Pet Health Information

Dental Disease

Dental disease is a common problem in cats and dogs, but can often be prevented with a home dental care regimen. Without proper dental care, plaque that forms on the teeth from food particles hardens and forms tartar. This tartar also contains bacteria that migrates between the teeth and gums causing gingivitis, infection, pain, and eventually tooth loss. When dental disease is left untreated, bacteria entering the bloodstream through the gums can have damaging effects on the heart, liver and kidneys. The best treatment for dental disease is preventative: regular home care, dental exams and cleanings with your Veterinarian as needed.

There are many home care products available for pets. These include pet toothpaste and toothbrushes, dental chews, oral rinses, dental sealants, water additives, and dental diets. At Harmony Animal Hospital, our staff will work with you to formulate a plan tailored to you and your pet.


Feline Inappropriate Elimination

Urinating or defecating in places other than the litterbox can be caused by either medical problems or behavioral issues. Medical problems often relate to urinary tract infections or cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), which are often associated with straining and pain, usually producing only a small amount of blood-tinged urine. Diarrhea can also be associated with elimination outside the litterbox.

If your cat is straining to urinate or not urinating at all, please contact us IMMEDIATELY as this behavior could be due to a blockage, which can be life-threatening!

Behavioral Causes

Behavioral causes usually fall into two general categories: Litterbox aversion (a dislike of the litterbox), or a stress-related misbehavior.
There are several factors that can contribute to litterbox aversion. Cats may begin to dislike the litterbox when it is not cleaned often enough, or when they object to the type of litter. Most cats are very fastidious creatures of habit that become used to the certain texture or smell of a specific type of litter. Many cats also shy away from the litterbox if it is located in a high-traffic or noisy area. Older cats may have difficulty getting in or out of a litterbox. They may also experience pain (from arthritis) which they then associate with the litter box.


Examples of common stresses associated with inappropriate elimination include a new person or pet joining (or leaving) the household, new furniture or carpeting, moving, and new cats in the neighborhood.


Treatment is aimed at the particular underlying problem. Medical issues should be addressed first – a thorough physical exam, urinalysis, and possibly a urine culture to rule out infection. Once medical conditions have been either ruled out or treated, then behavioral issues can be assessed. Your veterinarian may initially give you some suggestions on how to proceed. If the problem continues, your vet may recommend referral to an animal behavior specialist.

Behavior problems are often frustrating—patience and determination are usually key factors in successful treatment, and behavioral modification is more successful in some cases than in others. Some problems, such as a dirty litter box, can be easily corrected by more frequent cleaning. Other problems, such as those that have been going on for a long time or are in multiple cat households, are much more difficult to treat. In some cases, behavior modification can also be combined with judicious drug therapy.


Suggestions for cats with inappropriate urination:

  • Make sure there are enough litter boxes available. The rule of thumb is one box per cat per floor of the house, plus one extra. (For example, for 2 cats in a 2 story house, there should be 3 boxes upstairs and 3 downstairs).
  • Offer different types of litter, to determine if your cat has a substrate preference. Offer some covered and some uncovered boxes. You may wish to try “Cat Attract” litter, available at pet stores.
  • Make sure litter boxes are not in a high traffic area – many cats prefer a little “privacy”. However, beware that if a litterbox is placed near a washer/dryer, or furnace, that the noise may frighten the cat away from the box as well.
  • Clean each box daily.
  • If there are cats outside that may be provoking your cat, try removing them from the area. Motion sensitive sprinklers work great for this. Also, don’t leave food out, and remove anything that could be attracting them (access to trash, etc).
  • Limit access to areas where your cat likes to inappropriately urinate. Close doors, or cover the area with plastic. You may wish to put a new litterbox in this area. If your cat uses it, you can gradually move the box to a new location.


Fleas and Ticks

vetsource_buttonFleas are annoying little creatures who can cause some serious problems for your pet! Skin infections, itchiness, anemia and tapeworms, just to name a few! When dealing with fleas, it is important to understand the flea life cycle. Adult fleas lay eggs, which roll off your pet and into the environment (carpets, beds, furniture, etc). The larvae hatch out of these eggs, molt a few times, and then form pupae. These pupae cannot be penetrated by any flea product on the market. Stimulated by warmth, motion, and/or pressure, the adult fleas emerge from these pupae, jump back on your pet(s) and the cycle starts over.

