Librela Can Put the Pep Back in Your Dog’s Step

In the world of veterinary medicine, the pursuit of effective and compassionate treatments for common ailments in our beloved pets is an ongoing journey. Enter Librela, a groundbreaking solution offering hope and relief for dogs grappling with the pain of osteoarthritis (OA). In this blog post, we’ll explore what Librela is, how it works, its benefits, and why it might be the game-changer your furry friend needs.


Unveiling Librela

What is Librela?

Librela is a revolutionary monoclonal antibody designed to target Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). NGF is a protein responsible for activating and binding to pain receptors within nerves. This can cause chronic pain in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis.

The Mechanism of Librela

How does Librela work?

Librela works by binding to NGF which prevents OA pain. It also limits the release of NGF in the future resulting in a decrease in inflammation. Librela functions like naturally occurring antibodies thus making it a treatment that has far less side effects than traditional NSAIDs.

What are NSAIDs?

NSAIDs, such as Rimadyl, Carprofen, Deramaxx, Previcox, or Galliprant, hail as typical go-to treatments for canine OA. While these drugs generally work well to help with OA pain, they do come with potential side effects. Using these drugs also means careful monitoring of liver and kidney values through routine blood work.

Administration and Benefits

How is Librela administered?

Librela is a once monthly injectable treatment which may eliminate the need for daily medication. It must be administered by a veterinary professional and it is safe to be administered in conjunction with vaccines.

Benefits of Librela

The benefit of Librela is that your dog can have more days with less OA pain. It may take up to three months to see the maximum effects of Librela’s monthly injections. Some owners, however have seen results after their first injection.

It is very important that you monitor play and fitness in your dog once on Librela. The maker of Librela, Zoetis, has even put out a “Back to Play Fitness Plan.” This is important because once your dog is feeling better he is likely to be more active. That’s great! After all isn’t that the goal? The answer is yes and no.

While your dog may want to be more active he may not have the muscle strength to support high levels of activity right away. Slowly build up his activity level by following Librela’s back to fitness guide. This will allow your dog to ease into more activity and allow him to build needed muscle strength to avoid injury.

Is Librela Right for Your Dog?

Any dog with OA symptoms can benefit from Librela. Many dogs with OA are senior citizens. If you have a senior dog check out the information about senior and geriatric dogs on our website for tips with common senior dog ailments.

Signs that Librela may be beneficial:

  • Limping after exercise
  • Slow to rise
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Difficulty jumping
  • Stiffness
  • Difficulty navigating stairs or reluctance to use them

Transitioning from NSAIDs to Librela

If your dog is currently taking an NSAID for OA pain, consult your veterinarian to explore the possibility of transitioning to Librela.

Side Effects and Consultation

Are there side effects with Librela?

Librela is metabolized and eliminated like naturally occurring antibodies, with minimal involvement of the liver or kidneys. Side effects observed in clinical studies were typical for dogs with OA and included urinary tract infections, bacterial skin infections, dermatitis, and increased blood urea nitrogen (BUN).

Consult Your Veterinarian

The ultimate guide to determining whether Librela is suitable for your dog and your family is a conversation with your veterinarian. Their expertise and knowledge of your pet’s health history will help make an informed decision for the well-being of your furry companion.

In conclusion, Librela stands as a promising advancement in veterinary medicine, offering relief for dogs suffering from OA and a chance to reclaim the joy of an active life. If your canine companion is showing signs of OA, consult your veterinarian to explore the possibilities that Librela may bring to your pet’s well-being.

Exams are Important for Your Pet

There are many reasons why exams are important for your pet. Exams are one of the main tools we use to obtain information about your pet’s health. Here are a few of the reasons why exams are a must:

  • The first is so that we can establish a health baseline for your pet. By conducting a wellness exam when your pet is not sick, your veterinarian can get an idea of what “normal” is for your pet. This baseline ensures that we follow health trends as your pet ages.
  • Exams also allow for the early detection of diseases. Many pets can be asymptomatic in the early stages of diseases. Your pet may not display signs or symptoms until they are very ill. However, your veterinarian can often detect these diseases during an exam and with lab work.
  • Exams go hand in hand with how we provide preventive care. Your veterinarian can use the information from your pet’s exam to recommend preventive care. These recommendations may include vaccinations, lab work, parasite control, and dental care.
  • Exams are necessary to establish a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). In most states, there are laws that require veterinarians to establish a VCPR before they can provide care for a pet. This means that the veterinarian must have examined the pet and discussed their medical needs with the pet’s owner.
Exams are important for your pet's health

What are the different types of exams?

There are several different types of exams that your pet may need. We use the time in an exam to talk to owners and learn about your pet and his lifestyle. This knowledge allows us to provide specific recommendations for your pet. Not all pets need the same vaccines or preventive care. As an example, routine testing for thyroid disease may not be necessary for young pets as thyroid disease primarily affects senior animals.

