Assisted Living for Seniors with Pets

We’re happy to share a great resource for pet owners and the seniors of our community. has put together a very detailed and informative article/guide regarding the benefits of seniors owning/living with pets. You can read the article here: click here to read the article on

Collecting Needed Items for Eagle Scout Project for Local Animal Rescue

Now through 09/01, we’re helping a local Eagle Scout named Karl collect supplies for a local animal rescue (Bay Area Animal Rescue Crew) – check out the list below and consider dropping by with a goodie for animals in need! Our bin is located in the lobby.

Leptospirosis – Deadly Bacteria in Wild Life Urine

When wild animals such as skunks, raccoons, coyotes, deer, and rodents urinate, they excrete bacteria in their urine – one of the bacteria found in their urine is called Leptospirosis. This bacteria is often times deadly to our beloved dogs. When dogs go to parks or on hikes and drink the random standing puddles of water, they get infected with this awful bacteria. Often times, the rain makes this more prevalent and helps spread this bacteria around – what looks like a typical puddle of rain water, may really have Leptospirosis in it.

Symptoms of infection include loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Without treatment, dogs may suffer from kidney failure and pass away – time is of the essence and dogs need treatment as soon as possible.

Once a dog is infected, the dog may even spread the bacteria to other pets through their own urine and even humans too – yes, you read that right – YOU can get Leptospirosis (lepto) too!

Besides avoiding free standing water and puddles, the best way to protect your dog is to vaccinate them against the bacteria. You never know what that one random lick on a Saturday hike with your pup may lead to – we recommend every dog owner to be safe by vaccinating their pet, and not sorry.

If you suspect your pet may have Leptospirosis/Lepto, please call us 24/7: 925 937 5000

Lost or Found Pet/Animal in Contra Costa County

So you’ve either found or lost a pet and don’t know what to do. We’ve put together this quick guide to help get you on the right path of finding your beloved pet or reuniting the furry friend with their human.

1) Post on Craigslist all the details: a photo, collar description, pet description, special needs, phone number to call/email address to email, reward if any, and the last place/time/date the pet was seen

2) Post on Facebook: Fido Alert all the details: a photo, collar description, pet description, special needs, phone number to call/email address to email, reward if any, and the last place/time/date the pet was seen.

3) Post on your own Facebook, Instgram, Twitter, and other Social Media accounts

4) Create a lost pet poster; you can print and post these around town, deliver them to veterinary/pet related businesses in the area, put them on cars, etc

5) Contact your local Animal Shelter and let them know your pet is missing. You can google COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL +ZIP CODE to find your closest one. IE: COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL 94598. Be sure you contact them DAILY regarding your lost pet!

6) Visit local animal businesses like shops, stores, grooming, and veterinary hospitals. Ask if they have seen your pet, and if you can leave a flier (step 4).

7) Don’t lose hope! Some pets return in hours, others in years. We always recommend microchipping your pet as a collar can be lost, but a microchip is forever.


1) Call your local animal hospital and ask them to scan the pet for a microchip. If the pet has a microchip, the hospital can help you locate the owners right away.

2) Post on Craigslist some details: a not-so-detailed photo, pet description, phone number to call/email address to email, and where the pet was found. Consider having the owner verify something about the pet – a special patch of fur, collar description, etc – this way you know you are reuniting the pet with their rightful owner.

3) Post on Facebook, Fido Alert: a not-so-detailed photo, pet description, phone number to call/email address to email, and where the pet was found. Consider having the owner verify something about the pet – a special patch of fur, collar description, etc – this way you know you are reuniting the pet with their rightful owner.

4) Post on your own Facebook, Instgram, Twitter, and other Social Media accounts

5) Contact your local Animal Shelter and let them know you found a pet; you can discuss with them if it’s best you bring the pet to them or keep it at your home until the owner is found. You can google COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL +ZIP CODE to find your closest one. IE: COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL 94598.

