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Should you feed your pets a grain-free diet?

I’m thrilled that pet owners these days put a lot of thought into their pets’ diets. However, unfortunately, many pet owners have fallen for convincing marketing campaigns and trust that companies (not their vets!) will tell them what’s best for their pets.

Grain-free diets are one of the latest food trends to take off in pet care circles. Because of this, many owners now assume grains in pet food are just fillers and that foods without grains are somehow healthier and more “natural.” But there are no scientific studies that support the idea that grain-free diets are better for our pets than diets with grains.

For one thing, grains are not simply fillers! They provide necessary vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Many pet owners also believe grains are more likely to cause allergic reactions to foods, but grain allergies are very uncommon. If a pet has a food allergy, it’s most likely triggered by animal proteins like chicken, beef, fish or dairy.

Don’t let fancy marketing campaigns guilt you into thinking grains are automatically bad for your pets! A good diet is based on nutrient content, and many foods with grains are great options. Your pet’s diet is important, and if you need assistance selecting one, consult your Santa Clarita Animal Hospital veterinarian.

Dr. John Burkhartsmeyer

Found Kittens Recuperating at Santa Clarita Animal Hospital

Found Kittens Recuperating

A local resident recently found three kittens in a garbage bag hanging from a tree outside Castaic Sports Complex. These four-week-old orange cuties are currently recuperating at Santa Clarita Animal Hospital, and they’ll need homes soon!

KTLA came by to talk to us about the kittens and the care they’re receiving at our hospital. You can watch their coverage here!

We’re posting updates on the kittens on our Facebook page, so make sure to follow along to keep up with how they’re doing. If you’re interested in adopting one of these kittens once they’re healthy and ready to find homes, please give us a call at 661-259-7387 and ask for an application.

Canine Influenza Identified in Los Angeles County

As of April 7th, there have been 34 sick dogs reported to Los Angeles County. Five were confirmed by lab testing to have canine influenza, and the other 29 are still suspected to have canine influenza. These dogs, including 8 additional dogs that are healthy but have been exposed to the virus, are currently being quarantined.

Common symptoms of canine influenza include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thick, greenish nasal discharge

Because of this outbreak, we encourage you to be extra vigilant in preventing canine influenza. If you suspect your pet has canine influenza, keep them away from all other pets. This disease spreads very easily, so keep your pet at home if they’re showing symptoms and call Santa Clarita Animal Hospital. Also, make sure your pet isn’t sharing food or water bowls, leashes, toys or any other supplies.

To prevent the spread of canine influenza, consider vaccinating your dog against the virus. Give Santa Clarita Animal Hospital a call at (661) 425-9912 to schedule your pet’s vaccination.

Look Out for Rattlesnakes as Weather Warms

As the weather warms, you and your pets are more likely to encounter rattlesnakes while out on walks. Snakes love basking in the sun, and they aren’t afraid of looking for a spot of warmth out in the open!

To prevent rattlesnake bites, always stay on groomed trails, and keep an ear out for that distinct sound of tails shaking. Keep your pet leashed and out of brush, where snakes like to hide.

If your pet is ever bit by a rattlesnake, seek emergency veterinary care immediately. Rattlesnake venom causes swelling and death of the tissue surrounding the bite, and your pet is more likely to recover when treatment begins quickly.

For more information, call Santa Clarita Animal Hospital at (661) 425-9912.

Easter Safety Tips

While they’re sure signs that Easter is on its way, fresh flowers and baskets full of pastel-colored candy also represent potential health risks for your pets! As you’re making your home festive for the holiday, make sure you keep these Easter-related treats away from your pets.

  • Lilies. Lilies can cause fatal kidney failure when cats ingest any part of them, even just the pollen! Either keep them up high away from nosy paws or keep them out of your house entirely.
  • Chocolate. The darker the chocolate is, the more poisonous it is to your pets, but they shouldn’t have access to any kind of chocolate. So hide those chocolate bunnies!
  • Plastic grass. If your Easter baskets are filled with bright green plastic grass, keep the baskets out of your pets’ sight so they aren’t tempted to chew (and potentially choke) on the fake grass. It looks real to them, but it can cause severe intestinal blockages.
  • Plastic eggs. Don’t forget where you hide your eggs! Pets could choke on shattered bits of plastic eggs or break them open and eat the candy inside.

If your pet ever ingests these substances or any other toxic items, call Santa Clarita Animal Hospital at (661) 425-9912 as soon as you can. We can advise you how to proceed.

The Five Vaccines Your Pets Need for Spring

There are numerous illnesses that become easier for our pets to contract when the weather warms and they head outside more often. Here are the five vaccines your pets should have updated as we head into spring and why they’re so crucial.

  1. Leptospirosis is a highly contagious zoonotic disease, meaning it can easily pass from animals to humans and vice versa. It’s transmitted most commonly through urine and contaminated water. Because we had a local case of leptospirosis last year, and because it poses a threat to your entire family, we highly recommend protecting your pet against this nasty bacteria.
  1. Rattlesnake venom. On warm days, rattlesnakes love basking in the sun, so it’s not uncommon for dog owners to encounter them while out on walks. To protect your pets, vaccinate them against rattlesnake venom, always remain on designated paths and keep an ear out for that distinctive sound of tails shaking.
  1. Rabies is a highly contagious virus, and it’s most commonly spread when an infected mammal bites another mammal. Common carriers include bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes and coyotes. The virus is devastating; if a pet becomes infected, they need to be quarantined for long periods of time, and it often leads to death. Outdoor activities are more likely this time of year, so vaccinate your pets before they could come in contact with any wildlife or other pets.
  1. Bordetella is the most common bacteria that causes kennel cough, a highly contagious respiratory disease affecting our dogs. This vaccine is particularly important if you’ll be boarding or traveling with your pet, as it spreads very easily.
  1. Distemper is a viral disease most often passed along by dogs, wolves, foxes and raccoons. There is no cure for distemper, which is why vaccinating against it is so important.