Some of the most common types of exams include:

  • Wellness/Preventative exams: We perform these exams once or twice a year (depending on age) to assess your pet’s overall health. Pets under 7 years of age should get an exam at least once per year.
    Pets over 7 years should get examined twice yearly to keep up with changes that occur in aging pets.
  • Sick exams: We perform these exams when your pet is not feeling well, to diagnose and treat the underlying problem.
  • Behavioral exams: These exams assess your pet’s behavior. The veterinarian develops a plan for you and your pet if necessary which could include medication, training or behavior modification. These exams usually take place at the request of the owner who may need help with a pet behavioral issue. These exams can be performed by one of our veterinarians or by a veterinarian who specializes in behavioral medicine via a referral to a specialty hospital.
  • Recheck exams: After treating your pet for a specific condition, veterinarians perform these exams to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment. We also want to monitor for any signs of worsening or recurrence of the condition.

If you would like to know what each parameter of an exam is see the article “Let Us Help You Decipher Exams”

Why are exams important for preventative care?

Preventative or wellness care is essential for keeping your pet healthy. Our preventative exams are typically accompanied by vaccines and testing. The examination along with fecal, heartworm and blood testing can give your veterinarian a complete picture of your pet’s health. Being vigilant with these exams can really help identify problems in their earliest stages. Early detection allows us to make a plan with you on how to best to approach treatment when it’s needed.

We also want to ensure that your pet is healthy enough to receive vaccines. Because vaccines cause an immune response in the body, we want to make sure that your pet is healthy enough to mount a proper response. If your pet is ill we may need to delay vaccines so that healing is not compromised. A thorough exam can help your veterinarian determine if your pet is a good candidate for vaccination at that time.

The most important part of the exam is open communication between the owner and the doctor and staff. Open communication can include information such as monetary constraints, owners letting us know if they are not comfortable following a recommendation and why. Being open with your veterinarian allows him or her to formulate a plan WITH you to help your pet.

What are standards of care?

A standard of care establishes a benchmark to determine if professionals have fulfilled their obligations to patients. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) sets standards of care for the veterinary profession. The AVMA bases their standards on the latest scientific evidence. Standards are designed to ensure that all pets receive the highest quality of care. We are proud to follow these standards of care in addition to AAHA’s (American Animal Hospital Association) standards.

An exam helps us fulfill our standard of care to our patients and our clients. This is why providing care without an exam is not something we can compromise on. Upholding these standards supports our mission of caring for your pet as if it were our own. We believe in these standards for all the pets that we treat so why would we not provide the best for you?

What are the laws that govern exams?

In most states, there are laws that govern the practice of veterinary medicine. These laws typically require veterinarians to establish a VCPR before they can provide care for a pet. This means that an examination by a doctor is required for the majority of services in our hospital. Exams must be performed annually to maintain the VCPR.

If you have questions about services or need to schedule a visit for your pet don’t hesitate to call or text us at 210-695-4455. We hope this information helps to answer your question about why exams are necessary for your pet. If you have any further questions, as always reach out to us.

Solensia: A Breakthrough Drug for Cats

Solensia can help cats with osteoarthritis.

What is Solensia?

Solensia offers breakthrough treatment specifically designed to address osteoarthritis pain in cats. This drug offers a much-needed solution for feline well-being.

The Challenge of Osteoarthritis in Cats

Osteoarthritis (OA) commonly affects aging cats, yet effective pain relief options remain limited. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) approved for long-term use in cats are scarce, and steroids, while sometimes used, come with potential long-term side effects. Solensia is here to change that. Find out more about caring for Senior and Geriatric Cats by visiting our website.

How Does Solensia Work?

Unlike traditional medications, Solensia takes a different approach. Given by injection monthly, this cat-specific monoclonal antibody aims to prevent cats from experiencing the pain of osteoarthritis rather than by directly treating it. By targeting Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), a critical component in joint pain signaling and inflammation, Solensia’s active ingredient, Frunevetmab, binds to NGF, blocking its interaction with pain receptors. The result? Reduced pain sensations and increased comfort for your feline companion.

Administration and Effectiveness

Solensia is administered once every four weeks, typically requiring two to three doses to observe the full effects. Many cat owners have reported improvements after just a single dose. The subcutaneous injection takes minutes and is typically not painful.

The Benefits of Solensia

One of the key advantages of Solensia is its minimal impact on the liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract, making it a safe treatment option. In fact, 77% of cat owners have witnessed notable improvements in their cats’ pain symptoms.

