Coronavirus in Animals: What Do We Know So Far

I think it is time that I address the general concern regarding this novel coronavirus and pets. I have intentionally stayed away from writing anything on this subject as it is such an ever changing situation, and I am honestly not interested in spreading accidental misinformation. In light of the recent reports of a small number of animals testing positive, and the rising concerns of the general animal owning population, I think that it is important to explain what we know so far on the veterinary side of things. I really want to make clear that it is very possible that as we learn more things may change, but at this point I will do my best to explain what we have found as a veterinary profession to date in regards to SARS-CoV-2 and animals.

We need to start by discussing what this virus is, and what we know about it in humans briefly. SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) is the actual name of the virus that causes the infectious disease COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019). At the time of my writing this I found that there have been 1,210,956 confirmed cases in humans, and 67,594 related deaths according to the World Health Organization (this will have changed by the time this is published). It appears the virus spreads amongst humans through contact of an infected person’s bodily secretions, such as saliva or mucous droplets in a cough or sneeze. It also appears that there is possible spread through touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching the mouth, nose, or even possibly the eyes. At this point in time there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 spreads to humans through contact with animal fur or skin.



Historically, coronaviruses have been noted to cause various diseases in numerous animal species including: swine, cattle, horses, camels, cats, dogs, rodents, birds, bats, rabbits, ferrets, mink, and various wildlife species. It appears that it may be possible for some species of animal to become infected with this novel coronavirus, although it appears highly unlikely. It appears to be incredibly uncommon for this to spread from humans to animals if you look at the numbers to date. I listed above that there are 1,210,956 confirmed cases in humans so far, and to be honest I have no idea how many households with pets that number means, but I suspect it is a lot. So far to date there are only 5 confirmed cases in animals. There were 2 dogs in Hong Kong that tested positive, one cat in Hong Kong, one cat in Belgium, and now one tiger at the Bronx Zoo. This means that with all of the disease present in the human population we have only found 5 animals with the disease so far, and there have been no cases of animal to human transmission.

What does the disease look like in dogs and cats so far? The first case reported (2/27/20) was in a 17 year old Pomeranian whose owner had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Hong Kong. The dog initially tested weakly positive for the virus, and later antibody testing showed that the dog did appear to develop an immune response to the virus. This dog was quarantined, and never showed any signs of respiratory disease during the quarantine period. The second case (3/18/20) was reported in a 2 year old German Shepherd whose owner tested positive for COVID-19 in Hong Kong. There was another dog that lived in the same household that never tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and both dogs have been quarantined together. Neither of the dogs have shown any signs of respiratory disease, and they continue to be monitored. The third case (3/18/20) was in a cat in Belgium living with a human who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The virus was detected in the feces and vomit of a cat with respiratory and gastrointestinal signs. There are still some questions around this case, but we suspect this is likely a case of true infection. The fourth case (3/31/20) was a cat in Hong Kong living with a confirmed COVID-19 patient. This cat is currently in quarantine, and has not shown any signs of disease to date. The fifth case (4/5/20) is a tiger in the Bronx Zoo. Several lions and tigers had exhibited some signs of respiratory illness, and SARS-CoV-2 was detected in one tiger. It is suspected that the cats become sick after exposure to a human actively shedding the virus. At this time all of the big cats are expected to recover, and it does not appear that any other animals in the zoo are showing clinical signs.

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So, I know that these are scary times for everyone, but please do not get rid of your pets because you are worried they are going to get you or your family sick. In reality, it appears that they may want to get rid of us dirty humans (I’m just kidding of course, kind of). There is still a lot we need to learn about this virus, and there is some human to animal transmission it appears, but no animal to human transmission has been recorded to date.

It is still a good idea to be safe when interacting with your pets though, and below are the guidelines listed by the AVMA.

  • Anyone without symptoms of COVID-19 should continue to practice good hygiene during interactions with animals. Wash hands before or after interactions or handling animal food, waste, or supplies.
  • Those ill with Covid-19 should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as you would restrict your contact with other people. Have another member of your household or business take care of feeding or otherwise caring for any animals, including pets. If you have a service animal or you must care for your animals, including pets, then wear a cloth facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them, and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.
  • There have been no reports of pets or livestock becoming ill with COVID-19 in the United States (tigers are not classified as pets). At this point in time, there is no evidence that domestic animals, including pets and livestock, can spread COVID-19 to people.