Pet Emergency Kit Assembly

As the only 24 hour emergency veterinarian in Walnut Creek, Encina Veterinary Hospital believes that each family should have an emergency plan in place, and that includes for our pets too. With some help from US Disaster Animal Response Team (DART), we’ve put together a list for supplies to be kept in a pet emergency pack.

You can also purchase a pre-assembled kit online as well by doing a simple search in Google. Also, feel free to give your veterinarian a call to see what he or she suggests you keeping in your kit, in addition to what we have listed below. Depending on your area, a heating blanket, tick twister, booties, poncho and more may be some of the things you should keep in your kit for your furry friends.

First Aid Kit and Emergency Pack for Cats and Dogs:
· conforming bandage (3″ x 5″)
· absorbent gauze pads (4″ x 4″)
· absorbent gauze roll (3″ x 1 yard)
· cotton tipped applicators (1 small box)
· antiseptic wipes (1 package)
· emollient cream (1 container)
· tweezers and scissors
· instant cold pack
· latex disposable gloves (several pairs)
· crates and leashes in an easy to access area
· 2 weeks worth of food and water stored in airtight containers
· 2 weeks worth of any medications your pet may be on
· toys and blanket that smell like home to comfort your pets
· photos of you and your pets together for identification purposes should you become separated
· copy of latest medical records
· hand sanitizer and liquid soap
· collapsible food and water bowls
· cat litter, pooper scooper and dog poop bags
· properly fitted muzzles (a disaster is stressful and a dog may decide to bite for the first time)
· a bag, suitcase or box to store all of the above in for an easy grab-n-go should an emergency arise

ASPCA also offers a free pet safety pack you can order here: Free Pet Safety Pack via ASPCA

As always, we are open 24 hours, 7 days a week for your pet emergency and urgent care needs. Give us a call anytime: (925) 937-5000

Don’t Pass the Fleas, PLEASE!

Fleas and ticks! Those pesky critters that love to feed on our beloved pets. Spring and summer is the time for play dates in the park, a hike on a mountain, or a stroll along the trail. These are favorite areas for fleas and ticks to live. They are hiding in the grass, behind the wood log, and on the dog or cat that just passed by to said hello. These culprits are everywhere and can cause itchy skin and other diseases including paralysis. Disease is the number one reason why veterinarians recommend flea and tick preventative medication every month.

Flea and tick preventative medications are important monthly. These medications are either given topically on the skin, in between the shoulder blades, or taken as a pill by mouth. It is recommended for pet owners to purchase these types of products from local veterinarians to ensure the product ingredient accuracy. The manufacturer has guaranteed and approved that the product sold at your veterinarian is safe to use and will not to cause harm to your pets. The products that are sold are up to date for flea resistant type medications. It may also be the most current research on the market. Your veterinarian will give you specific recommendations for products based on the lifestyle of your pet/s. You are given the proper information regarding warnings, side effects, or contraindications if your pet is on other medications.

You may question: why can’t I buy the flea and tick products that are sold in stores or even online? In today’s economy, online pricing may be very appealing to clients. The convenience of at-home shopping also gives online suppliers an edge. There may be flea and tick preventative medications that your veterinarian does not carry which you may prefer.
Although these previous points seem fantastic, there are many risks behind shopping online (see what the FDA has to say about it here). The most important risk is product ingredient and supplier guarantee (did you know that if your pet becomes ill after taking a medication purchased from an online pharmacy or general store, the maker of the medication will not pay for your pet’s treatment? If you purchase your medication through a veterinarian however, the manufacturer will stand behind their drug and pay for any adverse effects it may have on your pet).

Fleas and ticks do not discriminate. If you have a multi-pet household and one of the pets have fleas, it is imperative to treat all the pets for fleas. Common sense will tell us that exposure to fleas and ticks is the number one cause for an infestation to occur. Therefore, indoor cats are less likely than outdoor cats to become burdened with an infestation.
There are some diseases that are associated with fleas and ticks. Quite commonly, flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Dogs and cats are allergic to the saliva of the flea not the actual fleas themselves crawling on their skin.

