatment may be needed. A veterinarian is the best person to consult regarding medical decisions for your dog.

For more information:

Itching and Allergy in Dogs

Itching and Allergy in Dogs

Coping with an itchy pet can be an extremely frustrating experience for you, the pet owner, and can truly test the limits of the human-animal bond.  Persistent scratching and chewing by the pet can also result in self-excoriation and open wounds.  The following information is intended to provide the pet owner with a basic understanding of the most common underlying causes of itching and allergies in small animals.

The Most Common Causes of Chronic Itching:

The common causes fall into two groups: external parasites and allergies.  External parasites that most commonly cause chronic itching dermatitis include fleas and sarcoptic mange.  We often recommend therapeutic trials for sarcoptic mange in chronically and severely itchy dogs.  We always recommend stepped-up flea control and monitoring for fleas, as flea infestation can really make allergies worse!

What are Allergies?

Allergy is a state of hypersensitivity in which exposure to a harmless substance known as an allergen induces the body’s immune system to “overreact.”  The incidence of allergies is increasing in both humans and their pets.  People with allergies usually have “hay fever” (watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing) or asthma. While dogs can rarely also have respiratory allergies, more commonly they experience the effects of allergic hypersensitivities as skin problems.  Though there are a variety of presentations, this can often be seen as redness and itching, recurring skin or ear infections, and hair loss.  This is sometimes called eczema or atopic dermatitis.

What are the Major Types of Allergies in Dogs?

Flea Allergy
Flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in dogs and cats.  For the flea allergic patient, 100% flea control is essential for the pet to remain symptom-free.

“But doctor, I never see fleas on my pet.”   You may not see them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  The allergy is caused by the flea’s saliva, and it only takes a few bites to induce the problem.  Also, the itchy pet often scratches so much that adult fleas are removed, making them hard to find.

“If fleas are the problem, why is my pet still itchy in the winter?”  In warm climates or in our homes, fleas may survive in low numbers year-round.  Because flea allergy is so common, we recommend that complete flea control be instituted before proceeding with diagnostics for other allergies and that year-round flea control be maintained for all allergy patients.

Food Allergy
Some pets develop specific hypersensitivities to components of their diets.  Allergen usually is a major protein or carbohydrate ingredient such as beef, chicken, pork, corn, wheat, or soy.  Minor ingredients such as preservatives or dyes are also potential allergens.  The diagnosis of food allergy requires that we test your pet by feeding special strict diets that contain only ingredients that he has never eaten before. This is often achieved by feeding a prescription diet for a period of 10 to 16 weeks.  If the signs resolve, a challenge is performed by feeding the former diet and watching for a return of the itching.  If this occurs, a diagnosis of food allergy is confirmed.

Atopic Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is an inherited predisposition to develop skin problems from exposure to a variety of commonplace and otherwise harmless substances including the pollens of weeds, grasses, and trees, as well as house dust mites and mold spores.  Diagnosis of AD is made based on the results of intradermal skin testing or in vitro blood testing.  Evaluating the results of these tests helps us compile a list of allergens for a “vaccine” to decrease the pet’s sensitivity.  Sometimes multiple skin and/or blood tests are necessary to accurately assess the patient’s allergies.

Secondary Infections
Allergies are often the underlying cause of recurring skin and/or ear infections.  Bacterial and yeast infections, though secondary to the allergy, can cause an increase in your pet’s level of itching. Long-term treatment with antibiotics and anti-yeast medications is commonly required, along with medicated bathing programs.

Can Allergies be Cured?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergy and it is usually a life-long problem. We seek to control allergies and improve the quality of life for both you and your pet.  We will formulate the best program of management that suits all involved with your pet’s care.

Can I have the Itching Treated without the Expense of Diagnostic Testing?

Symptomatic drug therapy can help to reduce itching.  Steroids, such as prednisone tablets, in particular, are often employed to stop the itch.  However, without addressing the underlying cause, the itching will return.  Long-term use of steroids can result in many health problems.  This is the reason that we encourage diagnosis of the underlying cause of the allergy and more specific or less potentially harmful treatments.

Date Published: 7/9/2007 10:29:00 AM
Date Reviewed/Revised: 07/09/2007

Flea & Tick Prevention

New Flea & Tick Preventative ~ Vectra 3D

We switched over to Vectra as our recommended topical Flea and Tick preventative for dogs.

When, or if it ever starts raining the TICKS (yuk) will start to appear…so be prepared and pick some up the next time you’re here : )


More Ticks Mean Year-Round Preventive Measures are a Must

In the span of less than a week, I found two ticks on my dog Harper, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. In 25 years of dog ownership, that was a first. We live in Southern California, so ticks are a fact of life, but Harper doesn’t typically go into areas where ticks are found. We don’t have a yard, and she’s not allowed on local hiking trails. I can only surmise that the ticks hitched a ride on me — ick! — after a hike and made their way onto Harper.

Tick populations are increasing. And there aren’t just more of them; they’re being found in more places than in the past, says veterinary parasitologist Dr. Susan E. Little of Oklahoma State University. Milder winters; more white-tailed deer, which carry the tiny arachnids; and increasing development in formerly rural areas are among the factors in the ticks’ spread.

Like me, you might never have had to worry about ticks before, but now is a good time to talk to your veterinarian about their prevalence in your area. Many tick species have moved out of their original habitats, carried away by migratory birds, coyotes, and deer. One or more species of ticks can now be found in every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. Ticks used to be active from spring through fall, but warmer winters mean that some species are staying active as late as February, depending on where they are located.

That’s bad news since ticks are major carriers of diseases that affect humans, dogs, and cats. Most of us are familiar with Lyme disease, but ticks also transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and Cytauxzoon felis, which infects cats. The ticks that primarily transmit these debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases are the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis), the Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum), and the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis).

Protect yourself and your pets from tick-borne diseases with the following measures:

  • Provide all your pets with lifetime parasite control. “We always say to treat every pet every month all year long,” Dr. Little says. Dogs and cats don’t spread tick-borne diseases directly to their owners, but they can acquire diseases from ticks as well as bring ticks into the home or yard. And just because your dog or cat stays mainly indoors or lives in a certain geographic region doesn’t mean he’s not at risk.
  • Ask your veterinarian which ticks and tick-borne diseases are common in your area and which product is best for protecting your animals. The information may have changed since you last learned about ticks.
  • Apply tick-prevention products on a regular schedule. It’s no longer effective to try to time parasite control to start in spring and stop after the second killing frost.
  • Check your dog or cat for ticks anytime he has been outdoors. Keep a tick-removal device on hand and know how to use it.
  • Make your yard less welcoming to ticks by removing leaf litter, mowing the lawn frequently, keeping landscaping free of tall grass and brush, and fencing your yard to prevent incursions by deer and other animals that carry ticks. A three-foot swathe of wood chips or gravel between your lawn and wooded areas won’t keep ticks away, but it does serve as a visual reminder that you are entering the tick zone.
  • Use insect repellent on yourself and wear protective clothing.
  • After a hike or other outdoor excursion to tick-friendly wooded areas with tall grass, give yourself a cursory examination for the little bloodsuckers, so you don’t drive them home to your pets. – by Kim Campbell Thornton