I hope that this helps alleviate some of the fear that I have heard expressed in regards to animals and COVID-19 lately. This is an ever evolving situation, and I will do my best to try to keep you all updated as more information is made available. We will get through this as a community, and we at Ohana Animal Hospital are still here to help as we can. Please feel free to email or contact us with your questions regarding this subject. I did not comment on all of the papers out so far (there are 2 from China so far, but the sample sizes are very small, the studies are not peer-reviewed, and the cases describe experimental infection which may not correlate to natural infection that well), but as more information is obtained I may discuss further. For now, this is enough I think. Stay at home, enjoy the time with your family, and be good to one another.

Lastly, has anyone else realized how much respect teachers deserve?? I’m pretty sure my 5 year old daughter is smarter than I am, and a lesson plan that takes me 30 minutes to design gets completed in about 1 minute, and then I have no clue what to do. When this is all over I am going to make sure to hug all of the teachers. You all make my job look simple by comparison.

Attention Rabbit Owners, Veterinarians, Veterinary Technicians, and Veterinary Students! Mini-Quiz below! (Don’t worry, you are not being graded) :)


This post highlights the importance of x-rays in anorexic rabbits, and why we always recommend x-rays of our non-eating rabbit patients. These different x-rays were obtained from 2 different rabbits, with 2 very different problems, but similar presenting complaints. Both rabbits came in because they were not eating, but the diagnosis, and the treatment was very different. Take a minute to look at these images. Can you tell the issue based on the x-ray for each rabbit? Answers below, so try to answer on your own before you continue reading.



The top image is an acute gastrointestinal obstruction in a rabbit, and is noted by the large fluid filled stomach on x-ray. This is an emergency presentation, and requires very aggressive care. Shock doses of intravenous fluids, active warming, multiple forms of pain medication in the form of injections and CRIs, gastric decompression, intensive care for multiple days, and possible surgery are required for these rabbits. These rabbits should NOT be syringe-fed liquid food, and early diagnosis is imperative for treatment success.

The bottom image is gastrointestinal stasis syndrome, and is noted by the large food-and-gas filled stomach. This condition is generally the result of underlying disease (dental disease, respiratory disease, neurological disease, urinary tract disease, kidney, liver disease, pain, etc.). This condition can often times be treated on an outpatient basis if caught early. These rabbits require fluids, pain medications, and should absolutely be syringe-fed a liquid diet. These rabbits normally respond within 1-3 days of therapy depending on the underlying cause.

Acute gastrointestinal obstruction and gastrointestinal stasis syndrome are not the same condition, and it is important to know the difference when treating these cases. X-rays are a simple and fast way to get an idea what is going on, and it can make all the difference in the outcome of the case.

February is Pet Dental Health Month at Ohana Animal Hospital

So, February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and for that reason it seemed relevant to write something about who should actually take advantage of the special offers. The obvious answer is everyone, but that is too short a blog, and not very interesting either. The long answer is anyone with a dog, cat, rabbit, chinchilla, guinea pig, bearded dragon, or other animal with dental disease. I know you were not expecting bearded dragon on the list, but its true!! Many animals would significantly benefit from dental evaluations, and February is a great time to consider having your pet’s teeth evaluated.



Dogs and cats are the most common species that come to mind when most people think about animals needing dental care. The main reason people bring their dogs and cats in for dental evaluation is because THEIR BREATH STINKS! Bad breath (halitosis) is usually the most common sign the average pet owner notices. Animals are good at hiding signs of pain and discomfort, and the majority of pets continue to eat well despite having significant dental disease, so it often goes unnoticed at home. Bad breath is a sign that there is significant oral disease (periodontal disease), and is a good indication that your dog or cat would greatly benefit from dental care. If you are not sure if your dog or cat needs some dental work, please contact us at anytime for a brief oral evaluation.



Rabbits, chinchillas, and guinea pigs are some of our most common dental patients, and they should take advantage of dental month as well. These species all have teeth that continuously grow throughout life (fun fact to impress your friends: rabbit mandibular incisors grow 2.4mm/week, and maxillary incisors grow 2mm/week. That’s almost 1cm/month!!), and without appropriate care develop very serious disease secondary to disease and malocclusion (inappropriate alignment). One of the most common causes for euthanasia in rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas is severe dental disease. Appropriate diet, appropriate exposure to natural sunlight/UVB lighting when developing, and routine dental evaluation is the best way to prevent severe dental disease. Once dental disease is present it will never go away, and will require frequent management to keep the animal comfortable. Now is a great time to get that initial oral evaluation to help make sure you are doing all you can to keep your pet healthy, or to have that occlusal adjustment performed that you have been putting off.