As soon as the flea bites, the allergic response can begin. Ticks, on the other hand, are vectors for disease. The most common ticks in the East Bay area are American dog tick, Pacific coast tick, Western black leg tick.

Trifexis is our current recommendation for oral preventative medication that treats fleas, intestinal parasites, and heartworm. This is an excellent option for dogs that love to swim or sneak a lap around the pool right after the topical medication is administered. Intestinal parasites are a cause for spread of human disease. For flea and tick preventative topically, our current recommendation is Parastar plus. Revolution is currently our recommended as the topical medication that treats fleas, intestinal parasites, heartworm, and ear mites. The current recommendation for only flea and tick preventative in cats is Easy Spot topical. Trifexis and Revolution medications are recommended because they not only prevent external parasites but internal parasites as well.

Christine Fabregas DVM

Parvovirus in Dogs

Parvovirus is a virus that is found in all environments and all seasons (survives in the environment for more than 7 months) that affects dogs. People and cats are not infected by parvovirus (cats are affected by a similar virus known as distemper). Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated puppies (younger than 8 months old) and unvaccinated adult dogs are most susceptible to the devastating parvovirus infections. A puppy may get infected when his/her mouth comes in contact with the virus in feces, contaminated soil, or other materials that are infected with this virus, which commonly happens on a simple walk.

Most common exposure to parvovirus ocacurs in dog parks, grassy reas, and overcrowded housing situations. Once ingested, the incubation period (time between exposure and clinical signs) is 3-14 days. The factors that determine whether a puppy will get sick from their exposure to parvovirus can vary and may include: the amount of exposure to the virus, the number of vaccines, and the overall health at time of exposure (ex. stressed animals and those housed in crowded areas are more likely to become sick after exposure). Once infected, these animal shed (release) a HUGE amount of the virus in their feces, saliva and vomit, which other dogs may get sick from. Dogs that survive this infection can continue to shed (release) the virus for 2-3 weeks. Since the virus is built to be hardy, it is resistant to many household cleaning agents and can be difficult to eradicate (10% bleach is recommended for cleanup). Any dog can get parvovirus but some breeds are highly susceptible including Doberman pinschers, rottweilers, pit bulls, German shepherds and dachshund breeds.

Vaccination is the single most important preventative effort. Puppies should be vaccinated against parvovirus (with DHPP vaccine) starting at 8 weeks of age and should receive the DHPP vaccine every 3-4 weeks until they are 12 weeks of age to be considered vaccinated. Puppies that have not received the full vaccination series should not be allowed to go to dog parks, play on grass, and frequent areas where unvaccinated dogs may be present (including walks in the neighborhood). Puppy classes pose little risk to other participating puppies as long as they have had at least one vaccine, are healthy and are not showing clinical signs of parvovirus infection. Please be sure to check with the facility your puppy may be attending puppy classes at for more information on how they prevent the spread of parvo. If you suspect that your puppy has symptoms consistent with parvovirus or may have been exposed, you should bring him/her into Encina Veterinary Hospital for testing.

Parvovirus destroys the lining of the small intestine and depletes the body of white blood cells that are needed to fight infection. In very young puppies parvovirus can cause permanent damage to the muscles of the heart. The virus acts on the lining of the small intestine and causes it to be sloughed off, which allows blood and liquids to leave the body and bacteria from the gut to enter the body. For this reason the most common symptom of the parvovirus infection is bloody, foul smelling liquid diarrhea. Other clinical signs include lethargy/decreased activity, loss of appetite, and vomiting. Severely ill animals can develop severe dehydration, sepsis, shock and death. If animals are housed together they can develop these symptoms within a couple days of one another. Once symptoms occur these pets should be separated and presented to a veterinarian for diagnostics and treatment.

