January is Walk Your Pet Month

January is Walk Your Pet Month which is perfect for those New Year’s Resolutions and why not bring your pet along! Not only is walking a good activity for us, but for our pets too!

Must-have items for walking your dog in a Winter Doggyland:
• Warm, weather resistant jacket to make sure your dog is comfortable & well-insulated.
• Lighted leash & collar during the winter since it gets dark early.
• Bags for cleaning up after your dog.
• Collapsible water bowl so your furry friend can stay hydrated.
• Snowball maker that makes perfect snowballs that your dog will love to chase after.
• Microfiber pet towels to wipe down your pet’s paws from things like ice, snow, salt & toxic chemicals like antifreeze & de-icers that can build up on your dog’s feet.
• Dog boots/booties to provide additional warmth and traction your dog needs when spending an extended period of time on snow & ice.
• Your dog’s favorite treats for training or rewarding good behavior during the walk.
• Heated dog bed that your pet can lounge in.
• Just before you go outside, put a towel in the dryer on a low setting, then wrap your dog in the towel when you get home.

So how cold is too cold to take a dog out for a walk? There is no one right answer for every dog, but owners should consider the size of their dog, breed and their overall health. Even if your dog has a thick, heavy coat, he might still feel chilly in the winter.

Many pet owners are aware of the dangers to dogs and cats in extreme heat, but the risks can be even greater with the freezing temperatures. A common misconception is that dogs and cats are more resistant to cold weather than humans because of their fur according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Common Cold Weather Ailments:

    • Frostbite and Hypothermia is when a dog’s temperature dips too low. Pets are just as likely to get frostbite and hypothermia as their owners.
    • Symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia, get your pet inside right away if he:
      • Whines or acts anxious
      • Can’t stop shivering or seems weak
      • Has ice on his body
      • Stops moving or slows down
      • Looks for warm places to burrow
    • Antifreeze drips from a car’s radiator and collects on sidewalks, driveways & roads. Unfortunately, animals have been known to lick it off the ground because of the sweet taste of its main ingredient, ethylene glycol. Take your pet to the vet right away if they even lick up a bit of antifreeze.
    • Symptoms of your pet ingesting antifreeze are:• Vomiting
      • Panting
      • Excessive thirst
      • Drunken-like behavior

In case of an emergency or if you need us we are here 24/7!

With these helpful tips and some proper gear, you should be all set to get out there and enjoy that winter weather with your dog!

Holiday Items that can be Hazardous to your Pets

December is full of holiday celebrations and is a wonderful time to spend with family & friends.  We listed some common holiday items that can be hazardous to pets.  We are here 24/7 if you need us.


Chocolate, which stimulates the nervous system and the heart should be kept far away from four-legged friends. Although all chocolate should be avoided, dark chocolate poses a greater risk than sweeter varieties such as milk chocolate.

Grapes & Raisins

Grapes and raisins are other common hazards for pets during the holidays.  Any candied raisins found in fruit cake or grapes found on appetizer platters are potentially poisonous to dogs and cats.

Tinsel & Ribbons

These shiny decorations may look pretty, but they can cause serious problems for cats and dogs.  Never wrap tinsel or ribbon around the neck of a pet no matter how festive it looks, this is a choking hazard.

Sugar-Free Baked Goods 

Holiday cookies might look like a tempting treat for your pet but the artificial sweetener xylitol found in some sugar-free baked goods can cause hypoglycemia and liver issues.

Holiday Plants

Mistletoe and holly are two of the more toxic holiday plants to pets which can cause severe gastrointestinal disorders, breathing difficulty & heart failure in extreme cases if ingested.  The dangers of poinsettias and Christmas cactus are relatively harmless; if ingested these plants may cause an irritating reaction in the mouths of dogs and especially cats.

 Holiday Ornaments

Although not poisonous many ornaments have sharp edges that can cause perforations and lacerations to pets that try to chew on the decorations, safeguard them for the sake of your pet.

 Electrical Cords

Some animals love to chew electrical cords and all the additional lights strung up around the house present a new hazard. To protect pets, turn off lights and unplug them when you aren’t home.

 Turkey Bones

Rich fatty foods can cause illness, and ingested turkey bones can splinter and puncture internal organs.