Ferrets and hedgehogs very commonly suffer from dental disease, just like dogs and cats. It is not unreasonable to routinely brush your ferret’s teeth, but most people cannot brush their hedgehog’s teeth with much success. Hedgehogs have significant problems with dental disease, and we often find severe tartar, gingivitis, and tooth loss on oral exam. Periodontal disease is often surprisingly common in ferrets, and is very similar to what we see in cats and dogs. Oral disease is painful, and routine dental care will keep these animals healthy and happy.


I promise you that this is not a typo. Bearded dragons and other agamid lizards have what is called acrodont dentition (the tooth is fused to the crest of the jaw bones). We commonly see dental disease in these lizards, which initially presents as red and swollen gingival tissue (swollen gums). As the dental disease progresses we see significant calculus formation, swollen and recessed gingival tissue, and exposure of underlying bone. If the disease is not corrected we eventually see bone infections and significant loss of teeth and pain. Routine brushing (I use a cotton tipped applicator to brush), and yearly oral evaluations will keep your bearded dragon friend happy and healthy.



Dental health is honestly a very important part of keeping your pet healthy and happy. Routine oral maintenance will keep your animal happier and more comfortable, and will keep that breath smelling fresh and clean. If your animal does not need a dental procedure this year we will tell you, and we may even be able to give you some tips on how to lengthen the time between dental procedures. If your pet does need some dental work, this is a great time to consider getting it done. Please feel free to reach out to our doctors and staff at anytime if we can answer any questions about oral health or our dental month specials. Let’s get that breath smelling fresh once again, and let’s keep our exotic mammal friends eating and happy!!



We at Ohana Animal Hospital have recently been getting many questions about the canine influenza virus, and I thought this a good topic for discussion. There have recently been a few confirmed cases of canine influenza with the H3N2 virus in the South Bay (2-3 cases confirmed), and this has a lot of people panicked. I know how scary it can be when we use Dr. Google for medical advice (Don’t pretend like you don’t do it –we vets use the same source when trying to diagnose ourselves), and so I am going to try to save you from the impending panic attack inducing web search. I am going to attempt to break down what we know about the canine influenza virus, how it is spread, how it presents (what you will see at home), how it is treated, and what we can do to prevent this in our local Livermore pets.

Canine Influenza AVMA Image

Let’s start out by going over what we know about the virus. The infection is the result of one of two influenza A virus subtypes: H3N8 and H3N2. The H3N8 form was first identified in Florida in 2004. This strain is very close to the strain that causes equine influenza, and it is thought that the virus mutated to cause the canine strain. The newer (currently in the news) strain is H3N2. H3N2 was first identified in dogs in 2007 in Asia (South Korea, China, Thailand), and is believed to be a direct transfer of an avian influenza virus. The H3N2 viral outbreak was first noted in Chicago in 2015, and since that time thousands of dogs have been confirmed positive for H3N2 influenza across the US. 2-3 cases have just recently been confirmed in the South Bay.

Now that we know what the virus is, let’s talk about how it is spread. This virus is generally spread through aerosolized viral particles (coughing dogs), fomites (the virus being present on inanimate objects that have been exposed to an infected dog), and direct contact with an infected dog. It appears that dogs can shed the H3N8 viral particles for about 10 days after infection, and up to 24 days for H3N2. The worst part about viral shedding is that it often begins before your pet shows any signs of disease, which often results in other dogs being exposed before you know to keep your dog at home.

Now we can talk about how you might know that your dog has canine influenza. Well, it presents very similarly to other respiratory diseases, and many dogs do not even show clinical signs when infected. There are generally 2 recognized patterns of disease in infected dogs. There is the mild form of disease (which is by far the most common), where the disease is very mild and self-limiting (no treatment necessary). These dogs may present to the hospital with a cough (can be wet or dry), lethargy, have a decreased appetite, and may even have a very mild fever. Occasionally these dogs will develop a thick nasal discharge, and that is most often the result of a secondary bacterial infection. There is a much less common severe form of disease, which often times presents with a high fever (104-106F), and signs more consistent with pneumonia (increased breathing effort and respiratory rate).