The adult fleas you see compose only 5% of the entire flea population! The entire life cycle must be treated in order to prevent more fleas from infesting your pet.

Ticks are very prevalent in this area, particularly during the summer months. Ticks can carry a variety of diseases, including rocky mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, lyme, and anaplasmosis.

At Harmony, we recommend year round flea prevention and tick protection as indicated. We will recommend one or a combination of the following products based on your pet’s lifestyle and needs, which can be ordered through our online pharmacy, VetSource and delivered monthly (Note: No oral products treat ticks).

  • Trifexis: Parasite protection for fleas, heartworms and intestinal parasites (May cause vomiting)
  • Advantage Multi: Heartworm prevention and flea protection in a convenient monthly topical application.
  • Comfortis: Once a month oral flea treatment for dogs.
  • Vectra or Vectra 3D: a once a month topical that treats fleas in cats, or fleas and ticks in dogs.
  • Frontline Plus for Cats: a once a month topical that treats fleas and ticks in cats.


Heartworm Disease

vetsource_buttonHeartworms are a deadly parasite spread through the bite of mosquitoes. Heartworm disease has been found in all 50 states. In the southeast heartworm disease is very prevalent, which is why year round preventative medication is so important. Heartworm prevention needs to be administer year-round, unlike flea and tick topicals that you can hold off during the winter months.

Heartworms affect your pet by causing damage to the heart, lungs, and surrounding tissues and blood vessels. Symptoms of heartworm infection include coughing, lethargy, exercise intolerance, weakness, collapse, and even death. In cats, they often cause asthma-like symptoms, but many times a cat will suddenly die with no warning signs.

Heartworms are easily prevented with monthly oral or topical medications. We recommend the following products, which can be ordered through our online pharmacy, VetSource and delivered monthly.

  • Advantage Multi: Advantage Multi is applied topically once a month. This product prevents heartworms and fleas. Great for cats!
  • Trifexis: Parasite protection for fleas, heartworms and intestinal parasites (May cause vomiting)
  • Heartgard: Heartworm prevention in real-beef chewable that dogs love


Over the Counter Medications and Your Pet

You may recognize that some of the medications that your Veterinarian has prescribed for your pet are the same medications prescribed for people. In some instances the same is true for over-the-counter medications. Some of the more commonly used over-the-counter medications include antihistamines and anti-diarrhea medications. While these drugs can be administered to your pet safely and effectively upon your Veterinarians advice, they can have dangerous side-effects if dosed incorrectly. Over-the-counter analgesics such as baby aspirin and buffered aspirin have been used in dogs in the past; however those medications can cause gastrointestinal upset, even gastric ulcers, and are not as effective as some other pain relievers for dogs. Ibuprofen (ie Advil) can cause kidney failure in dogs and cats. Acetaminophen (ie Tylenol) is lethal to cats and should NEVER be administered. To be safe, always consult your Veterinarian before administering ANY non-prescription medication to your pet.

Top Human Medicines that Poison Pets

ASPCA Poison Control: Your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.


Poisonous Plants

Click the link below for a list by the ASPCA for plants reported as having a systemic effect on animals:


ASPCA Poison Control: Your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think that your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.


Pet Loss

The loss of a pet, whether sudden or after a long illness, is always difficult. Our doctors and staff will do anything possible to make this time easier.

Deciding When the Time is Right for Euthanasia

Making the decision of when to euthanize a beloved pet is one of the hardest decisions a pet owner has to face. Although a veterinarian can assess your pet’s medical status, you are the best judge of your pet’s daily quality of life. Some things to consider when evaluating quality of life:

  • Pain – is your pet painful, in spite of pain medications?
  • Mobility – is your pet able to get up and down and walk around adequately?
  • Appetite – is your pet able to eat and drink adequately?
  • Elimination – can your pet eliminate normally? Accidents due to incontinence may cause stress to some pets.
  • Prognosis – what is the prognosis for your pet? What are the treatment options, and what kind effect will they have on your pet’s quality of life?
  • Does your pet still seem to enjoy life? Is our pet able to do the things he loves most? Is your pet having more good days than bad? It may help to write down the good days and bad days on a calendar.