Keep them away from the punch and egg nog. Pets should never ingest alcoholic beverages because alcohol depresses the nervous system.

 Christmas Trees

Pine needles won’t harm your pet, but there are plenty of dangers surrounding a Christmas tree. The tree should always be properly secured and fragile glass ornaments should be kept off low-lying branches if your pet decides to play. If your cat is prone to climbing, leave ornaments off the tree for a few days to see if he will attempt to climb it.  If you have a real Christmas tree, don’t add fertilizer to the tree water and keep pets away from stagnant water in the reservoir.

Pet Cancer Awareness

Dr. David Hunley, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology) – Gold Coast Center for Veterinary Care

Cancer in dogs and cats

About 1 in every 4 dogs and cats will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime, and the incidence of cancer-development increases with age (there is a higher risk in dogs and cats over 10 years of age). Most of the cancers we treat in veterinary medicine occur due to genetic factors (often breed-related), so it is difficult to avoid the development of cancer in the majority of dogs and cats. Once cancer does develop, it is important to make a diagnosis as quickly as possible so that we can evaluate the various treatment options and make a therapeutic plan based on the specific cancer type.

It is always difficult to hear a diagnosis of cancer, whether it is in our human, canine, or feline family members. The word cancer carries with it a stigma that is different than most other illnesses, and it can seem like there is no hope once this diagnosis is made. The important thing to remember, however, is that there are many different forms of cancer, and no two cancers are exactly the same. Just as there are some situations where we are dealing with an aggressive cancer that has few treatment options, there are also many time when we can effectively treat, control, and sometimes cure cancer.

Signs of cancer in dogs and cats

Just like in people, cancer can affect any organ in the dog and cat, so we could have cancers that arise from the skin or from the internal organ. If any of the following symptoms arise, they could indicate that a cancerous process is present, so they should be evaluated, but other problems can cause these symptoms as well.

  • New or rapidly-growing lumps or bumps in or under the skin
  • Persistent non-healing wounds
  • Persistent diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Persistent, unexplained pain or lameness
  • Bleeding from the mouth, very bad breath, or dropping food from the mouth
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Difficulty breathing or persistent cough
  • Sudden changes in weight or appetite

What to do if your pet is diagnosed with cancer

Your veterinarian will usually make the initial diagnosis of cancer and will discuss options with you. In some cases, they will be comfortable starting treatment, while in others, they may advise seeing a veterinary oncologist for a more detailed evaluation and discussion.

The role of a veterinary oncologist is to evaluate the individual characteristics of each dog’s or cat’s cancer and help make a plan for the best course of action moving forward. This plan will be determined in part by the type of cancer that is found, in part by the health of your pet, and in part by your comfort level with the treatment options that are available. There are some situations where no treatment is needed or when surgical removal of a cancerous mass is likely to control the cancer long term. Other times, medical treatment is recommended. Medical treatment options may include chemotherapy or other cancer-fighting medications.

Chemotherapy is a word that is generally associated with negative thoughts and feelings. This is because we know chemotherapy drugs can cause unwanted side effects. However, it is important to remember that there are many different types of chemotherapy and many different ways that chemotherapy can be administered. Also, certain types of cancer are more likely to respond to chemotherapy than others, so in some cases, it is reasonable to risk side effects while in others it may not be. It is often said that dogs and cats tolerate chemotherapy better than people do, and this is true in many instances, but this is partly due to the fact that we tend to be less aggressive with the chemotherapy dose and intensity in veterinary patients in order to avoid problems as much as possible. Despite this strategy of treatment, we still do see severe side effects in some dogs and cats, but the side effects in most veterinary patients are mild and tolerable, and there truly are many dogs and cats who have no side effects at all.

For many cancers, there are medical treatment options other than chemotherapy that may be less likely to cause side effects. These options vary depending on the type of cancer and the details of the disease, but they can be a more desirable approach for some situations. If less aggressive options are available, they will always be discussed during an oncology consultation.

Since each dog or cat is an individual, their cancer is unique, and their potential response to treatment is also unique. Therefore, it can help to discuss your pet’s diagnosis and your thoughts and concerns with an oncology specialist to make sure you have the most detailed information about your pet’s diagnosis and that you are comfortable with your decisions moving forward.


