Category Archives: Safety

Covered for Emergencies

By Vanessa Vandersande DVM

A medical emergency is every pet owner’s worst case scenario.  A previously active dog ruptures a ligament in its knee and now can barely walk. A kitty accidentally gets out of the house and is hit by a car.

The good news is that the quality of care available from a veterinarian is similar to the care available for humans with similar medical issues.  Every owner who brings a pet through our doors wants to do the best thing possible for their pet, otherwise they wouldn’t bring them to the vet at all. However, excellent veterinary care is expensive and sometimes the true problem really comes down to the cost of care.  It can cause terrible emotional conflict when the funds are simply not available but your pet is going to need help anyway.

At our practice, we have found two tools that have helped many of our clients pay for care they could not otherwise afford. The first is Care Credit, a payment plan that many owners can be approved for over the phone. Depending on the plan, care credit can offer a way to make payments without accruing interest, which is a much better option than racking up debt on a credit card.

The second tool can have dramatic dividends. Pet insurance can be a literal life saver for some pets. I can think of countless stories from clients who signed up for pet insurance and then found it was going to save them thousands of dollars. To be clear, I do not work for or receive compensation from any pet insurance company, but I can tell you the company I have most consistently seen make reimbursements is Trupanion. I have many stories of clients whose pet had an emergency and insurance helped pay them back a large percentage for the treatment. Other insurance companies offer different benefits, so be sure to research whichever one you choose.

In a lot of places, pets have moved out of the farmyard and into the home. Sophisticated surgeries, treatments and diagnostic imaging such as MRI are available to help pets all around the world. When you really need to pay for pet care there are excellent options available. At Copper Hill Animal Clinic, we would love to tell you stories of the animals who would not otherwise be alive if it wasn’t for plans like Care Credit and Trupanion.

When is My Puppy Safe?

By Vanessa Vandersande DVM

It’s springtime and puppies are arriving in the practice for their puppy series vaccinations. This is one of my favorite times of year- who doesn’t love puppy breath? Most puppy owners recognize the importance of puppy vaccination and the value of preventing diseases like distemper and parvovirus.

However, many new owners are raising the question “When will it be safe for my puppy to have exposure to other dogs?” The question has a complicated answer. Depending on when vaccines are begun, some puppies will not truly develop immunity until the end of the vaccine series. The entire series takes four months, and that is an awfully long time to keep your new friend isolated!

The other side of the coin is many dogs don’t work out in their new homes due to behavioral problems. Exposing a pup to other dogs early in life can be extremely beneficial, helping the puppy to learn how to behave with other dogs in a non-fearful manner. Puppies also have a phenomenal amount of energy and having them run around with another dog is a wonderful, healthy way to tire them out.

The object in this situation is to find a middle ground where the puppy can interact with other dogs and learn good social skills while steering clear of situations where the pup might be exposed to a dangerous disease. We offer owners some rules to use so their pup can get out of the house. First, puppies can play with other dogs who are properly vaccinated and are on monthly deworming products. Go to other dog owners you trust. Your puppy can definitely play with their dog!

Second, only walk your pup in areas that have little dog traffic. Dog parks are NOT a good choice. Avoid other animal feces and urine, as they can harbor disease. Third, make sure you keep up to date with your puppy’s vaccine and deworming protocol.

A little common sense means you can protect your pup and still teach it to interact with the big, exciting world.

Only an Ear Infection?

By Vanessa Vandersande DVM

Maybe it starts with head shaking. Or your dog settles down, puts a foot in one ear and scratches gently while giving a deep groan. Or perhaps your dog suddenly smells like a week-old sock. You don’t need my help-you know it already. Your dog has an ear infection.

But what to do? When you bring in your itchy, painful pup to see us we’ll start with an ear cytology by taking a sample from the ear and observing it under the microscope. This test not only tells us what group of bacteria or yeast are throwing a party in your dog’s ear but also shows the level of infection. A medication and cleanser is chosen based on what kind of infection is present and the length of dosing is based on how many bugs showed up to the party.

The next step is the physical exam. A veterinarian will look in the ear to observe the texture and color of the ear canal, how much debris is present, and whether the ear drum (tympanum) is intact. Did you know that using certain cleansers and medications in an ear with a ruptured ear drum may lead to serious side effects such as damage to the inner ear and severe dizziness? That is why it is not possible to buy the really good medication over the counter-a veterinarian must look deep into the ear to prevent damaging side effects from the medication.

