MPH Blog

Posts for category: Pet Care

By Heather Beeson of Morena Pet Hospital
August 09, 2013
Category: Pet Care
Tags: Untagged


Higher temperatures may translate into more time spent outdoors, but for pet owners this can also mean increased visits to the veterinarian!  Here are some tips on how to protect your pet during these warm 'dog days of summer':

  • Keep your pet bug-free.

Summer is prime time for fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes that can carry diseases and make your pet generally uncomfortable.  We have found that ultimately the best defense is a GOOD offense, which translates into PREVENTION!  Many safe, easy, and effective flea, heartworm, and parasite products are now available and our staff will be happy to recommend the most appropriate protocol for your dog or cat.

  • Keep your pet away from brushy areas.

Being a San Diegan and having worked in the veterinary field for many years, one becomes accustomed to the influx of pets that present each spring and summer with foxtails, a type of hard seed-bearing grass structure that are known to cause problems for our furry loved ones. Please refer to our previous blog entry, Foxtails: Oh Me, Oh My, Oh No for more information on symptoms and ways to prevent foxtails in your pet.

  • Know the warning signs of heat stroke in pets.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately. Some of the common symptoms of overheating include difficulty breathing, excessive panting, drooling, increased heart rate, dizziness, collapse, diarrhea, vomiting, and elevated temperature of over 104 degrees. For more information on how to prevent heatstroke in your pet, please refer to our Pet Care Library article, Heat Stroke in Dogs.

  • Never leave your pet in the car (not even for a short period of time).

Even with the windows opened, a car is a lot like an oven when it sits in the summer sun, and it can heat up quickly within minutes even when it seems cool outside.  If you need to run some errands, best to leave your furry friend at home, but please make sure your house is well ventilated.

  • Pets need hydration too.

Whether you are indoors or out, both you and your pet need constant access to lots of fresh water during the summer, so be sure to check her bowl several times a day to be sure it’s full and if you venture out and about, bring plenty of water with you!

  • Let’s not forget the sunscreen.

Even though fur provides some protection from the sun, your pet is still susceptible to getting sunburned.  Consider applying a pet-safe sunscreen that is formulated especially for pets, particularly if he/she has light skin/fur and on those sensitive, less-coated areas such as the ears and abdomen.  

  • Certain pets don’t deal with heat as well as others.

Elderly, very young, and ill animals have a hard time regulating their body temperature, so make sure they stay cool and out of the sun on steamy summer days.  Brachycephalic breeds with pushed-in noses, such as Pugs, Pekingese, and Bulldogs, have a hard time cooling themselves since they cannot pant efficiently.  They too should stay out of the heat.  Overweight dogs have the tendency to trap heat in their bodies, restricting their breathing capabilities. In extreme heat, it may be best to keep them indoors and to avoid strenuous exercise.  Try to save exercise time for mornings or evenings, away from hot sidewalks, and brutal mid-day sun and keep the walks to a gentle pace, overdoing it can cause your pet to overheat. 

  • Be water-wise.

Don’t leave pets unsupervised around a pool or lake (remember not all dogs are expert swimmers).  If you do plan on taking your dog into the water, best to have a doggie life jacket.  Also, beware of the possible chlorine and other toxic chemicals that can cause stomach upset.  Other natural "doggie bowls," such as puddles, ponds and bay water—may contain parasites.  Remember to wipe out your dog’s ears after swimming with a gauze or cotton ball in order to eliminate any potential swimmer’s ear.

  • Travel with safety in mind.

If you are traveling with your pet, be certain he/she wears current ID tags and consider microchipping them if you haven’t already.  Always keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier.  Check ahead to make sure your hotel/campground allows pets.  If traveling by plane, best to check with your airline regarding their requirements for pets, such as needing a current health certificates for your pet prior to flying, etc. 

If it turns out you are unable to vacation with your pets, our staff would be happy to extend our boarding services to you, in which your pet will receive the same love and care he/she would get at home and be regularly monitored by our veterinary staff to ensure his/her health and happiness. 

With ample precaution and following the above tips, both you and your wet-nosed friend can enjoy these long, hot ‘dog days of summer’.

By Heather Beeson of Morena Pet Hospital
May 31, 2013
Category: Pet Care
Tags: pet care   dog care   cat care   foxtails  


Being a San Diegan and having worked in the veterinary field for many years, one becomes accustomed to the influx of pets that present each spring and summer with foxtails, a type of hard seed-bearing grass structure that are known to cause problems for our furry loved ones.  These foxtails are notorious for becoming lodged into a pet’s ears, nose, eyes, between the paw pads, and other various parts of the pet’s body.  We have even had a dog come in that had numerous foxtails on the inside of his mouth from when he chased his ball into the grass bushes!