Identifying the Need for Solensia in Your cat

To determine if your cat could benefit from Solensia, consult with your veterinarian and consider the following symptoms

  • Difficulty jumping up, resorting to using front paws/claws for assistance.
  • Challenges in jumping down from furniture, opting for alternative routes to minimize impact on their bones.
  • Reduced ability to climb stairs, resulting in bunny hopping and taking breaks during the ascent or descent.
  • Difficulty running, noticeable through a combination of walking and jogging.
  • Decreased enthusiasm or difficulty engaging in playful activities or chasing toys.

Potential Side Effects

While generally well-tolerated, Solensia may cause temporary side effects such as nausea, vomiting, or mild pain at the injection site. It’s important to note that Solensia is suitable for cats weighing at least 5 lbs and older than 1 year. Do not administer to pregnant, breeding, or lactating cats.

Consult Your Veterinarian

Talk to your veterinarian so together you can decide if Solensia is right for your cat. Your cat’s doctor will provide personalized advice and guidance. Call our hospital at 210-695-4455 to schedule a visit. Please visit Solensia’s website to learn more.

Identifying and Treating Pain in Pets

Learn to identify and treat pain in your pet.

Identify pain in your pet

Most people assume that they will easily recognize if their pet is in pain. After all, it should be obvious, right? Well, the answer is sometimes. While pain can be apparent in some cases, our pets have evolved to hide their discomfort, making it challenging to identify. Let’s explore the signs of pain in pets and discuss treatment options to ensure your furry companions receive the care they need.

Remember that for the purpose of this article, the pain we are talking about is chronic pain, not acute pain. Acute pain would be pain from an injury while chronic pain would be more like that from osteoarthritis for example.

Signs of pain in pets

Recognizing pain in your pet requires careful observation. Here are some common signs that may indicate your pet is experiencing discomfort:

  1. Decreased Activity: If your pet is less active or seems to be shying away from normal activities or behaviors, it could be a sign of pain.
  2. Difficulty with Movements: If your pet shows reluctance or difficulty going up or down stairs, it may be an indication of conditions like osteoarthritis or back pain. This is especially applicable to cats who struggle to jump onto surfaces they used to access with ease.
  3. Trouble Standing or Lying Down: Pets experiencing pain, particularly due to osteoarthritis, may have difficulty standing up or lying down comfortably.
  4. Over Grooming or Licking: Chronic grooming or excessive licking of a specific area can be a sign of referred pain. Your pet may be trying to alleviate discomfort in that particular region.
  5. Decreased Appetite: A decreased appetite in your pet can be a potential indicator of oral pain.

Treatment for pain

Thankfully, advancements in pain management for animals have significantly improved over the years. When it comes to medicating your pet, it’s crucial to follow certain guidelines:

  • No Human Medications: Under no circumstances should you administer human medications, such as Tylenol or Advil, to your pets unless explicitly directed by your veterinarian. These medications can cause severe liver and kidney damage.
  • NSAIDs for Dogs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) made specifically for dogs, such as Rimadyl and Galliprant, can effectively treat pain and inflammation in canines. If your dog takes Rimadyl, be sure to check out the rewards program offered by Zoetis. Find more info here.
  • Feline-Specific Pain Medication: Cats cannot take NSAIDs like dogs. Instead, they have feline-specific pain medications used after surgeries or dental extractions. These medications are not used chronically however.
  • A new medication we have been using for cats is Solensia. Solensia is a monoclonal antibody drug that is given monthly by injection. Solensia works differently by preventing pain signals from reaching the brain, resulting in reduced or eliminated pain for cats. This drug is meant to be used as a chronic treatment for pain in cats.
  • If you like the idea of a monoclonal antibody drug to treat pain in dogs, keep your eye out! Librela has cleared FDA approval and should be available for dogs to treat osteoarthritis (OA) pain very soon. This drug would mean that dogs who cannot take NSAIDS will now have a good option for the treatment of OA pain.

Monitoring the medication

Proper monitoring is essential when treating your pet’s pain. For dogs receiving chronic NSAID treatment, regular drug-monitoring lab work is necessary to ensure their well-being. Blood work, assessing red and white blood cell count and major organ function, should be performed 2-4 weeks after starting the medication, and subsequently every 3-6 months.

Solensia for cats does not require drug-monitoring lab work, given its different mode of action compared to NSAIDs.

Takeaways on pain in our pets

If you notice subtle changes in your pet’s behavior, especially as they age, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian. Your vet can conduct a thorough examination and, together with you, formulate a treatment plan for managing your pet’s pain. By addressing pain promptly, you can ensure your beloved companion leads a long and happy life.

Remember, understanding the signs of pain in pets and taking appropriate action is an essential part of caring for our furry family members.

Ultrasound Imaging: Is it Necessary for Your Pet’s Health?

Ultrasound imaging is a diagnostic tool commonly used in veterinary medicine to examine a pet’s internal organs and tissues. It involves using high-frequency sound waves to create images of the body’s structures, which can help identify various conditions and diseases. But is ultrasound imaging necessary for your pet’s health? Let’s explore the benefits and considerations of this diagnostic test.