Moira Allen has an excellent webpage that may help you in your evaluation of your pet’s quality of life.

Once a Decision is Made

Once you have decided that euthanasia is necessary, just call us for an appointment. Here are some things you may wish to consider before calling:

  • Do you wish to be present? Being with your pet during their final moments is a difficult but special gift. However, it is also a personal decision that only you can make.
  • Location – we have a quiet grieving room at the clinic, or, you may request a home euthanasia.

Care of Remains

If you would like us to care for your pet’s body, we offer individual cremation with return of ashes or communal cremation without return of ashes. Faithful Friends provides this service for us. You can visit their website at www.faithfulfriendspetcremation.com They also have urns and memorials if you wish to purchase these. Our staff can create a clay paw print or save a lock of fur at your request.

Grief counseling

We are here to help you in any way we can. There are a number of resources for pet loss counseling. Here are a few:

Rainbow Bridge

Read the Rainbow Bridge


Senior Screening in Cats and Dogs

Senior screening in pets is usually recommended around seven years of age and with each annual exam thereafter (some large breed dogs may be recommended at an earlier age). Basic senior screening includes a thorough physical, blood test (CBC, chemistry, thyroid), and urinalysis. Once a pet reaches “geriatric” age, screening may be recommended bi-annually. Often we recommend more extensive testing to include radiographs, blood pressure measurements and electrocardiograms. These types of diagnostic tools provide your Veterinarian with a baseline of what your pet’s “normal” levels are for future comparison and can help detect early signs of organ changes related to diseases such as diabetes, thyroid disease and kidney failure. Diseases caught in the early stages can often be slowed down or treated before they cause significant problems for your pet.


Spay/Neuter Information

Spaying or neutering your pet not only helps to control the animal population, but also promotes longer healthier lives for our pets. Dogs and cats are generally spayed or neutered anywhere from age 4 to 6 months, however, many shelters and organizations like the ASPCA are performing these procedures at a younger age. In female cats and dogs, spaying removes the risk of uterine cancer and can dramatically reduce the risk of mammary cancer. Neutering male cats and dogs reduces their desire to wander off in search of a female. Neutering decreases marking behavior (spraying) in male cats and also reduces the risk of prostate cancer in male dogs.

Both spay and neuter surgeries are performed under general anesthesia. Your pet will take approximately 10-14 weeks to allow time for the incision to fully heal. Pets may go home the same day or stay overnight if an owner wishes. Activity is limited for 2 weeks to allow time for the incision to heal.


Weight Management

Providing proper nutrition for your pet promotes overall wellness. You should consider your pet’s needs when choosing your pet’s food. Your pet’s age, activity level and body condition all factor into the type of food that should be fed. Body condition is scored on a scale of 1 to 9 and is used to determine if your pet is at his or her ideal weight. A body score of 1 means that your pet is too thin. Conversely, a body score of 9 indicates obesity which raises a list of concerns (a score of 4-5 is ideal). Problems associated with obesity include joint disease, hypertension, diabetes, and shortened lifespan to name a few. While there are several “light” and “weight-control” diets on the market, they are usually intended for weight maintenance rather than weight reduction. If your Veterinarian feels that your pet’s weight is putting his or her health at risk, she may recommend a prescription diet designed to promote weight reduction along with daily exercise. For dogs, swimming or daily walks are sufficient. In cats, exercise can be challenging since they do not go for walks and usually choose to sleep when we are not at home. Try enticing your cat to exercise with toys that require running or jumping like a wind-up mouse or laser pointer.

Treats are often the downfall of every good diet. Reduce the number of treats your pet receives each day and replace the “occasional” treat with carrots or string beans (or, offer kibble from the pet’s daily allowance). Cats love canned pumpkin which is low in calories but also high in fiber so they don’t feel as hungry between meals. It also may be helpful to divide your pet’s meals into several smaller feedings throughout the day.

Body Condition Score