A quick fecal test can be performed at the veterinary clinic to confirm this infection. Bloodwork is necessary to determine the white blood cell count and overall health status. These test are very important as they help guide the overall treatment plan. Fecal sample may be sent out to the laboratory for analysis as young puppies can be concurrently infected with parasites such as worms and giardia, which should also be treated.

Treatment for parvovirus infection should be performed as soon as diagnosed and in a veterinary hospital such as Encina Veterinary Hospital. Treatment involves intravenous fluids for rehydration, antibiotics, pain medication, anti-emetic, and correction of electrolyte or blood sugar imbalances. While in the hospital, patients will also be monitored for low blood pressure and low and/or high temperatures.
Severely affected animals such as those in shock or septic will require longer and more involved treatments. Puppies and adult dogs that are treated for parvovirus in a veterinary hospital will be placed in an isolation ward as they are contagious to other unvaccinated dogs. Because parvovirus is such an aggressive virus and highly contagious, dogs who are positive for parvo are often isolated from non-infected dogs.

With the appropriate treatment led by a veterinarian, parvo can be beat and your dog can live a healthy life. However, it’s important to know that the response to treatment plays a huge role in the chances a dog has at beating parvo. Without appropriate treatment as soon as clinical signs are noted, the chances of survival decrease. In untreated animals, severe illness most often results in death.

If you feel your dog may have been exposed to the parvovirus and is now positive, please give us a call immediately: (925) 937-5000

Maryam O’Hara DVM

Summer Pet Tips 101

    With summer approaching, we’re more likely to spend time outdoors with our pets. Whether it’s taking our dog with us camping in Tahoe or on a long walk at Newhall Park in Concord or even taking our indoor cats outside on the lawn for a roll in the grass, it’s important we be aware of what may harm our pets.

Dr. Jill Christofferson of Encina Veterinary Hospital recommends that pet owners apply sunblock on the ears, noses, etc of light colored pets (such as white cats/dogs) or pets with less than full fur (certain breeds of cats and dogs have little to no hair). Also, on the belly of dogs if they sunbathe belly-up. Should your pet suffer a sunburn, aloe vera or vitamin E may help to soothe it but a veterinarian will also be able to prescribe a mild pain-reliever to help with your pets’ discomfort.

Heatstroke in pets is all too common sadly. Leaving your pet in the car (even with the windows cracked), being left outside on a hot sunny day while you are away for hours with no water or shade or even just exercising on hot humid days (especially for brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, Boston Terrier or Pekingese) can all lead to heat stoke in your pet and even death. Here are some symptoms to keep an eye out for:
                           • Excessive drooling or panting
                           • 104-110 degree body temperature
                           • Twitching muscles
                           • Vomiting and/or bloody diarrhea
                           • Pale dry gums that are gray in color and tacky to the touch
                           • Staggering/stumbling when walking or inability to stand
                           • Wide-eyed look of distress or panic
                           • Difficulty breathing and increased heart rate
    Should your pet experience any of these symptoms, your first and best move is to seek emergency veterinary care. If you are unable to do so, here are some things you can do to help your pet cool off before getting them to the veterinary emergency hospital:
                    • Immerse your pet in cool water for about 2 minutes or hose/pour cool water on your pet.
                    • Wrap your pet in a damp, cool towel while traveling with him/her to the veterinary hospital.
                    • Get your pet to shade or an airconditioned area.
                    • NEVER use ice or freezing temperature water; this may lead to shock and cause further complications.
    Preventing heatstroke is quite easy. NEVER leave your pet locked in the car on a hot or even warm day; your car can and will become a death trap reaching temperatures well above 119 degrees. NEVER leave pets unattended outdoors with no access to shade or water; heatstroke can set in very easy and fast if your pet is already partially dehydrated. When walking your dog or exercising them, do it early in the morning before temperatures reach high levels or in the evening.