Benefits of Ultrasound Imaging

  • Ultrasound imaging can provide valuable information about your pet’s health status, primarily when used in conjunction with other diagnostic tools such as blood tests and physical examinations. Some of the benefits of ultrasound imaging for pets include:
  • Non-invasive: Unlike other diagnostic tests such as X-rays or CT scans, ultrasound imaging does not use ionizing radiation or require anesthesia, making it a safe and non-invasive procedure for your pet.
  • Accurate diagnosis: Ultrasound imaging can help diagnose various conditions such as tumors, cysts, infections, and inflammatory processes that may not be visible on X-rays or other diagnostic tests.

Guidance for procedures: Ultrasound imaging can help guide procedures such as biopsies and fluid sampling, allowing for more accurate and targeted diagnosis and treatment.

Considerations for Ultrasound Imaging

  • While ultrasound imaging can be beneficial for pets, it may only sometimes be necessary or appropriate unless recommended by your veterinarian. Some considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether to pursue ultrasound imaging for your pet include:
  • Cost: Ultrasound imaging can be expensive, and some pet owners may not be able to afford the test or the necessary follow-up care. However, it is important to understand that sometimes getting a diagnosis upfront is less expensive than treating symptoms long-term when you don’t have a correct diagnosis.
  • Limited availability: Not all veterinary clinics may have the equipment or expertise to perform ultrasound imaging, which may require referral to a specialist. Luckily, Hill Country Animal Hospital can provide ultrasound screening in-house.
  • Limited usefulness in certain cases: Ultrasound imaging may not be the best diagnostic tool for all conditions or may not provide enough information to make a definitive diagnosis.

Ultrasound imaging can be a valuable diagnostic tool in veterinary medicine, providing helpful information about your pet’s health status. However, it’s essential to consider the potential benefits and limitations of the test when deciding whether to pursue it for your pet. Talk to your veterinarian about whether ultrasound imaging suits your pet’s health needs.

Questions From Your Cat

Questions from the cat

January 22nd is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day

You are probably wondering what kind of questions cats would ask. We have a few in mind and we will even provide the answers! It is a great time to learn more about the favorite cat in your life as well as cats in general. 

Let’s start with some questions that may seem obvious.  What may not seem so obvious are the answers.  Our goal is to provide you with some light hearted fun while hopefully telling you some things you don’t already know.

One of the Most Popular Questions

Question 1 from your kitty is “Why can’t I scratch the big thing in the living room you call a sofa?”  Everyone but kitty knows why he can’t scratch the sofa.  The real question isn’t why he can’t scratch the sofa, but rather why does he want to scratch the sofa?

Yes, it can be frustrating when your cat scratches things he shouldn’t. However, it is important to know that scratching is NORMAL behavior for cats.  Scratching serves important functions for cats as well.

  • Scratching helps kitty maintain the use of and motion of his claws. This motion is used in climbing and hunting. Scratching also is a great way for kitty to stretch.
  • Scratching also provides a way for cats to mark their territory.  Scratching leaves visible marks and deposits scent allowing cats to communicate with each other. 
  • Lastly, scratching helps cats keep their nails groomed.

If you want kitty to stop scratching your furniture or carpet get him a scratcher or condo (keep reading before you decide on which condo to buy). You can attract your cat to the scratcher with pheromone sprays or catnip.

Some Cats Want This Answered More Than Others

Question 2 from your kitty is “Why can’t I have human food?” Best practice is to feed your cat a balanced diet made for cats and one that contains the right nutrients.  One such nutrient is Taurine.  Taurine is an amino acid that is found exclusively in animal-based proteins.  This ingredient is essential for normal vision, digestion, heart muscle function and to maintain a healthy immune system.

In addition there are also ingredients that are dangerous for your cat.  These foods include onions, garlic, raw eggs or meat, chocolate, raisins, grapes, alcohol or anything containing xylitol.

Something else to consider is how you feed your cat.  While many people think cats are “easy” pets to keep, you may not realize that cats have instinctual preferences for feeding that we humans should consider. Please visit to learn more about this important topic.

Hill Country Animal Hospital is a Cat Friendly Hospital. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) accredits our hospital with this designation because we meet certain requirements and work to ensure low stress visits for your cat. The AAFP developed a website devoted to cat owners called The information on this website is there to help you provide a low stress and enriched environment for your cat to thrive in! Low stress isn’t just for vet visits.

This Question Seems Obvious

Question 3 is “Why can’t I drink all the milk?” This one is pretty easy.  Cats cannot have milk because most cats are lactose intolerant.  Giving your cat cow’s milk can cause GI upset.  You can buy specially formulated milk for cats if you want to give your cat a special treat now and then.