Flea, Tick & Heartworm Preventives

Warm weather is here, if you’ve taken a break from flea, tick & heartworm preventives, it’s time to start again!
Ticks are second only to mosquitoes in the number of diseases they transmit & it can take just 4 hours for a tick to transmit disease to your pet.  Signs of tick-borne disease are difficult to recognize in both pets and people.
Heartworms are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. A heartworm infection is difficult to treat in dogs, and there’s no approved treatment for cats.  While we always recommend year round prevention, especially with the other benefits of intestinal parasite prevention the heartworm preventatives have, If you stopped giving heartworm preventative last fall, now is the time to have your dog tested and restarted on the medication.
Tick-borne & heartworm diseases are preventable, simple preventive measures are key.  We anticipate this season to be particularly bad with the mild winter we had.  Remember that there is a very safe and effective vaccination in dogs for lyme disease which should especially be considered in high tick areas. If you have any questions regarding flea and tick preventative, or your options for heartworm preventative, please don’t hesitate to stop in or give us a call!

Dr. Jared Coren appears on the Animal Planet Show – “My Cat from Hell”

Our very own, Dr. Jared Coren, was called out to help with Jackson Galaxy’s show on Animal Planet, “My Cat from Hell”.  Dr. Jared did a housecall to examine Spike, a cat that was very difficult to bring to the veterinarian.  Dr. Jared, Karen and Brittany were able to perform a complete physical examination and get full bloodwork on Spike to aid in Spike’s treatment.  Take a look at the pictures below and check out the episode on demand (Season 7, episode 6)!


IMG_3179   IMG_3184 IMG_3178  IMG_3203  

Surgery Patient of the Month- June- Portosystemic Shunt (PSS)

Nacho with his mommyCongratulations to Nacho for being our June Surgery Patient of the Month!

You would never know by looking at him, but Nacho was recently diagnosed with a life-threatening condition for which he showed no signs whatsoever! When Nacho turned one, his owners wished to have him neutered. He was an active and happy pup, and as expected, his exam was completely normal. As part of routine diagnostics done prior to any surgical procedure here at West Hills, Nacho had blood work performed. Results showed a single value related to liver health was slightly elevated. You might argue that a slight elevation of a sole value on a blood panel is likely insignificant, but at West Hills we are committed to practicing the highest standard of care for our pets. Therefore, Nacho’s veterinarian, Dr. Sikalas, recommended further testing to ensure it was safe for him to undergo anesthesia and surgery.

An additional blood test (called bile acids) was performed and Nacho’s results returned abnormal. When this occurs in a young small breed dog, a likely possibility is a congenital abnormality associated with the liver called a portosystemic shunt (PSS). In dogs and cats, blood carrying toxins, such as ammonia, from the digestive tract is first transported to the liver through the portal vein. The liver removes all the harmful substances before returning the detoxified blood to the general circulation. Nacho on Halloween!

In pets with a PSS, there are one or more abnormal vessels that bypass the liver, allowing those harmful substances to the rest of the body before detoxification occurs. Pets with this condition often times suffer from a smaller liver with impaired function, and can have stunted growth or abnormal neurologic behavior, particularly after eating. They may also have problems metabolizing medications, especially anesthetic drugs, and this can be fatal for some pets.

Surgery is frequently recommended for dogs with PSS and consists of an abdominal exploration to identify the abnormal “shunting” vessel and a procedure to redirect blood flow back to the liver. Nacho underwent surgery with our ACVS Board Certified Veterinary Surgeon, Dr. Marc Hirshenson, who identified an abnormal vessel consistent with a PSS. Dr. Hirshenson placed a small device called an occluder on the vessel. This allows for gradual closure of the vessel and redirection of blood flow to the liver.

Nacho handled surgery like a champ and recovered without any complications. At home, Nacho continues to thrive. More importantly, his most recent bloodwork showed normal liver values! Congratulations Nacho!


Surgery Patient of the Month-May-Enucleation

“Kitty Wap”, is an adorable and friendly kitten that was found living among a colony of other stray cats. A Good Samaritan brought Kitty Wap to West Hills because they noticed she had significant swelling and discharge from her right eye.