WARM WEATHER TOXINS: With everyone working hard to perfect their lawn and landscapes, a bottle of pesticides, fertilizer and other garden chemicals may be lurking. Be sure you properly close/seal all of these toxins and keep them away from your pets.

SWIMMING: As with children, never leave a pet unattended in the water; accidents and drownings happen in pets too and they need you to help keep them safe.

PARASITE, FLEA AND TICK PREVENTION: Talk to us about a year around parasite prevention program to help keep your pets, home and you, flea free. Trifexis is also offering up to a $20 rebate through August 31st, 2012 to help you get started.

TRAVEL: Secure your pet using a harness or crate when driving with your pet; though it is not a law in California, it’s better safe than sorry should you get into an accident. But it is against the law to have your pet loose in the bed of your truck; they MUST be restrained!

GROOMING: If your pet is elderly or has a long coat, consider taking him or her in to get shaved down for the summer; this will help them keep cooler as well as reduce the chance of debris (like fox tails) getting stuck in their fur (and eventually burrowing their way into your pet’s skin) since they may be spending more time outdoors.

FOXTAILS: We can never say this enough, fox tails are such a hazard! They’re everywhere and can be anywhere on your pet. Paws, ears, nose, belly and chest are common areas that fox tails get into. Abscesses, surgery, lung collapsing and punctured organs are just a few of the complications we see each year from fox tails penetrating a pet. Once a fox tail gets stuck in your pets fur, it burrows it’s way to the skin and eventually through the skin leading to an abscess which leads to further issues. One way to help protect against this is keep your pet groomed and make it a habit to brush/comb him or her each time they come inside from being outdoors. Another way is by investing in the Out Fox Field Guard (Did you know one of our very own clients designed and this?! We’re so proud!!) to help protect against fox tails in the ears, nose, eyes and face. And be sure to keep your yard trimmed and free of fox tails!

In the end, summer is a great time to enjoy the Bay Area of California outdoors with your family and pets. Keeping an eye out for these hazards will help ensure your family’s summer is full of fun and empty of harm.

Should your pet experience an emergency, don’t hesitate to call us because we are open 24 hours, 7 days a week – holidays and weekends included! (925) 937-5000

Meet “Bernie”: 4 Week Old Kitten Survives Fire

   You may have heard that on May 23rd, 2012 there was a devastating fire in Bethel Island (click here for news story) that burned down two homes. What you didn’t hear about were the colonies of feral cats who lost their homes and lives that night.

   The night of the fire, this little 4 week old kitten was brought to us on emergency by a neighbor of the fire struck area. At the time, he was named “Amazing Grace” because of his miraculous survival among the feral cat colonies. The woman who brought us to him told us the story of how he had a sibling a mother that often were found nesting together under a car. The woman believes that once the flames started, the mother kitten could only carry one kitten to safety; sadly it wasn’t this guy. He crawled out from under a car on his own while flames chased him and ended up pinned next to a fence where the kind woman came and rescued him. By then, “Amazing Grace” was in critical condition facing issues such as severely burned paw pads, whiskers burned off, eye irritation, melted fur, small burned patches and smoke in his lungs.

   Our registered veterinary technician, Barbara, was working the night “Amazing Grace” came in. The woman who rescued him from the flames was unable to keep him herself but she wanted to be sure he got the best of care, which is why she drove from Bethel Island all the way to us, in Walnut Creek. Barbara decided right then and there that she would take responsibility of the kitten and find him a furever home as soon as he recovered.

   Due to Barbara’s kindness, “Amazing Grace” (now “Bernie”) will heal and spend the rest of his life in a home where he is loved and will no longer need to sleep under cars and escape roaring flames. We would like to help Barbara and her dedication to saving animals in need, even when she isn’t sure how she is going to do it. Please help us, help Barbara, help Bernie, by making a small contribution towards his ongoing care at Encina Veterinary Hospital:

    The best part is that Bernie has nuzzled his way into the heart of one of our other Registered Veterinary Technicians, Nicole, and has found his furever home already!

