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.

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 catfriendly.com 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 Catfriendly.com. 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 https://catfriendly.com/ This website has a wealth of information for cat owners to take their cat’s life from living to thriving!

I Think My Pet Ate Something Poisonous

Protect your pet from poisonous items around your home

Do you think that could be poisonous?

Have you ever uttered these words wondering if your pet just ate something that could be poisonous?  I think we all have at one time or another.  It is not a good feeling!  The situation is only compounded when your pet ingests something questionable AFTER your veterinarian has closed for the day or on the weekend. 

Does poisonous always equal emergency?

If you suspect your pet could have ingested something poisonous it could very well be an emergency, so the answer is maybe.  During emergencies, time is of the essence so I am going to walk you through what you should do if this ever happens to you.

Become familiar with common pet poisons

First, you should become familiar with some common pet toxins. Our website features an article that contains some of the top pet poisons called in to the ASPCA Pet Poison Control. You can visit that article to learn more about these common but sometimes deadly poisonous items for pets.

Chocolate is poisonous to pets
  • Over the counter human medication
  • Human prescription medications
  • Chocolate
  • Mouse and rate poisoning
  • Xylitol
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Vitamin D overdose
  • Onions and garlic
  • Alcohol
  • Caffiene
  • FOR CATS: Lilies (Lilium species)
  • FOR CATS: Spot-on-flea/tick medication (especially over-the-counter brands that contain pyrethrins)
Stargazer lilies are poisonous to cats

Some plants are poisonous too

These toxins represent a small sampling of things that pets ingest that end up to be poisonous.  Some plants are more toxic to cats than dogs or vice versa.  You can find a complete list at the ASPCA Pet Poison Control website. One plant that we have a lot of in the San Antonio area is Sago Palm.  Sago Palms are extremely poisonous to dogs if they ingest any part of the plant.  The seed or “nut” of the plant is the most toxic part of the plant.  Ingestion of this plant can result in liver failure within 2-3 days. 

Sago palms are extremely poisonous to dogs if eaten

Become familiar with the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Website

This list is by no means exhaustive so your best bet is to check the ASPCA Pet Poison Control (APPC) website if you are considering new plants in your house or yard, or using chemicals for your yard or for controlling pests.  You can get quick access to the ASPCA Pet Poison Control website via our app. Visit our website for a link to download our hospital app.

We know it’s poisonous and an emergency, so now what?

Now that you know what things to avoid, let us go back to what to do if you have an emergency with one of these poisons. When your pet ingests something that you think may be poisonous, it is everyone’s first instinct to call your veterinarian.  Your first call should actually be to ASPCA Pet Poison Control. 

Step 1, call the pet poison experts

The ASPCA hotline staffs veterinary technicians, Veterinarians and Veterinary Toxicologists to help you with your emergency.  They have a large database of information (more than almost any veterinary hospital) about commonly ingested items and can advise both you and your veterinarian as to the appropriate course of treatment for your pet.  

Many times even if you call our office, our advice to you will be to call poison control first and start a case.  Because of their expertise we find that working in concert with them gives us the best opportunity to provide life saving care to your pet. So step 1 is to start a case with APPC.

Step 2, call your vet

Step 2 is to call your vet. This is very close second to Step 1. In fact steps 1 and 2 are almost interchangeable but just know that you will probably still have to do both.

Once your pet is at our hospital we can begin treatment. We will outline the treatment plan for your pet as well as let you know what kind of follow on care will be required.

Above all, don’t wait to seek help!

The most important thing you can remember is not to wait when you suspect that your pet may have ingested something poisonous. Seek treatment as soon as you can because in so many cases the sooner we can intervene with treatment, the better. As always, call us with any questions at 210-695-4455.

When The Heat Goes Up, So Does The Danger of Heatstroke

Surviving the Heat

Fun in the heat

We are feeling the heat right now!  July in Texas is sweltering and we know the heat will get worse moving forward.  Hill Country Animal Hospital wants to share some important tips on how to make sure your pets stay safe in the heat this summer.

Summer is a fun time of year! Unfortunately, heat can quickly become dangerous for pets.  The number one danger for pets is heatstroke. 

Why are pets at risk of heatstroke?

Pets do not dissipate heat through sweating, like humans. The main method of ridding heat in pets is panting.  Panting is usually an efficient method of thermoregulation for pets, but it is not as efficient as sweating is for humans. This makes pets at risk for heatstroke.

Did you know that your pet’s coat works to help protect him in the summer too?  In the winter his coat serves as insulation to keep him warm and in the heat it protects him by not allowing him to take on too much heat. 

You do not need to shave your pet for the summer. Just make sure he is well brushed and rid of his winter undercoat. Your pet’s coat will protect him from sun and insects.

Who is at most risk?

Any pet can become a victim to the heat. The pets listed below are at higher risk for developing heat-related problems.

  • Pets who have survived an episode of heat stroke in the past
  • Elderly pets
  • Pets confined to cars or carriers
  • Dogs and cats with short and wide faces (brachycephalic)
  • Pets with a heart or breathing condition
  • Pets without access to water or shade
  • Overweight pets

You should never leave your pet inside a car or carrier without air conditioning. 

Brachycephalic dogs are at a higher risk. Their anatomy prevents them from panting and cooling efficiently. 

