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.

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.

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!

Animal Shelters Deserve Our Thanks

Animal shelter volunteer

Animal Shelters do really hard work. November 7 – 13 is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week for 2020. It is the humble opinion of this writer that one week of recognition is not nearly enough for these hard working people. I know how hard they work and we all absolutely need to show them some love!

Not the Dog Catcher Anymore

There was a time when people who worked in animal sheltering were looked upon as nothing more than “dog catchers.” They caught stray pets and took them to the “pound.” While at the pound animals languished in cages until they were euthanized.

Animal sheltering is vastly different now. Animal shelters and their workers provide care and a safe haven for lost, abandoned, sometimes injured and unwanted pets.

Shelters vs. Rescues

Private rescues now take on the task of sheltering right along with actual animal shelters. Government municipalities operate animal shelters and private organizations often operate rescues. Many rescues operate with the use of foster homes.

Foster homes are the most needed commodity. Unfortunately, foster homes are usually in the shortest supply. Foster “parents” care for homeless animals in their homes until the animal is adopted. This benefits future adopters in many ways.

  • Foster homes socialize animals with people and sometimes with other animals.
  • Foster homes provide house training. This would be much more difficult in an animal shelter environment.
  • Being in a foster home also allows them to receive some behavior training.
  • Being in a foster home allows the foster family to learn the likes and dislikes of the pet which they can pass along to the adopter.

All of these things can make for a more successful adoption. Fostering can be a lot of work on the part of foster parent and certainly warrants appreciation. In spite of the work, nothing beats the satisfaction of knowing your foster pet got his forever home because of the work you did!

Who Are These Workers?

Some shelter workers earn a salary to care for the animals in their charge. You may not know that many if not most who care for these animals are volunteers! It may surprise some but people volunteer to make the lives of animals better. This is certainly cause for appreciation and celebration!

Organizations like the Helotes Humane Society consist of mostly volunteers. Volunteers are the only way organizations like these survive.

What Can You Do To Help?

If you want to help, get involved. Being involved and committed is a great way to show your appreciation for the hard work that happens at animal shelters. Call you local animal shelter or visit their website to learn more about volunteer opportunities.

Most animal shelters have opportunities for volunteers that include

  • Fostering animals
  • Helping with fundraisers
  • Helping at public events
  • Picking up donations
  • Sorting donated items
  • Walking/bathing/training dogs
  • Helping at adoption events

If you do not want to volunteer, donate! Donating is another great way to not only show appreciation but also to support the organization.

COVID-19 and Animal Shelters

If you are even considering supporting your local animal shelter or rescue there has never been a better time!

The pandemic affected rescues negatively. Because of the need for social distancing, adoption events did not take place regularly. Fundraising has also been limited because of the pandemic. Now is the time to support and donate to these amazing organizations that do the community’s work with animals.

San Antonio Animal Shelters are Getting Some Help

The city of San Antonio recently passed a law to allow the sale of only rescued dogs and cats at pet stores starting in January 2021. This will allow pet stores to have rescued pets for adoption.

Hopefully this law will help more homeless pets get adopted. If you are looking for a new best friend, please consider rescuing a pet in need. After all, this is also a great way to show your gratitude to all the animal shelter workers and volunteers out there.

Is A Senior Pet Right For You?

Senior pet cat

Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month is celebrated in November.  This is the perfect time to talk about the advantages that come from adopting a senior pet.  Whether a senior pet is right for you depends on your lifestyle and what you want from a pet.  Read on to see if a senior pet may be right for you.

When Do You Call a Pet a Senior?

Deciding when to call a pet a senior depends on the age and the breed of the pet.  Typically, a pet is considered a senior around seven years of age.  Even though pets may be considered senior they can still be active for years.  They may eventually start to slow down and not participate in as many of their active behaviors.  We consider these their geriatric years. 

Pinning down a specific set of years to assign to each life stage is difficult. Much of this depends on the pet’s breed and size.  Larger dogs age faster while small dogs and cats tend to live longer than their larger counterparts.

Considerations for All Adoptions

When you are considering adopting a pet, there are several things to consider before you choose the pet. 

  • Consider your lifestyle. Are you home enough to provide companionship to a pet at all?
  • Should you get a cat or a dog? How much responsibility are you prepared to shoulder?
  • How much space do you have?  Do you have enough room for a small dog or cat but not enough for a large breed dog?
  • Don’t forget to factor in the financial responsibility.  A pet is a financial responsibility for the life of the pet.  You must also be financially able to treat an emergency should one arise.

Once you have answered these questions successfully you can move on to decide if a senior dog is right for you.  Senior dogs have already gone through the puppy phase and after an adjustment period should be calmer and less destructive than a puppy.  Senior cats may still have plenty of spunk left in them and be ready to pounce on a toy or lie quietly in your lap.  Here are some other benefits.

  • Minimal to no housetraining (depending on the history of the pet)
  • Senior dogs will require a little less training and activity although you can still “teach an old dog some new tricks!”
  • You know how your pet will be in advance.  Senior pets are already grown and you can see their personalities instantly
  • Senior pets usually will be able to settle into your household much easier than a puppy.  They are more relaxed and won’t require a 24/7 commitment like a puppy does.
Senior Pet Dog

The Benefit of Adopting a Senior Pet

The best part about rescuing a senior pet is that you know you have done something great by adopting one.  Senior pets are often overlooked in shelters because people think they want puppies or kittens.  Many times if you do your research you will find that a senior pet fits your lifestyle much better.

The best benefit you will get is the years of love and affection you will get from adopting a mellow, older pet.  What could be better? 

Preparing for Future Care

If you want to know about caring for a senior pet, stay tuned for our next blog or visit our website or Facebook page.  You will be able to learn about caring for senior pets and some health issues to watch for. 

Where to Adopt?

If you are interested in adopting a senior pet check out the many rescues and shelters in and around the San Antonio area.

There are many other rescues in and around San Antonio including breed specific rescues.  You can find these rescues by searching the internet. Remember, it’s about the quality not quantity of time you have to spend with any pet you have so give a senior pet a try!

“Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.” (or cat) Sydney Jeanne Seward

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!