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How to Prepare for Flea and Tick Season

Thanks to our warm weather, fleas and ticks can be active year-round in Southern California. However, we are moving into the time of the year when they are most active. So, it’s important to prepare your home, yard, and pet to help keep your pets and you safe from parasites like fleas and ticks and the diseases they carry.

6 Tips to Prepare for Flea and Tick Season

1. Use a Preventative

The best way to protect your pets from parasites is with preventative medication. These come in several forms including oral tablets, topical ointments, and collars. It’s best to speak with a veterinarian before selecting a product for your pet because we can advise you on which products will be effective for your pet and safe for the other pets and small children in your household.

2. Do Not Mix and Match Parasite Preventatives

Parasite preventatives should not be shared among different pets in your household. Preventatives for dogs are formulated differently from those intended for cats, and dog parasite preventatives can actually be very dangerous for cats. Additionally, different sized pets will need different doses and formulations.
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3. Clean Up Your Yard

Fleas and ticks thrive in grassy, brushy, and woody areas. Keep your yard free from debris and ensure all your shrubbery and grass is well trimmed to reduce parasite populations in your pet’s immediate environment. Additionally, fleas and ticks tend to concentrate around bird feeders and birdbaths. If you have these features in your yard, place them out of the way of the areas where your pet plays.
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4. Clean Outdoor Pet Places

In addition to keeping your yard clean, be sure to thoroughly clean any outdoor kennels or pet houses, as these are usually highly susceptible to housing fleas and ticks.

5. Be Mindful of Where You Play and Walk

When you take your pet out for a walk, avoid areas that are brushy, have tall grass, or are heavily wooded. These are prime locations for pets to pick up fleas and ticks. Instead, pick a well-groomed walking path or stick to the sidewalk during the coolest parts of the day.

6. Even Indoor Pets Are at Risk

We can bring fleas and ticks inside on our own clothing or pets can pick them up when they go outside to the bathroom.

Schedule a Parasite Prevention Appointment With Our Mobile Team

If you want to ensure your pet is adequately protected from fleas and ticks this season, we welcome you to schedule an appointment with Signature Veterinary Services in San Diego. We’ll come your home in San Diego, Orange, or Riverside Counties and can recommend a preventative product for your pet that will be effective and safe for the entire household.

Heartworm Disease: Everything You Need to Know

April is Heartworm Awareness Month. Since April also marks the beginning of mosquito season in California and is quickly approaching, this seemed like the perfect time for us to help you make sure your pets (dogs especially) are adequately protected.

What Are Heartworms?

Heartworms are a type of parasitic roundworm that most commonly infects dogs, but can also affect cats. Heartworm larvae are delivered through the bite of an infected mosquito. These larvae then travel through a pet’s bloodstream until they reach the heart and lungs where they will mature and grow.

Heartworm Disease in Dogs

Dogs are the most common host for heartworms, which means the parasites thrive inside a dog’s body, mature, and reproduce. As many as several hundred heartworms can live inside a dog’s body. Left untreated, the parasite’s numbers will only increase, damaging the dog’s heart, arteries, and lungs.
Symptoms include:
Unaddressed, heartworm disease eventually leads to heart failure and death.

Heartworm Disease in Cats

Cats are atypical hosts for heartworms, which means the parasites don’t thrive as successfully in cats as they do in dogs. However, cats can still get heartworms that can damage their bodies. Although most heartworms don’t survive while a cat matures, a few can remain that lead to the condition called heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD).
Symptoms of heartworms in cats include:
Additionally, heartworms in cats can move to other parts of the body like a cat’s eyes or brain where they will cause great damage.

Why Heartworm Prevention Is So Important

Heartworm disease often proves fatal for dogs and, if not fatal, it can cause serious illness in cats. While there is a treatment for dogs with heartworms, it has a low success rate. There is no treatment available for cats who have heartworms.

Annual Testing and Heartworm Preventatives for Dogs and Cats

We always emphasize the importance of preventing cats and dogs from getting heartworms in the first place and encourage our clients to be vigilant about administering their pet’s heartworm preventative. Heartworm preventatives come in monthly pill-form and injectable-form (like a vaccination given every six months).

Prior to administering a heartworm preventative, however, it’s imperative to screen a dog for existing heartworms. Administering a heartworm preventative to a dog that is already a carrier of heartworms can be fatal.