To schedule your pet’s vaccines, give Santa Clarita Animal Hospital a call at (661) 425-9912.

Separation Anxiety During Back-to-School Season

Every year, back-to-school season brings about changes in our schedules. However, while we and our kids get used to our routines again fairly quickly, we still often forget that these changes affect our pets, too.

Dogs often struggle with their human companions being gone more often, and many pets suffer from separation anxiety. Some dogs are unable to cope with being alone, as being around their families makes them feel safe and comfortable. A dog usually presents signs of separation anxiety throughout the day when her family is gone, and a cat generally show signs after his owners have been gone for a few days at a time.

Signs of separation anxiety regularly include:

● Barking, whining or crying, usually rhythmically and in a higher pitch.
● Marking or other forms of inappropriate elimination in the house. Talk to your Santa Clarita Animal Hospital veterinarian to make sure this isn’t a sign of a different underlying health issue.
● Chewing items that smell like the owner or that the owner touches often, like clothing, couches, beds, cell phones, remotes, books and magazines.
● Drooling, shaking or pacing.

To help your pet get used to a schedule change:

● Give your pet things to do while you’re gone. Provide plenty of toys so your pet doesn’t feel bored and so she learns she can have fun when you’re not around, too.
● Don’t block your pet out of the entire house while you’re gone. Pets often escape confinement because they want to be near you, or at the very least, near your scent.
● Try to change your behavior when you leave and when you come home. Don’t shower your cat or dog with pets before you leave, and don’t act especially excited when you come home either. Keep your distance in these moments so your pet learns that you leaving and coming home is normal.

You can read more about pet separation anxiety here: http://source.colostate.edu/pet-health-back-to-school-time-can-trigger-separation-anxiety-in-pets/

If you need more help managing your pet’s behavior issues, schedule an appointment at Santa Clarita Animal Hospital by calling (661) 425-9912.

Sileo: A New Firework Solution

With Fourth of July fast approaching, owners of noise phobic dogs are once again preparing to comfort their trembling, panting, and anxious companions. At Santa Clarita Animal Hospital, we know all too well the stress of these festivities as clients and their companions come to us for medication to help control their pets’ anxiety throughout the month of June.

Thankfully, this year we can offer a new solution to noise phobia known as Sileo. It is the first and only FDA approved treatment for noise aversion. Sileo is a transmucosal gel (meaning that it is absorbed by the cheek and gums) designed to control noise phobia. The active ingredient in Sileo has been used by veterinary hospitals for years as an injectable, but it has only recently become available in this new client friendly form.

Designed to be given prior to a predictable event (i.e., a firework show) or immediately following a fear reaction to a noise, Sileo has been shown in studies to reduce the behaviors associated with noise phobias including pacing, lip licking, cowering, hypervigilance, vocalization, and shaking. It takes approximately 30-60 minutes to take full effect. Contrary to a pure tranquilizer, dogs on Sileo are still fully aware and functional. Sileo typically lasts for two to three hours and can be dosed again as soon as two hours after the initial dose.

However, we do recommend an examination by one of our veterinarians prior to prescribing Sileo as we want to make sure it is the best solution for your dog. There are other options for behavior modifying medications if our veterinarians feel Sileo is not the best fit for your pet. We will be happy to discuss all the options with you and make this Fourth of July a fun celebration again!

Leptospirosis: An Emerging Disease

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a bacteria transmitted through the urine of infected animals. Raccoons, skunks, opossums, mice and rats are thought to be the most common carriers of the disease. Historically, this disease was limited to dogs exposed to irrigation fields, lakes, and streams, but with increasing urbanization suburban dogs are now at risk.

In Santa Clarita, many houses are bordered by wildlife corridors and pet owners routinely take their dogs on walks in Placerita Canyon or other undeveloped spaces. This places the majority of dogs in Santa Clarita at risk of exposure to leptospirosis. Fortunately, cats have proven to be highly resistant to the infection and are not considered at risk for developing the disease.

How Could My Dog Get Leptospirosis?

A dog could come in contact with leptospirosis by walking in the urine of an infected animal and licking his paw, licking the grass contaminated with urine, or drinking from a stagnant water source. Once the leptospirosis bacteria has infected a dog, it spreads throughout his or her bloodstream and reproduces in the eyes, liver, nervous system, kidneys and reproductive organs. Once the infection progresses, it can cause fatal organ complications including liver and kidney failure.

What Are the Symptoms?

The most common symptoms of leptospirosis are often vague and could potentially be caused by another disease process. This means that a thorough history, physical exam, and diagnostics are required to confirm a leptospirosis case.


Symptoms Include:

  • A sudden fever
  • Stiff and/or sore muscles
  • General weakness and/or depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Dehydration
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes)


Is Leptospirosis Contagious?

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is one of a handful of diseases that your dog could pass to you or your family members. If you suspect your pet is infected, do not handle their urine and contact a veterinarian for advice immediately. At Santa Clarita Animal Hospital, we have an in-house test for leptospirosis that we can use on unvaccinated animals to determine if they are infected rapidly.


How Can I Protect My Pet?

Fortunately, there is a highly efficacious and safe vaccination we can give your at risk dog to protect him or her. You can call Santa Clarita Animal Hospital at 661-425-9912 to make an appointment or to speak with a veterinarian regarding your pet’s risk and potential side effects of the vaccine.