Dr. Dominguez evaluated Kitty Wap and diagnosed her with an abscessed wound surrounding the right side of her face. The wound was so severe she actually had fly larvae (maggots) growing within the affected tissue.

Kitty Wap was anesthetized and Dr. Dominguez treated the abscess with an initial surgery to remove as much infected tissue as possible.

Kitty Wap’s care was transferred to our ACVS Board Certified Veterinary Surgeon, Dr. Marc Hirshenson. Dr. Hirshenson recommended enucleation (removal) of her severely damaged and blind right eye as well as more aggressive cleaning of the wound along her face. Given the extensiveness of trauma, Dr. Hirshenson felt that removal of the eye and wound treatment was the proper initial step, followed by full facial reconstruction surgery once the infection was under control

The enucleation surgery was without complication and Kitty Wap recovered without a hitch. For the next several weeks, the staff at West Hills dedicated much time and love towards caring for Kitty Wap and her open wounds, which reached all the way down to her skull! This time was necessary in order to make the existing skin and connective tissue along her face healthy enough to support further reconstruction.Bandage

After nearly 3 weeks of wound treatment Kitty Wap was taken to surgery again, where reconstruction was performed using a flap of skin from her neck to close the open wound on her face.

Reconstructive surgery using skin flaps is a very delicate procedure, requiring expertise and experience as afforded by veterinary surgical specialists. Inappropriate post-operative wound care can lead to breakdown of the site or infection; therefore patients will experience numerous bandage changes during the course of healing. Additionally, careful attention to incision care is of utmost priority as the tissue is fragile and requires time to regrow blood vessels and nerves during reattachment. Kitty Wap was actually hospitalized during the time her face healed to minimize her chance for complications.

While hair growth in the areas of her skin flap is a bit patchy, Kitty Wap’s face is currently completely healed and she is a currently loving life as a gorgeous, healthy, and happy one-eyed kitten!After surgery

For a full photo diary of Kitty Wap’s journey, please visit our facebook page. WARNING- some of the pictures may be graphic.




Surgery patients of the Month- February- Patella Luxation & Fracture Femoral

Congratulations to Simon and Charlie for being our February Surgery patients of the Month!They love to snuggle!

February is considered the “month of love”, so we decided to share the honor of “Surgery Patient of the Month” between a very loving brother and sister combination, Simon and Charlie! Both are equally deserving of recognition, as they underwent surgery only a few days apart from each other.

Simon is a 2 year old English cocker spaniel who was referred to see our ACVS board certified surgeon, Dr. Marc Hirshenson, for evaluation of left hindlimb lameness. Dr. Hirshenson diagnosed Simon with a left medial patella luxation.

Medial patella luxation occurs when the patella (knee cap) does not sit correctly within the groove of the femur (thigh bone). The patella “pops” in and out of the groove, causing inflammation and discomfort. Over years, this causes break down of cartilage within the knee joint and osteoarthritis. Surgery is recommended to stabilize the patella for dogs showing signs of pain related to a luxating patella. The goal of surgery is to keep the patella in the groove through a full range of motion of the knee joint.  

Simon underwent surgical correction of his luxating patella, and recovered quickly, after spending a few days in the hospital.

The day before Simon’s surgery, his owners adopted their second dog, Charlie, a young female  Miniature Pincher. At the time of her adoption, Charlie would not bear any weight on her left hindlimb.

While Simon was recovering at West Hills, Charlie was brought to her primary care veterinarian for evaluation and radiographs (x-rays) of her affected hindlimb. X-rays showed her left femur was fractured!  Charlie was then referred to Dr. Hirshenson. He determined the fracture occurred at least 2 weeks prior to her adoption. Surgery was recommended, and Charlie was admitted on the same day Simon was discharged.

Charlie’s femur fracture was stabilized with a plate and screws. She experienced no complications during or after surgery, and just like Simon, recovered well post-operatively.

Simon and Charlie continued their together at home, gaining back strength in their respective left hind limbs have now resumed  normal activity. They will forever have a special bond, and share dedicated owners who take fantastic care of them!