I know, now you are really freaking out and really just want to get to the treatment section. So, the majority of these dogs do not need any treatment at all, and they will recover on their own (remember, many of these dogs show no clinical signs at all). Some dogs do come to the hospital very ill though, and those dogs do often times require some therapy. Therapy is generally directed act supporting the patient while the virus runs its course. If your dog is very ill it will likely need intravenous fluids to ensure that it stays hydrated. Many of the dogs acting ill have secondary bacterial infections, and intravenous antibiotics can be very important as well. In very severe cases where there is severe lung disease a dog may need oxygen therapy in an oxygen cage while initially being treated also, but this is not common.  Once again, most dogs do not require therapy, but if you think your dog may have this disease make sure you have it looked at so we can decide the best course of therapy.


How can we prevent this from spreading in our community?? Any animal that is a suspect canine influenza case should be isolated from other dogs. Obviously this is impossible if your dog is acting completely normal and shedding the disease, but if your dog has a cough it is important to keep him/her at home. Most cases of coughing are NOT canine influenza, but many causes are still contagious,and it’s best to stay at home until the coughing is done. There is a vaccination for canine influenza, and it is something that many people are now looking for. These vaccinations are currently labeled for use in dogs only, and they require an initial dose followed by a booster in 2-4 weeks, and then yearly vaccination thereafter. The vaccination does not prevent infection, but it may help reduce signs if contracted, and may also reduce viral shedding. At this time I am not yet recommending that every dog get this vaccination, as the disease is not very prevalent in our Livermore area (there are no confirmed cases at this time). We at Ohana Animal Hospital are monitoring the situation very closely though, and if we at any time feel it is important for you to have this vaccination we will make a Facebook and email announcement.

I hope this helps a bit with the questions I know many of you have. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you have other questions about the canine influenza virus. Much of the information in this blog post was collected from the AVMA website (canine influenza FAQ page), and a Clinicians Brief article on Canine Influenza if you want more in-depth information. Please feel free to contact Ohana Animal Hospital or Dr. Steffes anytime with questions or concerns, and know we are always here to help any way we can.

What Your Dog Wants For the Holidays

I can’t help you decide what to get your wife, your mother, your son, or your best friend, but I can help you with what to get for your dog. I know how much you were all worried about what to get Fido, so I figured I would step up and help with a couple of ideas. My goal as a veterinarian is to allow you to have a long, happy, and healthy relationship with your pet, and these ideas will help you achieve that goal.


  1. Flea and tick prevention!! Let’s be honest, fleas make your pet feel miserable, and nobody likes the idea of fleas in your carpet and bed. We have safe and effective products that can help keep your dog feeling good all year long. I personally like Bravecto and Nexgard for my own dogs currently. There are other safe and effective products as well, but I like the ease of these two oral chews (and most dogs seem to actually enjoy these chews). Bravecto keeps dogs free of fleas and ticks for 3 months per dose, and Nexgard keeps them free of fleas and ticks for one month per dose. They have also been found to treat Sarcoptes and Demodex mites, so you can feel comfortable knowing that you are protecting your dog from numerous parasites. A good portion of my day as a veterinarian is treating flea related skin disease, so this would be a great gift for your furry canine companion this year!!
  1. Heartworm and intestinal parasite prevention!! There is nothing quite like the panicked phone call from an owner who just noticed worms in the dog’s stool. I agree that heartworm disease is not common in Livermore, CA, but there are cases in Northern California every year. Intestinal parasites are incredibly common, and something that we treat on almost a daily basis. Heartworm disease is simple to prevent, and complicated to treat. We have safe and effective products to keep your dogs safe from heartworm disease, and free from hookworm and roundworm infestations. Heartgard Plus comes in a tasty monthly chewable treat, and your dog will thank you for keeping him/her safe from nasty parasites.


  1. Get those teeth cleaned!! Let’s be honest, bad breath ruins cuddle time with your dog. Your dog wants to be able to cuddle with you more for the holidays, and its not going to happen if you need to leave the room every time Fido opens his mouth. Dental disease is honestly painful and uncomfortable, and will not get better until it is treated. This year give Fido the gift of cuddle time. Let’s get that mouth smelling fresh and clean again!