Overweight pets are at risk. Their weight interferes with their body’s thermoregulation.  Their weight does not allow them to efficiently radiate heat from their body which allows them to cool down.

What are the signs of a heat stroke?

First, become familiar with the signs of heatstroke. Second, pay close attention to your pet’s behavior in the heat.  Third, humidity plays a big role in your pet’s ability to cool down.  The more humid the harder it is for your pet to cool.  Watch for these signs:

  • Confusion, anxious or dazed expression
  • Hot to the touch or increased rectal temperature
  • Seizures
  • Salivation
  • Whining
  • Heavy panting
  • Brick red gums
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Collapsing, stumbling and falling down
  • Laying down and reluctant to get up

What if your pet falls victim to the heat?

If your pet becomes overheated, cool your pet down by placing cool (not cold), wet towels over his body. Pay special attention to his armpits, stomach and groin area.  DO NOT USE ICE! Cooling MUST be done gradually to avoid shock. You can get first aid tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association here.

You should seek veterinary treatment at the nearest facility immediately!  Visit our website for access to emergency facilities. Do not delay or take a “wait and see” approach.  THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!

Your veterinarian will manage your dog’s heatstroke with intravenous fluids, any medications necessary and will gradually and safely reduce your pet’s temperature.  Laboratory work (blood and urine) will likely be necessary to determine if organ damage has occurred.   

Keep in mind that your pet’s temperature will likely be an indication of the severity of the situation.  Your pet’s normal temperature is 101F to 102F. A temperature of 103F-104F is considered abnormal or hyperthermic. Pets with a temperature of 106F are usually considered to be a heat-related incident and we begin treatment immediately.   Temperatures of 107F-109F can lead to organ failure or death. 

Heatstroke can lead to brain damage, kidney damage or failure, muscle damage, liver damage, bleeding or clotting issues, lung damage, bloody diarrhea, seizures and death.

Take Precautions in the Heat

Being safe in the heat

Never leave your pet in your car, even with the windows cracked or in the shade.  Use air conditioners to keep the environment cool.  Use fans to increase air circulation.

Make sure your pets have access to clean, fresh water at all times. If your pet is outdoors make sure he has access to shade.

Walk your dog in the shade if possible and walk your dogs early in the morning or after 6 pm. If it is not possible to stay in the shade, check the asphalt to make sure it is not too hot for your dog.  If you can press the back of your hand on the asphalt for 7 seconds, it should be comfortable for your dog.

Remember, if your pet is outdoors in the heat, it is up to you to monitor his behavior. Pets don’t really understand that they are becoming too hot. If you see any dangerous symptoms, call us at 210-695-4455. Stay safe and have fun with your pet!

COVID-19 Gave Us New Lives

Covid 19, Coronavirus and Pets


COVID-19 and the Coronavirus are on everyone’s mind right now and rightly so.  We want to make sure we provide you with timely and useful information regarding how you and your pet can stay safe and healthy.  Read on to learn more about pets and Coronavirus.


Does Your Pet Have Anxiety on July 4th?

What is Noise Aversion or Noise Anxiety?

Have you ever wondered if your pet suffers from anxiety that is related to noise like fireworks, thunderstorms or even just loud noises?  This is called noise aversion and it is a real problem for many pets.

4th of July puppy and kitten no anxiety

Since Fourth of July is fast approaching, this is a wonderful time to talk about noise aversion and the anxiety that our furry friends experience.  For many people Fourth of July means fun in the sun, cookouts and fireworks.  For the rest of us it means hunkering down with our dogs, inside, dreading nightfall and the noise of fireworks going off in our neighborhoods.  If you have a dog that has noise aversion or anxiety, you fit right into the second group of people.  Unfortunately, this can be a miserable time for your pet and you.  Many pets suffer with this type of anxiety during thunderstorms or when loud noises are present. Continue…

Be Prepared and Avoid Disaster

Are You Prepared?

prepared with petsNow is the time to get prepared.  Now is the time to review what it takes to be prepared for disaster.  May 11th was National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day.  Even though the day has passed, we want to help you prepare in the event that you and your pets are ever involved in an evacuation or disaster.  Remember, the key to staying safe is to plan ahead.  DO NOT wait Continue…

Be Kind To Animals

Celebrate Be Kind to Animals Week

Be Kind to Animals Week is May 5 -11 this year and we could not think of a better subject to blog about!  Certainly it seems like common

Kind to animals

sense to be kind to animals but in reality life isn’t always like that.  We (those of us who work here and you, our clients) all share a common love for animals and we can explore ways that we can be kind to animals all year round.

American Humane brought Be Kind to Animals week to light.  This commemoration is the oldest of its kind and is the longest running humane education program in the country. You can check out American Humane here.


Heartworm Prevention Is A Prescription For Love

Love your pet?  Give them heartworm prevention!

Of course you love your pets, but do you love them year round by keeping them on heartworm prevention?  You probably do love your pets all the time!  Ok, maybe not when Rover tears into last night’s trash or when Fluffy vomits a hair ball on your newly cleaned comforter but most days, we all love our pets.  What does loving our pets entail?  Part of loving them is keeping them safe.  One of the biggest dangers to a pet in Texas is heartworm disease.

Is he protected against heartworms year round?

Is heartworm disease on the rise?

The answer is unfortunately, yes.  In Bexar County, the risk Continue…