Types of foxtails:

Southern California has a number of different variations of grasses that are categorized as “foxtails”.  They bloom from January through late March/April and tend to dry up and stay throughout summer into early fall. The most troublesome is the annual Hordeum murinum, also known as wild barley.  Other varieties include the rip gut grass , Bromus diamdrus, the cheatgrass Bromus tectorum, and the red brome, Bromus madritensis (, 2010).


Some signs to watch for if you suspect your dog may have come in contact with foxtails include uncontrollable sneezing, constant head shaking, swollen and irritated eyes, labored breathing and coughing.  Cats that spend time outdoors may show up with an eye that has swollen shut, or gagging and retching from a foxtail.  These foxtails are very dangerous to pets and should be treated immediately.  If left untreated, they have the potential to barb the skin causing severe infections or even migrate through the body, causing severe tissue damage.


  • The best advice (and only foolproof method of prevention) is to avoid foxtail exposure. 
  • Pay particular attention to where your pet is allowed to play.
  • Ask other pet owners if their dogs have experienced any trouble with foxtails in the area
  • During the summer months, you may want to consider getting your pet groomed, especially those dogs and cats with long hair that are more likely to accumulate foxtails in their fur. 
  • It is also recommended that owners do a thorough inspection of your pet’s coat after walks to be sure there are no meddling foxtails trying to burrow into the coat, ears, eyes, mouth, between toes, on the abdomen, and even under the collar.  Believe us, your pets will thank you later. 

Take Home Message:

If you notice your pet is scratching at an ear, shaking its head, sneezing excessively, pawing at the mouth, crying in pain, licking at an area between the toes on a paw, or elsewhere on the body where you may notice swelling or an opening, or a swollen eye, etc. and has been exposed to foxtails previously-please schedule to come in and see us ASAP!


Clark, Curtis. Dog Owners' Guide to California Foxtails. 1998.

Kay, Nancy, DVM. Protecting Your Dog Against Foxtails. The Bark., 2010.

Weed Gallery: Foxtails. Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California., 2011.


By Heather Beeson of Morena Pet Hospital
May 24, 2013
Category: Pet Care


Did you know that fleas are the most common external parasite of companion animals? Or that flea allergy dermatitis is one of the most common skin diseases of dogs and cats?

If you’ve ever dealt with a flea infestation, you know that the fleas don’t just affect your pet, but also your household!  This is why flea control has always been a challenge for veterinarians and pet owners because the adult fleas cause the clinical signs, yet the majority of the flea population (eggs, larvae, and pupae) is to be found off the pet in and around the home (think carpeting, curtains, even Fluffy’s favorite cushion).

What’s worse is that warm weather brings the fleas out of hiding, and San Diego, although one of the more pet-friendly cities in the nation, is also very inviting to flea populations, which tend to be a year-round threat here. 

What can pet owners do?

The best measure to take is PREVENTION! Even if your pets are indoor-only, it only takes one flea to get tracked inside and wreck havoc on you, your pet, and your home. Fleas have a tendency to thrive, sometimes for months and can lay as many as 50 eggs a day. 

Here are some tips to help us pet owners turn the tide against the flea population:

  • Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum! Be sure to examine areas where your cat or dog spends the most time.  If you have noticed live fleas or flea larvae in your carpeting, we recommend using Fleabuster powder application prior to vacuuming. (Note: Fleabuster powder can be added to vacuum bag also to help kill any live fleas you vacuum up). Be sure to treat under beds and furniture as well.
  • Wash, Wash, Wash! Be sure to wash all pet bedding regularly.
  • Brush, Brush, Brush! Examine your pet’s coat and implement a daily brushing routine.  Not only will this be better for your pet’s coat quality and your human-animal bond, but also it can help you to identify pest problems before they become infestations.
  • Apply a monthly topical or give a monthly oral preventative.  The ideal flea control program utilizes products that target the various stages of the flea life cycle, not only the adult fleas on the pet. Our doctors and staff here at Morena Pet Hospital can help you make the best choice for flea prevention.  Recently, some new products have been added to our flea control arsenal. These appear to be highly efficacious, long lasting and have a very low potential of harmful side effects.  [Our current favorite products include Comfortis, Revolution, Vectra, and Trifexis. An old favorite, Sentinel, is once again available as well].  Trifexis and Sentinel are both oral medications that control fleas and prevent heartworm and intestinal parasitism.  Comfortis, available for dogs and cats, is an oral flea preventative. Vectra and Revolution are topical preventatives that control fleas, ticks, etc. in dogs and cats.
  • Don’t forget that it is equally as important to treat your yard as thoroughly as your house. Be sure to concentrate on shady areas, where fleas live.  If using an insecticide, please follow application instructions and keep pets away from treated areas for the proper length of time.  We carry a safe yard/kennel spray or fogger called Siphotrol.  A more natural, non-toxic approach is to use nematodes, microscopic worms that kill flea larvae.  Products are available at local plant nurseries, home repair stores, and there are companies that will come and treat the environment for you (such as Fleabusters).  Just make sure any products used are pet-friendly and non-toxic!