Bernie as of Tuesday May 29th, 2012
(you may notice that his pupils are large; that is due to the pain medication he is on because his paw pads are burned so badly that they constantly hurt, even with burn cream applied and wrapped)

Dog and Cat Behavior During Fireworks, Thunderstorms

When I was a child we owned a cute little Yorkie/Silky mixed breed dog named Cherry. We rescued her from the local animal shelter and had no information about her past life. She was very shy initially, but over time came out of her shell. I have very fond memories of Cherry, but one thing that always seemed to bother her were thunderstorms. We lived in Maryland and thunderstorms were frequent in the spring and summer. She would shake and hide in the bathtub during the storm. Poor thing; I always felt bad for her but never knew what to do. Years later after having completed veterinary school and becoming board certified in veterinary behaviorist I now know that there is a lot we can do to help dogs like Cherry.

I enjoy seeing the bright lights of the July 4 fireworks, but I also can’t help but think about all the dogs that are panicking due to the loud noises accompanying the beautiful display. I really enjoy helping these dogs develop a more positive emotional response to scary noises because I know with some hard work these dogs don’t have to continue to panic every year.) Some common triggers for noise phobia include fireworks, cars backfiring, gun shots, smoke alarms, and clicking noises (such as the heater or air conditioning turning on)…..and yes, parrots are very good at mimicking these noises, even when you are not home! Dogs with noise phobia may pant, pace, shake, hide, salivate, follow their owners, and even harm themselves trying to escape from their house/yard. However, don’t be fooled by dogs that are abnormally still and quiet during these events as dogs that exhibit “non-behavior” may also be anxious.

As it is difficult to modify problem behaviors when the noise trigger cannot be avoided it is best to start behavior modification well before unavoidable noises occur (such as in May rather than the end of June in preparation for July 4). When noise triggers cannot be avoided we use anti-anxiety medication. These medications consist of short-acting medications to relieve anxiety during unavoidable noises and/or long-term anti-anxiety medication to facilitate behavior modification and for noises that are unavoidable on a more regular basis. Sedative are not usually an appropriate first choice medication as they do not actually treat anxiety and in some cases people report that they are more noise sensitive while taking certain sedatives. Essentially, the pet is sedated and does not display anxiety on the outside, but is extremely anxious on the inside. Before medications are used it is always recommended to have blood work checked as these medications are by and large metabolized through the liver and excreted through the kidneys.

After a trip to your primary care veterinarian to rule out any medical problems that could be making the pet more sensitive to noises (and I have seen dogs react more intensely to noises when in pain), the treatment for noise phobia consists of several steps. The first is avoiding noise triggers as much as possible so that the pet does not continue to experience the fear/panic emotional response. Often, a command-response-reward program (commonly referred to as “Nothing in Life is Free”, “No Free Lunch” or “Learn to Earn”) is recommended to decrease any attention-seeking component of the behavior, create more structure and predictability for the pet and increase the pet’s responsiveness to commands. The “meat and potatoes” of the plan consists of systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning (DS/CC), the primary technique we use to change the pet’s emotional response to scary noises. Desensitization consists of introducing the pet to the noise trigger at elicits fear at so low of a level (volume) that the pet is calm and relaxed. Over time the noise is made louder, all the while staying below the dog’s threshold for fear and panic. Counter-conditioning is changing the pet’s emotional response to the noise trigger by associating it with something positive, such as a favorite treat or activity (ie playing fetch with a tennis ball). A head collar, such as a Gentle Leader ®, may be suggested for better control of the pet during DS/CC. Focus commands including eye contact and hand target commands may also be taught in preparation for DS/CC.

With some work and dedication noise phobias can be successfully treated and managed using behavior modification and in addition, sometimes anti-anxiety medications. For more information and to develop an individualized treatment plan for your pet please contact us at (925) 937-5000

Meredith Stepita, DVM, ACVB
Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behavior