All Cats Want To Know

Question 4 from your cat is “Why do you pet me places I don’t like?” Cats love attention and petting. However, not all petting spots are equal. Consider location.

If you think cats are finicky, you would be correct.  Cats are pretty picky when it comes to where they like to be touched and petted. Below we will list locations and let you know what your cat thinks of these locations.

  • The top of your cat’s head is a yes. 
  • Cheeks and chin are a big yes!! The more pets in these locations the better!
  • The chest and back are usually ok as long you provide gentle strokes.
  • The tail, the belly and the limbs are generally off limits. Most cats do not love to be touched or petted in these areas.

The reason chins and cheeks are popular petting spots is because cats have scent glands on the top of their head, chin, cheeks (and at the base of their tails).  Part of marking territory is leaving their scent on things, even on you! Always watch your cat’s body language to see if he likes how you are petting him.

You’ve Wondered This But Probably Haven’t Asked

Question 5 that your cat wants answered is “Why do you get mad when I jump to high places?” Your answer to this question may be another question: “Why do cats always want to be in a high place?

Cats instinctually want to be in high places because they want to protect themselves.  Hanging out or sleeping on a high perch or position gives them an aerial advantage for safety and for spotting potential dangers. Cats frequently use high perches or landings to escape housemate dogs or other cats. 

This is why if you are choosing condos for your cat, you may want to consider at least one tall condo or cat tree.  If you don’t have a condo, you could clear out a space on a shelf in your closet or whatever high spot your cat already likes to go. 

The point to some of these questions and answers is that cats have needs that if met, will make them feel safe and secure. Meeting their needs for enrichment will make happier and healthier cats.  Cat behavior has come a long way and to learn more about the Five Pillars of a Healthy Feline Environment please visit This website has a wealth of information for cat owners to take their cat’s life from living to thriving!

What A Vet Tech Is

These are the faces of Veterinary Technicians!

What is the definition of a vet tech?

The technical definition of a vet tech is a veterinarian’s assistant, trained to provide medical care for animals, as performing diagnostic tests or administering vaccines and medication. This is a very simplistic definition because we know that a vet tech is so much more. 

What does a vet tech do?

What a vet tech does from day to day can vary with each hospital.  Some hospitals (like ours) are very tech driven.  What does this mean?  It means that our technicians do everything they can for the patient that does not require the doctor. This means that in most instances the technician is taking care of your pet from start to finish in all aspects except the physical exam, diagnosis and surgical procedure.

A good example of this is appointments, it is the technician who collects the patient history; starts the medical note; collects vitals on your pet; collects samples to include blood, feces and urine; and prepares your estimates and invoices.  After your appointment it is your technician who sends your pet’s medical notes to you by email and sometimes it is a technician who calls to check on your pet the next day after his or her appointment.

Here are just a few of the skills our vet techs must have to do their jobs.

  • Place intravenous catheters
  • Intubate patients (undergoing anesthetic procedures)
  • Surgical prep, assisting and monitoring
  • Properly take radiographs
  • Perform full-mouth dental radiographs
  • Probe teeth, perform dental charting
  • Scale and polish teeth
  • Clean and bandage wounds
  • Bandage or splint sprains and broken bones
  • Care for hospitalized patients

Vet techs wear many hats

Our technicians serve as a doctor’s assistant, a phlebotomist, a pharmacy technician, a dental hygienist, a surgical technician/scrub nurse, an x-ray technician, a laboratory technician, a soft lap for patients, a warm embrace for owners and a shoulder to cry on for co-workers.

Please never underestimate the knowledge, years of schooling and experience, compassion and passion that go into being a vet tech. Our vet techs are not doctors, they are not supposed to be. They are in most cases able to help you understand what is going on with your pet. If they don’t know an answer, they will find the answer for you.

A day in the life of a vet tech

A day in the life of a vet tech is never the same from one day to the next. We never know what kind of emergency may walk through our door, consequently the element of surprise is always looming.

Even though we operate on a schedule, unexpected things happen throughout the day that change the course of our schedule and sometimes the entire day.  This means that a vet tech has to be prepared for anything and be flexible enough to change course at a moment’s notice.

A vet tech’s work is very physical.  Vet techs do a lot of standing. Their whole shift is spent on their feet plus there is a lot of bending, squatting and lifting involved.  You can imagine that by the end of the day our techs leave pretty tired.

Even though they may be tired, most of the time our techs leave feeling fulfilled. This is because many technicians are following a calling that they have felt since they were kids, to help animals. If you are interested in finding out what it takes to become a licensed veterinary technician (LVT) in Texas you can visit this website to learn more.

What about the emotional toll?

All veterinary workers get asked about the emotional toll of our jobs. The answer is yes, there is always an emotional toll when working in veterinary medicine. As a consequence of working so closely with and caring so much for our patients, it is difficult to watch them grow over the years and then assist with their death. Our vet techs help the veterinarian this final time as they watch the tears fill the eyes of their human family.