  1. Everyone’s favorite healthy stocking stuffers!! I get it, it’s hard to jump for joy when you open that bottle of multivitamins, but your dog is less judgmental than your teenage son. Fully digestible CET and Oravet dental chews can be used as a frequent treat to help keep Fido’s teeth clean. He won’t know these are special dental treats, and he will just think you are being an awesome dog parent. A new toothbrush is also a great idea. Daily/weekly brushing is the key to keeping your dog’s teeth clean. I know it’s a hassle, but it is cheap and effective, so give it a try!


  1. Toys and Puzzles!! We love Kong toys as we have big dogs that destroy everything you give them in about 20 seconds. The Kong toys are fairly durable, and can be great for keeping dogs mentally stimulated when you hide treats and snacks inside. Puzzle feeders are a great way to keep your dog mentally stimulated, while also preventing her from setting a new world record in dog food consumption time. There are plenty of other toy options as well, but the Kongs and puzzle feeding toys are some of our favorites.

puzzle feeder 2 

  1. Get your dog a gym membership!! Ok, maybe don’t go crazy and bring your dog to the gym, but let Fido know that this year you are dedicating more time to being active. Get outside and go for a weekly hike, dedicate 20 minutes each day to being active with your dog, or just get outside and spend some time together. I know everyone is busy, but it is good for dogs and humans alike to get outside and be active. As it is getting dark early these days it is a good idea to get reflective collars, leashes, or dog vests to make sure that you and Fido are being safe together while enjoying the outdoors. The best gifts don’t always cost money, so no matter your holiday budget this gift is well within reach.


So, I hope this has eased your holiday anxiety a bit, and you now have a plan for your favorite pooch (sorry I was of no help with what to get your mother-in-law). Stay tuned for what to get your cat, but to be honest cats are a bit more judgmental, and I am going to make the other doctor figure out what you can buy for them 🙂 Happy holidays to you all, and please let Ohana Animal Hospital know if you need help with any of the above gifts for your canine friend.


The New Age of Reptile Medicine and Surgery Is Here

The future of reptile medicine and surgery is here, and it’s exciting! Reptile medicine and surgery is complex and interesting, and the general body of knowledge is growing at lightning speed. At Ohana Animal Hospital we are routinely performing blood work, performing ultrasounds, obtaining x-rays, collecting samples for viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic evaluation, anesthetizing and performing surgery, and amazingly, we only rarely send home Baytril! I don’t mean to say that Baytril is an inappropriate antibiotic for certain cases, but we can do so much more now, and it is time we all expected more for our reptilian companions. I admit that we are by no means perfect, and we cannot fix every case that walks through the door, but with owners having an open mind and a desire to provide the best care possible, we are doing amazing things (as are many of our incredible colleagues).

I have recently seen a large number of cases of reptilian respiratory infections, and that really got me thinking how far we have come in this field. I remember when I started out early in my career thinking respiratory infections were simple, and even boring (oh, how little I knew)! The snake would come in with some oral and nasal discharge, and it would go home with some antibiotics. Some of them got better, some of them didn’t, and that was just how it was. Working through snake respiratory infections today can be a significant process because we know so much more about the various, and NUMEROUS, causes. We now understand that many respiratory infections are multifactorial in nature, and are commonly the result of suboptimal husbandry conditions (yes, that client handout you fill out before the appointment is really that important), viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic infections, trauma, foreign bodies, inhalation of toxic fumes, and even cancer. One of those things will respond well to an antibiotic, and the others will not. I am amazed at how many of my early patients actually did well actually!!

We know about more diseases than ever before, and we are slowly developing a larger body of evidence-based medicine to base our therapies. We know that fewer bearded dragons die during treatment for Nannizziopsis guarroi (previously called CANV or Yellow Fungus Disease) if they are treated with voriconazole than itraconazole. We now know that the elusive inclusion body disease virus is not a retrovirus like was once suspected, but it is actually an arenavirus, and we can adjust our diagnostic testing to better evaluate our patients. We know that adenovirus is common in bearded dragons, cryptosporidiosis is common in leopard geckos, vitamin a deficiencies are common in insectivores not fed a balanced diet, nidovirus is common in green tree pythons, mycoplasma is a common cause of tortoise respiratory disease, and so many other things. We learn about new diseases every year, and this allows us to offer so much more to you and your reptile companion in terms of therapy.