Schedule Your Pet's Heartworm Prevention Appointment Before April

To ensure your pet is protected this mosquito season, schedule a heartworm prevention appointment with Signature Veterinary Services before April. Our mobile veterinary clinic will come to you to test your pet for heartworm disease and provide you with the best preventative available.
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It's Spay/Neuter Awareness Month!

Each year in the United States, 6.5 million companion animals are turned into animal shelters, and every year, about 1.5 million stray animals are euthanized. Spay & Neuter Awareness Month was created to help prevent the overcrowding of animal shelters and needless deaths by spreading awareness about the importance of sterilizing our pets.
Our veterinarians at Signature Veterinary Services encourage our pet parents to spay or neuter their pets not only to prevent the birth of unwanted litters and overcrowded animal shelters, but also to provide their pets with a whole host of health benefits.

4 Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Pet

1. Prevent Unwanted Behaviors

Territory marking, unwanted aggression, and howling/yowling are all behaviors associated with your pet’s natural instinct to reproduce. Having a pet spayed or neutered will drastically reduce these instincts, creating a better-behaved pet.

2. Prevent Roaming

Pets that are left intact also have a tendency to roam. They’ll work hard to break out of their fences or sneak out of the house in search of a mate. Spaying or neutering your pet will eliminate their desire to wander and subsequently become lost or injured.
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3. Reduce the Risk of Contagious Disease

Pets that are spayed or neutered come into contact with fewer animals throughout their lives. As a result, they’re exposed to fewer contagious diseases and are much more likely to remain healthy.

4. Eliminate the Risk of Reproductive Cancers

Spaying removes a female pet’s ovaries and uterus, and neutering removes a male pet’s testicles. As a result, cancers associated with these organs are eliminated entirely and the risk of developing other cancers, like breast cancer, are significantly reduced.

Is Spay/Neuter Surgery Safe?

The benefits of having a pet spayed or neutered far outweigh the risks. Spay and neuter surgeries require anesthesia. Our veterinarians will perform a physical examination and, depending on your pet’s age, history, and exam findings, will recommend appropriate diagnostics prior to the procedure. These tests ensure your pet is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia.

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Although there is always some amount of risk during surgeries, spaying and neutering are both common, routine procedures that our veterinarians are highly skilled and experienced at performing.

Schedule an Appointment for Your Pet Today

To schedule an appointment for your cat or dog or to learn more about sterilizing your puppy, kitten, or intact adult pet, we welcome you to contact Signature Veterinary Services. Our mobile veterinary clinic is fully equipped with a surgical suite to provide all the care your pet needs and to protect our local animal shelters from overcrowding.

Loss of a Pet: Knowing When It's Time to Say Goodbye

Paws-down, our pets are fully-fledged family members. Unfortunately, they live much shorter lives than we do, and at some point, we face the difficult, yet compassionate decision to say goodbye. Euthanasia limits suffering at the end of life and allows a beloved pet to pass away peacefully.
At Signature Veterinary Services, we understand how difficult it can be to face these end-of-life decisions. We’re highly experienced in treating aging and terminal pets; we will support you throughout every step of the process with the best interests of your pet and your family at heart.

How Do You Know When the Time for Euthanasia Has Come?

When a pet is diagnosed with a terminal illness, has been critically injured, and/or has developed quality of life concerns associated with aging, veterinarians shift the treatment approach from curative to comfort care. Comfort care (also called palliative care) focuses on managing or alleviating a pet’s pain to preserve quality of life and limit suffering during the final months, weeks, or days.
When we’re no longer able to ensure comfort or maintain some quality of life with palliative care, it becomes time to consider euthanasia. Signs that palliative care is no longer effective include uncontrolled pain, loss of appetite, withdrawal from the family, difficulty breathing, and/or extremely limited mobility.
We understand the challenges surrounding end-of-life decisions, including rapid changes in a pet’s condition. We encourage pet owners to stay in contact with our team for ongoing guidance and offer at home and virtual quality of life assessments to assist in this process.