Most people think euthanasia is the hardest part about being a vet tech. The reality is that the sharpness of the emotion dulls somewhat over time. You end up feeling lucky to be able to release painful or diseased bodies from their earthly constraints.

Being a vet tech means advocating for your patient

We define roles at our hospital based on who you as an employee advocate for.  Our Client Relations Specialists advocate for our clients; our doctors advocate for the client and the patient; and our vet techs’ job is to advocate for their patients.

Vet techs are the voice for your pet when it comes to matters of well-being, especially when they are caring directly for your pet. If your dog needs more pain control after surgery, it is the vet tech who will notify the doctor.  If your pet is too anxious to complete his or her appointment without coming back on medication, it is the vet tech who will advocate for your pet’s well-being.

Saying no is hard

Advocating for your pet can sometimes lead our vet techs to send you to an emergency room.  Why?  The reason is simple.  At Hill Country Animal Hospital, we have a standard for the medicine we practice.  What this means is that our doctors and nurses have a limit as to how many patients they can see each day.  If we go beyond that we run the risk of compromising the care we provide and we are not willing to do that. 

When one of our technicians advises you to go to an emergency hospital, it is because she wants what is best for your pet at that moment.  Sometimes this means that we have reached the limit of how many pets we can provide care for in a day. Additionally, it may be in your pet’s best interest to go to an emergency hospital so that overnight care can be provided.

Either way, please understand that we always have your pet’s best interest in mind.  While we would love to see all of our patients whenever they need us, we simply can’t be everything to everyone all the time, and we all need time off to recharge.

We hope that you understand that vet techs are smart, capable and most of all that they are people just like you. They deserve your respect. Vet techs are brave and hard-working and will care for your pet as if it is their own. Join us in being thankful for vet techs.

Ultrasound Imaging – Does My Pet Need This?

Ultrasound imaging on small dog

Ultrasound imaging is just one of the diagnostic tools known as medical imaging. Ultrasounds are becoming very common in veterinary medicine. They give us so much information! To answer the question of whether a pet needs an ultrasound we must first talk about what that is.

The Description

Diagnostic ultrasound imaging is a method that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures within your pet’s body. The resulting image is a sonogram.  An ultrasound produces live pictures of structures inside the body. For more information visit our website.

What is the difference between an X-ray and an Ultrasound

Even though both are medical imaging, the difference is easy to explain.  Ultrasounds let us see soft tissue structures. You can also see the body working in motion.  Think of seeing a heart beating in action versus the still image an x-ray produces.

An x-ray allows us to visualize hard tissue and any part of the body that has air in it.  We use x-rays to see bones, teeth and lungs. We can see other structures with x-rays but this is a generalized explanation. An x-ray also shows air/gas patterns in the gastrointestinal tract or foreign objects that your pet may have eaten.

Foreign objects like this earring are better viewed with an x-ray instead of ultrasound imaging.

An x-ray does not require sedation unless the process is complex and we know your pet will not tolerate staying still. Ultrasound does not require sedation unless your pet is fractious or very anxious.

Neither of these procedures causes pain.  To perform an ultrasound a veterinarian or a technician places a probe, called a transducer, on your pet’s body using a slight bit of pressure.

What types of ultrasounds are done on pets?

There are generally two types of ultrasounds for pets. One is an abdominal ultrasound. We use this type to examine structures within the abdomen. The second type of ultrasound visualizes the heart in action. We call this an echocardiogram or echo for short. Let’s talk about echos at a later time.

Keep in mind that while imaging these organs is extremely helpful, the first tool in our diagnostic toolbox does not usually start with an ultrasound.

Diagnostic Tools

The easiest and most common diagnostic tool is laboratory testing.  Testing to include blood work and urinalysis is the first and least invasive way for us to look inside your pet’s body.  Blood testing tells us how organs are functioning. It also tells us the kinds and numbers of blood cells in the body.

A urinalysis helps to determine kidney function. It also tells us whether an infection is present in the bladder. In addition it aids in the screening for diseases like bladder cancer and diabetes. Using an ultrasound allows us to obtain a sterile urine sample that we can send off for culture when needed.

When is Ultrasound Imaging Appropriate?

Your veterinarian will tell you when an ultrasound may aid in diagnosing your pet’s illness.  Most of the time your pet needs an ultrasound when blood work or an exam shows an abnormality. If further blood work does not help with a diagnosis, an x-ray or ultrasound may be in order.

Abnormalities on a physical exam or from an x-ray may indicate that your pet needs an ultrasound. An ultrasound is also helpful as a screening tool as your pet ages. One of our doctors brings her own dog in for screening with ultrasound every year. 