The most important part of treating an ear infection actually happens completely separate from medications and ear cleansers. A discussion with your veterinarian is your best hope for preventing infections in the future. Your vet uses clues about this ear infection to prevent future problems. Do the infections only happen in the spring and fall? Your dog may have seasonal allergies. Do they happen year round? Maybe your dog has a diet intolerance. Does your dog have long floppy ears or cropped ears?  Their anatomy may predispose them to infections. These pieces of information helps your vet create a plan for prevention in the future. Because as much as we at Copper Hill Animal Clinic love seeing you and your pet, we’d love to prevent the pain and misery of an ear infection even more!

Swimming with your Pets

By Vanessa Vandersande DVM

Summertime and the living is easy! In Santa Clarita we are blessed with beautiful weather but once the middle of summer rolls around even the most confirmed lovers of the high dessert must admit that it can get terribly hot. Many homeowners in this valley are blessed with pools to cool off in and it it a natural progression to imagine your dog will enjoy cooling off as well. I grew up in a Valencia home where it was unusual if our golden retriever didn’t take a quick dip every day during the summer.

Here are some tips about swimming safety with your dog (we will focus on dogs but to be fair, some cats swim too and these rules certainly apply to cats as well).

Always remember that swimming is a risky and potentially dangerous endeavor. You wouldn’t leave a child unattended near a pool and you shouldn’t leave a dog unattended either. The worst can happen to even the very best swimmer so always remember to supervise your dogs’ swimming.

New swimmers (puppies, etc.) will not naturally know how to swim without training. It is often easier for a dog to learn how to swim from another so find an older dog for yours to pal around with in the water! Natural bodies of water or pools with a beach entry arrangement will usually be less threatening to start with.

Always train your dog how to use the stairs or ladders to get in and out of the pool and reiterate this information repeatedly. Dogs that drown in pools are often dogs that fall in by accident and panic, unable to find a place to get out. If your dog has trouble remembering the exit points it is advisable to always use barrier fences to protect them from drowning.

Skin that is frequently exposed to chlorine can get dry and irritated. Hosing your dog off with fresh water after a swim is a great idea. Also make sure to keep those pool chemicals well balanced!

Dog life jackets are widely available and strongly recommended for weak and new swimmers, as well as dogs with heavy heads such as English Bulldogs. Certain breeds are not well formed for swimming, such as those prone to respiratory diseases so always check with your vet to be sure it is a good idea for your dog to take a dip.

Remember to offer fresh water sources for your dog to drink from before and after their swim. Drinking excessive amounts of pool water can lead to health problems so discourage drinking from the pool and offer a nice clean bowl of water instead! Have a great and safe swim!

Peanut Butter Poisoning Pets?

By Tristan Clark DVM

Last month we touched on the dangers of xylitol when ingested by dogs. Xylitol is a sweetener substitute found in human sugar-free candy, cookies, syrups condiments and even some toothpastes, mouthwashes and hair products. However, there have been even more xylitol containing products hitting the shelves lately, including several brands of peanut butter. No one suspects peanut butter as being toxic to their dog and in fact often use it for reward training or to aid in giving medications.

Xylitol is currently an additive in the following brands of peanut butter: Nuts ‘n More, Go Nuts, Krush Nutrition, P28 and Hank’s Protein Plus Peanut Butter. Most of these brands are sold by health-food grocery stores.

The dangers of xylitol can vary but range from a low blood sugar to eventual liver damage or even death. Common signs of xylitol ingestion include vomiting, weakness, tremors and even seizures. This additive can also be absorbed slowly, meaning that these symptoms may appear up to twelve hours post ingestion. A small dog may be affected by eating a small portion of xylitol containing peanut butter. Unfortunately, when it comes to peanut butter, most dogs won’t hesitate to polish off the entire jar.

As the number of xylitol containing products continue to increase so does the number of reported xylitol poisonings, as stated by the Animal Poison Control Center. Last year over 3500 cases were reported in the US.

These toxicologists recommend avoiding any of the following ingredients in anything that your dog may eat: 1,4-anhydro-d-xylitol, anhydroxylitol, birch bark extract, birch sugar, d-xylitol, xylite, xylitylglucoside, zylatol.

A complete list of xylitol containing products can be found at

Be aware of what is a potential danger to your pet, both in your home and abroad. As always, if you have any questions for a veterinarian, feel free to call us at Copper Hill Animal Clinic. And make sure to double check the peanut butter in your cupboard for xylitol before giving your canine friends a treat!