End of Life Care in the Comfort of Your Home

Taking a trip to the veterinary clinic can be stressful, even on the best of days. When your pet’s nearing his or her final moments, the veterinary clinic is the last place your pet and your family want to be. At Signature Veterinary Services, our mobile team is fully equipped to provide quality of life assessments and end of life care in the comfort of your home. While nothing can eliminate the heartbreak of saying goodbye, having the ability to do so in your own home, where your pet and family will be most comfortable and relaxed, tremendously eases the stress.
To learn more about end of life care with Signature Veterinary Services, we welcome you to contact us today.
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How to Fix These Common Canine Behavior Problems

Tearing up the house when left alone, soiling your clean carpets, pulling on the leash, jumping up on visitors, digging, chewing, and other destructive behaviors are concerns for every dog owner. While we love their rambunctious energy, it takes a lot of training and reinforcement of positive behaviors to help your dog feel secure and understand the behaviors you expect from them. With the right solutions, however, you’ll be able to rein in your dog’s energy and teach some very important manners that’ll help him or her live a happy, well-adjusted life.

Top 3 Canine Behavior Problems and How to Fix Them

1. Excessive Barking

If your dog keeps you up at night or has your neighbors complaining about noise whenever you leave the house, then your dog might have a barking problem. The first step in addressing your dog’s barking is to figure out what kind of barking it is. Identifying whether it’s territorial, alarm-barking, or another reason (see the ASPCA’s complete list) will determine how you need to approach training.

2. Chewing

Like barking, dogs chew, dig, and destroy their surroundings for various reasons and the first step is to figure out if your dog is bored, stressed, has excessive energy, or might be suffering from separation anxiety. Try increasing playtime with your dog to help him or her expend more energy. Keep plenty of dog-friendly toys around your house and reward your pup when he or she chooses to play with them.

Remember that puppies chew because they’re teething. In this case, try to provide them with plenty of chew toys and encourage them to focus on those rather than on your loafers.

3. Aggression

Aggression can occur as a result of poor socialization during puppyhood, but it also may signify that your pet has an underlying health issue. Start with a checkup, especially if the aggressive behavior is uncharacteristic.

Rule Out Medical Concerns First

Before getting upset with your dog’s behavior, schedule a physical examination. Behavior changes and unwanted behaviors, such as aggression or house soiling, can indicate an underlying medical issue. It’s always best to rule out the possibility that your pet is sick before focusing your attention solely on training.

Schedule a Checkup and Behavior Consultation with Signature Veterinary Services

If your pet has been acting up recently or has a bad habit that you haven’t been able to train them out of, then we encourage you to schedule an appointment with our mobile team at Signature Veterinary Services, serving pets in San Diego, Orange, and Riverside Counties. We can help you investigate possible underlying medical problems that could be contributing to behavior issues, and also provide you with useful resources and advice for correcting your pet’s unwanted behaviors. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.

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Giving Your Pets Medication

Whether sick with an infection, recovering from surgery, managing a chronic condition, or treating ongoing pain, pets are often prescribed medications and supplements to help. At first, having a pet in need of medications can seem overwhelming, but with these tips, it’ll be a breeze.

4 Tips for Getting Your Pets to Take Their Medications

1. Follow Instructions

Closely follow all the instructions your veterinarian provides to ensure that you store medications properly (at the correct temperature) and administer them in the correct dose to your pet.

2. Use Administration Aids

Pets – especially cats – are picky about the things they eat. You can hide medicine in food or special treats to encourage pets to take their medications. Pet pillers and special restraint techniques can also facilitate medication administration.

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3. Keep a Calendar

To avoid forgetting your pet’s medicine or administering it too frequently which can easily happen in busy households, keep a calendar and mark each day and time you give your pet his or her medication. If you miss a dose or accidentally double up, be sure to contact your veterinarian right away to find out what to do.

4. Ask About Compounding

If you struggle to administer your pet’s meds, ask about whether they can be compounded into a different form (capsule, liquid, powder, or treat) and/or flavor.

4 Pet Med Safety Precautions

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1. Don't Share Prescriptions

Some human and pet medications are the same. However, your pet’s dose and instructions will differ from yours. Seemingly minor differences can have catastrophic consequences in pets whose metabolism is not identical to that of their human counterparts. 

2. OTC Medications Are Off-Limits

Over the counter medications are safe for people, but they can be dangerous, toxic, and deadly for pets. Store these medications in a place where your pet won’t be able to access and accidentally ingest them.

3. Store Medications Separately

It’s extremely important to store your medications and supplements separately from those of your pets. This will ensure you never inadvertently confuse them, which could have adverse consequences.

4. Choose a Reputable Pharmacy

Depending on how they are manufactured, stored, and handled, pet medications and supplements can vary greatly in quality and efficacy. Select a reputable pet pharmacy, such as the one attached to or associated with a veterinary clinic.