At Hill Country Animal Hospital we can perform “screening” ultrasounds on site.  Our formally trained and certified technician performs these types of ultrasounds. This means that she can perform an ultrasound to determine if abnormalities are present. Some pets require a more diagnostic ultrasound from a specialist or they may require further attention from a surgeon or internist depending on the outcome of the ultrasound. If you would like to learn a little more about ultrasounds visit Texas A&M University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

How to Prepare Your Pet for Ultrasound Imaging

The only thing you really need to do to prepare your pet or an ultrasound is to withhold food from him or her for about 6-8 hours. The reason we ask you to fast your pet is because we need to see the structures of the abdomen which include the stomach. If the stomach is full of food it can interfere with the detail in the images we are able to see.

As always, if you have questions about your pet’s ultrasound or need to schedule an appointment, give us a call at 210-695-4455.

Cat Lovers Unite to Celebrate!

National Cat Lover's Month

December is National Cat Lover’s Month. How great is it to have an entire month dedicated to those of us who love cats?  I am proud to say that I am definitely in this camp.  This is a very busy time of year but don’t forget to celebrate your feline friends this month.  For this month I am proud to be a crazy cat lady! Who are we kidding, I am a crazy cat lady every month. 

How Will You Celebrate?

Celebrate your month of feline fantastic-ness any way your heart desires!  There are so many ways to say “I love you” to your cat. Here are a few ideas of what you can do. 

Schedule a Wellness Visit with Your Veterinarian

Ok, your cat may not love this idea but good health is definitely a gift at any age.  Schedule a visit and bring your cat for an exam and vaccines. Always take advantage and get lab work performed as well.  No matter your cat’s age, the best value at your visit is blood work because of the information it gives us!  As a young cat it gives us a good base line and as your pet ages, we can detect abnormalities early with blood work.

Give Your Cat A “Spaw” Day

Cat S"paw" Day

Grooming not only helps your feline look and feel better but it helps provide some great one-on-one time with your feline friend.  Give your kitty an extra round of brushing.  You can take the opportunity to take notice of any new lumps and bumps that may need to be looked at by the vet.  Also take the time to brush your cat’s teeth if you can.  Start slowly with a gauze-covered finger and work up to a toothbrush. 

Cats need professional dental care too so consider scheduling a dental cleaning with your veterinarian.  Dental health is so important and your cat will feel so much better getting any painful areas dealt with sooner rather than later. 

Buy Some New Cat Toys

Did you know that your cat will actually appreciate a toy that allows you to interact with him?  Try a toy like “Da Bird”.  I can tell you from experience that all my cats come running when they hear this toy come out!  Cats love toys that simulate prey activity that they miss out on while living indoors. 

Other great toys include food puzzles, balls to chase, toys to bat around and anything containing catnip.

Try Furniture Made for Cats

I’m sure some people might think that cat furniture is going overboard but it really helps meet the need of enrichment for our feline friends.  Cats instinctively love to seek out a high spot in their environment to perch.  This allows them to see all while remaining safe in their environment.  This makes cat trees a great idea, especially if your kitty is not the only pet in the house.  If you also have a dog he doesn’t love or even other cats, try getting a cat tree.  It gives your feline friend his own space and gives him a place to retreat to thus cutting down on his stress.

Another piece of “furniture” that I have had great success with is a lounger.  Find these loungers at Amazon and provide a place for your kitties to relax or scratch.  This particular product and those like it are great because once one side gets worn out you can turn it over and extend it’s life.  Then after both sides have been scratched, you can use a saw to cut it in half, then turn each half over to the new side and now you have two new half-loungers!  You can extend the life of your lounger with a little DIY. 

Cat lounger for cat lovers!

Scratching is a good thing

Another item you can add to your home that will bring much joy and enrichment for your cats are items for them to scratch.  As much as many humans dislike for cats to scratch, scratching is a very natural part of a cat’s life.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on scratchers but do provide an acceptable place for your little tiger to scratch. The important thing about scratchers is that they are sturdy enough to withstand intense scratching.

Some cats like scratching carpet while others like sisal (a rope like material).  Once you know what your cats like you can either buy or make a scratching area.  Store bought or hand-made, something as simple as putting some carpet on a piece of cardboard and attaching it to your wall or the back of a door with some nails or adhesive of some kind.  Make it tall enough for your cat to stretch up and scratch.  Some people even put a cute painted picture frame around it to finish it off.  What a simple way to provide enrichment for your cat!

DIY your cat some love

Can You Teach a Cat a Trick?

You sure can!  You can teach cats trick by finding a treat that they love!!  Try freeze dried chicken, shrimp or salmon.  Then shape your cat’s behavior by simply waiting until he does the desired behavior to reward him.  This can provide you with great bonding time with your feline companion as well as some entertainment.

Make Your Celebration Last All Year

No matter how you choose to spend time with your ball of fluff, make sure you give your cat a little extra attention for the month of December.  Then maybe make it a habit for every month of the year.  After all, what is a better way to celebrate National Cat Lover’s month than by giving your cat extra love year round?