Congratulations on your recovery Simon and Charlie! Simon   Charlie

Surgery Patient of the Month- January- Bilateral Cruciate Ligament Rupture

Congratulations Keifer on being our January Surgery Patient of the month! Keifer , a 10-year-old  mixed breed dog, was presented to the West Hills surgery service for evaluation of a two-day history of reluctance to walk and hind limb pain.Keifer

Two weeks prior, Keifer was diagnosed with an acute right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture at an Emergency Hospital. A few days later, he suddenly showed lameness of his left hind limb. Dr. Hirshenson, our ACVS board certified su…rgeon, examined

Keifer, and diagnosed him with cruciate ligament tears of both hind limbs. A cruciate ligament tear is diagnosed via palpation of instability in the knee joint. The instability causes intense inflammation and pain, manifesting as lameness.

Cruciate ligament rupture is the most common orthopedic disease in dogs, occurring secondary to chronic degeneration of the ligament over time. The weakened ligament can suddenly fragment, causing acute lameness.

A dog with a ruptured cruciate ligament in one knee is likely to develop a tear on the opposing limb 50% of the time, and 25% of these dogs may develop another tear within the same year.  A smaller proportion, like Keifer, will develop tears in both limbs in a much shorter time frame. While dogs with only one limb affected can ambulate by bearing weight on the opposing back limb, dogs with bilateral cruciate ligament tears can be rendered immobile from pain in the most severe cases.

The treatment of choice for cruciate disease in dogs is surgical repair. Dogs with bilateral tears typically have surgery on one limb, followed by the other 2-3 months later. These dogs experience eventual return to a normal level of physical activity; however this can take upwards of 4-6 months or more when the surgeries were separated. Dr. Hirshenson is one of a small number of surgeons, who has extensive experience repairing both knees during a single surgery and offers this option for appropriate cases.

The pros to simultaneously repairing both sides are that the patient experiences a single anesthesia and hospitalization and a more rapid return to their normal physical activity. The con is the increased physical rehabilitation required in the immediate post-operative period.

Keifer’s owner was willing to take on the extra post-operative care and pursued bilateral surgery. Keifer immediately started physical rehabilitation exercises after surgery, and his owner continued therapy at home.

Just three short weeks after surgery Keifer was walking well on his own, and was cleared to resume his normal activities, including running and playing after 10 weeks.

Through the dedication of his owner and the staff at West Hills, along with Keifer’s toughness and determination, he was able to get back onto all four feet with flying colors. Way to go Keifer!

Surgery Patient of the Month- December- Front Limb Amputation

Cooper recovering

Cooper recovering

Cooper is a stunning 7-year-old Golden retriever and a long time patient at West Hills Animal Hospital. He was recently was seen by Dr. Ries for evaluation of several skin masses. Each of the masses was tested, and one located on Cooper’s left carpus (wrist) was suspicious for a cancerous process, called a soft tissue sarcoma.
Dr. Ries removed the suspicious mass, and biopsy confirmed a diagnosis of a soft tissue sarcoma, with incomplete surgical margins. This means tumor cells are still present at the surgery site on his leg, leaving Cooper at significant risk for regrowth of the tumor or spread of disease (metastases).

Cooper’s owners were scheduled to meet with an oncologist to discuss his diagnosis, however in the two-week span between surgery and the appointment, his tumor began to regrow. Cooper was then referred to Dr. Hirshenson, our board certified veterinary surgeon and surgical oncology specialist, for consultation regarding more aggressive treatment for his cancer.

Dr. Hirshenson discussed several options with Cooper’s owners, including repeating a localized surgery followed by radiation therapy, radiation therapy followed by localized surgery, and amputation of the affected limb. Though the last option may seem dramatic, it is one that would likely be curative for Cooper.Cooper

After much consideration, Cooper’s family elected to pursue amputation. It was a difficult decision, as he showed no pain from the tumor and was using the affected limb normally, but they knew it would be the best chance for him to be cured.

Cooper was a rock star! The day after surgery he was able to walk with only minor assistance. He spent several days in the hospital recovering and undergoing early physical rehabilitation to help him get used to his new life on three legs!

At his 2-week recheck appointment with Dr. Hirshenson he was so excited to be back at West Hills and showed off by jumping up on the couches in the waiting room!
Cooper is a frequent visitor to us at West Hills and continues to impress us all! We all love you Cooper ❤️

Cooper 2

Cooper doing well at home!