Pet Prescription and Supplies from Our Mobile Clinic

At Signature Veterinary Services, we stock our mobile clinic with prescription medications and can readily and expediently order most medications that we do not regularly carry. Plus, we invite our clients to use our online store, which is an extension of our in-house pharmacy. When you get your pet’s supplies and medications directly from the veterinarian, you can always count on receiving high-quality products.

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Should You Get Health Insurance for Your Pet?

Although people have insurance for themselves, their homes, vehicles, and other valuables, many pet owners aren’t aware that health insurance is available for their pets. Others simply choose not to purchase it.
Without pet health insurance, however, you might not be able to cover the cost of your pet’s veterinary care, and no pet owner should ever have to choose between their beloved pets and their finances.
At Signature Veterinary Services, we want to raise awareness about pet health insurance and the reasons why it’s a smart investment.

Is Pet Health Insurance Worth It?

Routine veterinary care is affordable and includes regular expenses that can be anticipated. It’s easy to budget for services like annual wellness plans, checkups, vaccinations, and health screenings.
If a pet falls ill, ingests a foreign object or poison, or has a traumatic injury, unexpected veterinary costs are significant. When you account for the price of anesthesia, medications, procedures, supportive care, and recovery, the cost of veterinary services such as emergency care, sick pet care, and pet surgery can add up to thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, most Americans have little savings and can’t afford to cover a $1,000-dollar emergency.
In these cases, pet owners and veterinarians have their hands tied. Although everyone wants to make the best decisions for a pet’s treatment, covering the costs without pet health insurance often is not feasible.
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How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

Pet health insurance premiums can cost anywhere from $30 to $90 per month. Premiums depend on the policy you choose for your pet, your deductible amount, your pet’s breed, and often their health history. There are a variety of pet health insurance policies available, and you’ll be able to choose the one that best meets your needs.
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How Does Pet Health Insurance Work?

Similar to health insurance for people, every pet health insurance policy is different and works a little differently. Pet insurance policies typically have deductibles, which means you’ll pay a certain amount of your pet’s veterinary bill before the insurance company covers either all or a percentage of the remaining balance. Depending on your policy, you might be responsible for paying the veterinary costs upfront and submitting the bill for reimbursement.

Pet Emergencies Happen; Be Prepared with Pet Insurance

No matter how carefully you care for your pets, emergencies and unexpected illnesses can still happen. When your pet has an emergency, the last thing you want to worry about is money. Be prepared. Ask Signature Veterinary Services about pet health insurance policies today.
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Keeping Pets Healthy for Life During National Immunization Month

During August, our veterinarians celebrate National Immunization Month by raising awareness about the importance of vaccines for cats and dogs. Vaccinating is one of the most important components of your pet’s wellness and preventive care; vaccines are safe, simple, and extremely effective. While some health problems are unavoidable, there’s no reason to leave your pets vulnerable to the dangers of contagious diseases that we are able to prevent. With a simple schedule of vaccines, your pet will be protected from some of the most dangerous and contagious diseases.

Which Vaccinations Does Your Pet Need?

Cats and dogs receive a schedule of core (essential) vaccines and might also receive additional, non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are those that are strongly recommended and/or legally required for all pets to receive. Core vaccines protect pets from diseases like rabies, parvovirus, distemper virus, calicivirus, and herpesvirus.
Non-core vaccines aren’t necessary for every pet but are recommended based on each pet’s lifestyle, environment, and exposure risk. These include Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Influenza, rattlesnake, and Leukemia (in adults) vaccines.

Setting Up Your Pet's Vaccine Schedule

To keep the whole family safe, a pet owner simply needs to understand that pets require a combination of core and non-core vaccines on a set schedule. Your pet’s veterinarian will help you figure out the rest.
Typically, puppies and kittens begin receiving vaccines at about 6 to 8 weeks of age. To ensure their protection from disease, they then require booster shots every 3 to 4 weeks until at or after 16 weeks of age.
Once fully vaccinated puppies and kittens become adults, they will need core vaccine boosters every 1 to 3 years and non-core vaccine boosters as frequently as every 6 months. It’s also important to check with a veterinarian before traveling or relocating with your pet because different environments put pets at risk for contracting different diseases. These types of risks can be easily avoided by administering new vaccinations prior to your departure.

Signature Veterinary Services Brings the Vaccination Celebration to You!