If left untreated?

Complications can arise if your pets are not effectively treated for fleas.  Fleas attach themselves to their host (your poor unsuspecting cat or dog).  According to the ASPCA, fleas can consume about 15 times their own body weight in blood.  If not treated, over time this significant amount of blood loss can cause anemia.  Symptoms include pale gums, cold body temperature, and listlessness and can be life-threatening.  The blood loss resulting in severe anemia is most likely to occur in very young, old, small, or immunocompromised pets although it can occur in any pet.  Anemia can become so severe that pets may require blood transfusions, along with intensive supportive care.

Other associated problems include flea allergy dermatitis, which can cause intense itching and discomfort and often leads to secondary bacterial infections.  Signs include hair loss, irritated skin, scabs, and hot spots.

Pets can also develop infestation with tapeworms, which are rice-like segments that result when the pet ingests fleas carrying the tapeworm larva.  Tapeworms are usually first recognized from the passing of segments of tapeworms in the stool. However, other symptoms may include hunger, dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, and vomiting.  

Fleas can also act as a vector for disease.  Fleas transmit not only a variety of viral and bacterial diseases as well as blood-born parasites, including (but not limited to) Bubonic plague, Bartonella, and Typhus, any of which can result in serious disease or death in both humans and other animals.  Secondary to bouts of anemia, in addition to the diseases noted, may include long-term kidney damage.

If you find traces of flea infestation or any of the above symptoms, be sure to contact your veterinarian for advice on ways to best manage the problem.

Annual Wellness Recommendations

Our current recommendations include having your pet on heartworm prevention year- round with annual heartworm testing, flea control year-round, and having a stool sample checked once to twice a year, or more often if indicated, for intestinal worms and parasites.

Please refer to our Pet Care Library for more information on fleas, heartworms, and parasites, such as the flea life cycle, heartworm disease, and how pets (and people!) get worms.


Flea, Heartworm, and Pet Parasites. Morena Pet Hospital.

Fleas. ASPCA. 2013.

By Heather Beeson of Morena Pet Hospital
April 19, 2013
Category: Pet Care
Tags: Untagged

How to choose the right collar/leash for your pet.

With so many options available nowadays (from traditional leashes to harnesses and gentle leaders), it is no wonder the immense amount of time one can spend in the pet aisle searching for the best collar and leash option for you and your pet.  Here are some suggestions on finding the right collar/leash combo for your dog.

First things first, it is essential to understand the purpose and reasoning of using collars on your pet. Not only are collars beneficial in providing tag information (identification and Rabies vaccination licensing), but they also act as a training tool.  It is also important to recall that dogs are descendents of wolves and still possess some of these wolf behaviors and tendencies.  One way a wolf challenges the pack leader is to bite the neck of its opponent to show domination and gain control.  This is why many animal behaviorists like to use the analogy of pet owners acting as the ‘pack leader’ of their canine companions and why neck collars and leashes are used as key tools for training dogs. 

Some dogs will catch on quickly acknowledging that you are in charge, but others will initially rebel and challenge you as pack leader, thus requiring more extensive training.  You may find it beneficial to talk with your veterinarian prior to selecting any collar.  Your veterinarian can recommend an option based on your dog’s medical and breed background to ensure your pet’s safety and happiness. Below are some of the current products of collars and leashes available to you and your pet.

Your basic flat (or buckled) collar:

This is your standard collar for dogs.  It has a buckle or snap closure and a ring for attaching a leash as well as identification tags.  A flat collar should fit comfortably around your dog’s neck.  Typically, one should be able to fit two fingers underneath the collar to prevent choking, but not too loose that he/she can slip out of it. 

Gentle Leader:

The gentle leader is ideal for strong, energetic dogs that have a tendency to jump and pull.  Similar to a horse’s halter, these collars have one strap that fits around your dog’s neck and another strap that loops around your dog’s muzzle.  The leash attaches to a ring at the bottom of the muzzle strap and discourages pulling by turning the dog’s head to the side.  The notion behind this collar is that your dog will not be able to pull you with the full weight of his body.

It may take some time, patience, and lots of positive reinforcement to get your dog accustomed to wearing a gentle leader.  Start by putting it on your pet for short periods of time until he/she gets comfortable in the collar.  Then your dog should only wear it when you are taking him/her out on a leashed walk.