Older Pet Spotlight: Seniors Going Strong

Older dog

Older pets deserve the spotlight!  November is Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month so let’s focus on our older friends. We also want to focus on the unique needs of older pets and try to help pet owners that may be struggling, find some solutions.

What Constitutes a Senior Pet? 

Pets have life stages just like people.  Their life stages are a bit shorter in terms of how long they last since pets age a little more quickly than humans.  What makes a pet a senior is really determined by their breed and their life expectancy.  Generally speaking however, a pet can be considered a senior after turning 7 years old.  This is when we start to see some subtle changes and when we start to screen for certain disease processes that show up in later life.

Some of these disease processes can include diabetes, liver disease, thyroid disease, cancer, arthritis, hearing loss and eye problems.  Age is in no way a guarantee that your pet will develop any of these symptoms.  Your pet may stay healthy for a very long time.  Because we see these diseases and ailments in many older animals we do start to screen more vigilantly as your pet ages.

What Changes Should You Look For in Your Older Pet?

Our philosophy at Hill Country Animal Hospital is that we always want to work in concert with pet owners to help provide the best care for their pets.  Because of this, we often screen for health issues based on feedback from owners.  This feedback may include the following changes that have been noticed at home:

  • Drinking more water
  • Urinating more
  • Less active/lethargic
  • Limping or difficulty getting around
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Changes in personality and/or behavior
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Changes in vision or any visible changes to the eyes (especially depending on the breed)
  • New lumps and bumps

We encourage you to seek help for whatever problems you are having with your pets.  Some issues may not seem health-related but we are in the business of helping you care for your pet and may have a solution. Let us know even if your problem is something like my pet is slipping on the floor at home.  If we don’t have an answer we can try to find one or put you in touch with someone else who can help you.

Managing Medication with Older Pets

As our pets age, we often find ourselves managing chronic diseases like arthritis or thyroid disease.  These require daily medication.  If your schedules are anything like ours it can be challenging to know if someone in the family gave your pet his medication.  That is when an item like a pet medication reminder comes in handy.

senior pet medication minder

These can be purchased on Amazon and are very helpful when managing pet medications with a busy schedule.

Maintaining Exercise in the Golden Years

We recommend exercise for all pets from an early age.  Exercise helps maintain overall health by keeping weight in control and keeping muscles strong.  Many times as pets age they develop a bony appearance but haven’t lost as much weight as their appearance leads you to believe.  This change in appearance can be attributed to muscle loss.  Pets lose muscle just as we do if they do not remain active. For this reason, exercise is extremely important.

Don’t try to start a strenuous exercise regimen if you have not always exercised your pet.  If you are just getting started, start slowly and build.  Some exercise is better than none and will provide mental enrichment for your pet as well.

If your older pet acts like he is feeling a bit stiff ask your vet about laser treatments. Laser therapy can help with many conditions and is painless and drug free.

Communicate Your Older Pet Concerns

Remember to always communicate your senior pet concerns with your veterinary team.  Maintaining an open dialogue about your concerns as well as your desires and expectations is helpful for all concerned. Your veterinary team needs to know what your expectations are so that we can tell you whether they are realistic based on what is going on. 

Don’t ever be afraid to share with us what your budget is either.  We will try to formulate treatment plans that fit into your budget.  Remember, it is our job to provide and offer the best diagnostics and treatment that we can provide.  It is your job to let us know what you can afford and then we will adjust our plan to try to do as much as we can while respecting your budget.  This is when communication is paramount.  We are not in the business of judging.  We just want to offer the best care for our patients.

When It Is Time to Say Goodbye

Aging pets bring about the sad realization that we may not have our best friends around forever.  This doesn’t mean that we can’t make sure that the rest of their lives are lived in comfort and happiness.  When this is no longer possible, we will be there for you and your pet at this time too.

This is not an easy process or decision to navigate but rest assured that we will be there for you during this time to help with answers and suggestions.  We have many tools that we can provide to help you know when it’s time to let go.    

We are not going to tell you that you will “just know.”  We will however provide you with quality of life scoring systems and advice that will help you make the necessary decisions.

It’s Not Always Easy but It’s worth It

Caring for older and then geriatric pets is not always easy.  It can be expensive too.  Pet insurance purchased when your pet is young can help the most when they get older.  We consider it an honor and a privilege care for pets from the time they are young until they are senior citizens.  We love watching your pets grow up. 

As pet owners, our pets bring us so much love that it makes it all worthwhile.  Don’t try to bear the burden of care all by yourself if we can help.  We are going to be making some changes to our website and will be featuring some items that may help you care for your older pets at home, so stay tuned.  Make the most of every day with your pets whether they are babies, adults or seniors!