If you’re too busy to visit a veterinary clinic or have a pet that gets anxious in new places, you can still make sure your pets are fully protected with an up-to-date schedule of vaccinations with Signature Veterinary Services. With our mobile veterinary clinic, our veterinarians will bring the vaccinations and wellness care to your doorstep! To learn more about the at-home veterinary services we provide or to schedule a preventive care appointment for your Carlsbad pet, we welcome you to contact us today.

The Golden Years: How to Help Your Pet Age Gracefully

With veterinary advances and improved nutrition, cats and dogs are living longer lives. Although we get to enjoy more snuggles and companionship than ever before, their lifespans are still much shorter than our own. Pet ownership almost always involves navigating the inevitable aging process. As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to help your pets maintain a high quality of life well into their golden years.

How Does Age Affect a Pet's Wellness and Preventative Care Needs?

Normally, healthy adult pets visit the veterinarian for a checkup once every year. Pets should have a checkup every six months once they’ve reached about age seven (give or take a year or two depending on species and size), which coincides with the start of “seniorhood”.
During a senior pet’s wellness exam, our veterinarian will take extra care to examine your pet and screen them for conditions and diseases that are more common with age, such as:
More frequent veterinary check-ups can help us detect early signs of these diseases and conditions in senior pets. Early diagnosis helps to ensure improved management and treatment options, before a problem causes considerable pain or discomfort or has a chance to progress to an advanced stage.
Your pet’s wellness exam will include a complete physical examination in addition to routine diagnostic testing. Diagnostic tests that help us detect health problems in senior pets include blood tests, urinalyses, and x-rays or ultrasound. Our veterinarian will also provide you with recommendations for modifying your pet’s diet, exercise, and environment for optimal health.

Does My Senior Pet Need to See a Veterinarian?

We recommend scheduling an appointment for your pet, if you notice any unexplained changes in your pet’s behavior or appearance, such as:

At-Home Veterinary Care and Diagnostic Testing for Senior Pets in Carlsbad, CA

When your pet enters the golden years, help them enjoy the highest quality of life and the best health possible. With Signature Veterinary Services, your pet can receive veterinary care in or at the comfort of your own home. There’s no reason to put unnecessary stress on an aging pet with frequent trips to the veterinary clinic when we can bring our services right to your doorstep. To schedule an appointment for your aging pet, contact us today.

Protect Your Human and Furry Family Members from Zoonoses

Pets bring companionship, joy, protection, and entertainment. They keep us healthier, happier, and more active. However, understanding the potential risks (like zoonoses), along with the benefits, of pet ownership is essential for your household’s wellbeing.

What Is a Zoonosis?

Zoonotic diseases or zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Different types of zoonoses, or illnesses that humans can contract from their pets, livestock, and wild animals include viruses, bacterial infections, fungal infections, and parasites.
Some zoonotic diseases have a significant symptomatic expression in humans while affecting non-humans very little. In people, different zoonoses cause symptoms ranging from mild to severely life-threatening.

How Common Are Zoonotic Diseases?

Zoonoses are surprisingly common. Some of the most well-known include the plague, bird flu, salmonella, rabies, E. coli, Ebola, and Zika. According to the CDC, about 60% of human diseases have a zoonotic origin and 3/4 of emerging or new diseases in humans come from animals.

How Do Zoonoses Spread Between Humans and Animals?

Zoonotic diseases are most commonly contracted when people and animals mix. They can be transmitted during outdoor recreational activities like swimming in a lake or by interacting with animals at a petting zoo, working with livestock on a farm, or playing with a parasite-infested pet.
Primarily, zoonoses are transmitted by direct contact with an infected animal, contact with a contaminated surface, through the bites of parasites (fleas, ticks, and mosquitos), by exposure to contaminated water, or by consuming raw or contaminated food.

Can the Novel Coronavirus Spread Between Humans and Animals?

While it’s suspected that novel coronavirus has a zoonotic origin, we still do not know from where it emerged. According to the CDC, a few cats, dogs, and other types of animals like tigers and ferrets have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Although the risk appears to be low, more research is needed to understand the exact risk of contraction and transmission between humans and animals.

Protect Yourself and Your Pets from Zoonoses

To protect your pets and your human family members from novel coronavirus and other zoonoses, practice proper social distancing, practice safe food handling procedures, wash your hands frequently, and disinfect household surfaces regularly. Provide your pets with vaccinations, parasite preventatives, keep them away from wildlife, and limit their exposure to pets from other households.
For more information about protecting pets from disease, contact Signature Veterinary Services in Carlsbad.