Martingale/Limited Slip collar:

These collars tighten a small amount when pressure is applied. The martingale consists of a length of material with a metal ring at each end.  A separate loop of material passes through the two rings and attaches to the leash.  When your dog tries to back out of the collar, the collar tightens around his/her neck. A mechanical stop on the collar limits the amount of tightening to the size of your dog’s neck, preventing choking and the collar from slipping off the dog’s head.  Traditionally, these collars have been a popular choice for greyhound and other breeds that have a narrow head and are adept at slipping out of collars.


Harnesses wrap around the upper body of the dog and are particularly suited for those pets with diseases or soreness of the throat/neck where a traditional collar would cause harm from pulling.  A front-clip harness is a newer option available that allows pet owners to clip the leash to a central area on the front of the dog’s chest.  This diminishes the dog’s ability to use his body weight to pull you and these collars can be very effective with strong pullers.


Leashes serve as a method of control for training your pet and typically come in a variety of materials and lengths.  Lighter materials and thinner widths are ideal for smaller breeds, while heavier materials and thicker widths are used for larger breeds.  Many trainers recommend using a standard leash for everyday use and training since it keeps pets at a manageable distance and is relatively easy to use.

Additional Tips:

  • If you walk your dog at night, keep safety in mind. Wear reflective clothing and get a leash and collar made of reflective material so both you and your dog will be more visible.
  • If your dog suffers from extreme issues on the walk, it is best to consult your veterinarian first to rule out any medical reasons for his/her unruly behavior, followed by a consultation with a behavior specialist in your area for guidance.

Part 2: The Importance of teaching/training your dog to heel on a leash! Stay tuned...


Understanding Training Equipment Options-Collars, Leashes, and Crates. Association of Pet Dog Trainers. 2013.

A Good Leash on Life. The Humane Society of the United States. October 2012.

Dog Collars. The Humane Society of the United States. November 2012.

By Heather Beeson of Morena Pet Hospital
November 02, 2012
Category: Pet Care
Tags: Untagged

As pet owners, we all love for our furry friends to smell fresh and clean.  However, getting to that point is easier said than done. Rarely are dogs excited to jump into the bathtub for a good rub-a-dub-dub. You may decide that bathing your fearful dog may be best left up to us, your veterinary team, or a professional groomer.  But if you choose to bathe your dog at home, here are some helpful tips to make the process logistically easy and stress-free for both you and your dog.

  1. Practice Makes Perfect.  It’s a good idea to do a trial run before putting your dog in a bathtub with running water.  First try putting your dog in a tub (without the water).  Give your dog some positive reinforcement and a treat, and then take him/her out.  Do this a few times to get your dog more comfortable with the process.
  2. Be Prepared.  Be sure to take off your pet’s collar and tags.  Ensure that you have towels, shampoo, and a cup (if needed for rinsing purposes) within hand’s reach prior to bathing.  If it’s warm outside consider bathing outside.  If washing him/her indoors, you may wish to remove any knick-knacks or other bathroom items that might accidentally get knocked over. 
  3. Do a Quick Comb Through.  This may not come straight to mind for many, but doing a quick brushing of your pet’s coat beforehand will help to remove as much loose hair as possible (The Furminater seems to be a popular choice for many pet owners). 
  4. Choosing the Right Shampoo.  Be sure to use a shampoo specifically formulated for pets.  Using products meant for humans can strip your dog’s fur of its natural oils that are used to protect dogs from cold and wet weather.  If your dog is prone to dry and sensitive skin, it may be beneficial to have him/her examined by your veterinarian so they can recommend a medicated pet shampoo specific to your pet’s needs.  This will help you to better manage your pet’s skin. 
  5. Rinsing.  A showerhead with a flexible hose is ideal, however, a large cup will suffice.  Be sure to thoroughly rinse your dog’s belly, chest, neck, and under the tail.  Getting water in your pet’s ears may lead to infection.  If your dog is prone to ear infections, we suggest placing some cotton balls in your dog’s ears to prevent water from getting into their canals.  Don’t forget to remove the cotton balls once bath time is over!
  6. Shake It Out.  If the weather is nice enough, you can try wrapping your dog in a towel and letting them dry the rest of the way outside.  If not, pull the shower curtain closed so your dog can shake off and then pat them down with a towel.
  7. Final Grooming.  Performing a final brushing will help remove any hair loosened by the bath, redistribute oils in the fur, and make your pet look shiny and clean.
  8. A Great Time. Bath time is a great time to examine your dog carefully for any skin irritations, fleas and ticks, ear infections, or other health concerns.  It may also be useful to trim his nails and brush his teeth at the same time (Be sure to use a doggy toothpaste!).

Happy Bathing!  Don’t forget that many dogs experience an “after-bath excitement” phase, so be sure to hold onto your hat!


Zawiskowski, Stephen.  "7 Minute Solution: Give Your Dog a Bath" Parade Magazine. 2011.

How to Give Your Dog a Bath.