We routinely perform complicated surgeries on reptilian patients. I have performed intestinal resection and anastomoses surgery (surgically removing a portion of intestine and sewing clean edges of the intestine back together), foreign body removals, eye removals, bladder stone removals, repaired traumatic wounds to the skull, amputations of limbs, spay surgeries, and biopsies of skin abnormalities just to name a few things. These patients are routinely placed under general anesthesia, ventilated to ensure they are breathing and oxygenating appropriately, have intravenous or intraosseous catheters placed to provide fluid and medication, are closely monitored while under anesthesia, and recover uneventfully. I remember when every reptile patient was given the same anesthetic cocktail, the recoveries were long and inconsistent, and I didn’t even think that an intravenous catheter was possible. Every patient now gets their own specialized anesthetic plan, we have numerous reversal drugs to help our patients wake faster, we have access to effective pain medications, and my bearded dragon patient gets the same level of anesthetic care and monitoring as a dog or a cat. This is cool stuff, and is something that I personally take great pride in.

I understand that it is not practical for everyone to perform blood work, a tracheal wash with culture and sensitivity testing, viral PCR evaluation, lung biopsy with histopathological evaluation, endoscopic airway evaluation, CT scan, etc. I want you to know that this is all possible now though. If you are on your third round of Baytril with your snake for a “respiratory infection” it may be time to look a little deeper. The new age of reptile medicine and surgery is here, and the future looks bright!

Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

Don’t Forget To Search For Treasure

I got the idea for this blog while I was watching my daughter this past Sunday. My daughter is just over 2 years old now, and as I suspect most 2 year old are, she is full of energy and wonder. She enjoys riding her bike, running with our dogs, helping take care of all of our crazy exotic pets, playing at the park, and as I learned on Sunday, looking for treasure. I sure had forgotten about searching for treasure, or at least the treasure she was thinking about. These days I suppose my idea of treasure has changed, but she has the right idea, and I am glad that she reminded me. Treasure to her was a beautiful butterfly, a fancy rock, an old tool long buried in the dirt. Treasure for me was a day exploring the natural world with my daughter.

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As Ohana Animal Hospital has quickly grown, I have noticed the increasing numbers of veterinarians and veterinary students following our Instagram, Facebook, and Blog accounts. I am so excited that I get to share my experiences with veterinarians and clients alike. I usually write about fun surgeries I have done, or interesting patients I have encountered, but today I want to write about trying to balance life (mostly because this is an area where I struggle, as do most veterinarians I know). At Ohana Animal hospital we not only care about animals, we also care about our clients, friends, and colleagues. This blog is dedicated to every adult who has forgotten the benefits of hunting for treasure.

I have had an incredibly interesting career so far. I have worked alongside some amazing veterinarians and co-workers, I have played a role in discovering a few new diseases, have had the honor of speaking to various groups, have published scientific papers, and have as of recently opened my own state-of-the-art hospital with my wife in Livermore, CA. I have accomplished a lot in my career so far, and to be honest, I feel like I am just getting started. It has not all been easy though, and even now, every day brings with it a new stressor. My stress now involves bank loans, student loans, managing numerous critical patients at once, did I remember to eat lunch, am I a good father, did we get any new good online reviews today, am I wearing two matching shoes, etc. We all deal with stress in our daily lives, and I am not going to try to tell you all that I deal with any more than anyone else. That is why I feel this message is important for everyone, and was worth me writing.

I was hanging out with my daughter on my day off, and I asked her what she wanted to do, as it was such a nice day outside. She is only 2, and I can’t always tell exactly what she is telling me, but this day she said, “Daddy, wait here”. “Ok” I thought, as she headed for the house. She crawled in through the doggy door (this leads me back to the stressor listed above—am I a good father) to get something she had in mind. She grabbed an empty bucket (from where I have no idea), came back outside, and said, “Look for treasure!” I am not going to lie, I did not even know she knew that term, but I heard her loud and clear. We spent the next hour walking around the yard, looking under trees, picking up fancy rocks, and anything else that was considered treasure to my budding pirate sidekick. It was not until we were done that I realized I had forgotten about everything that I had been pondering in my professional life. I was able to allow myself to be a kid again briefly, and it was nice.

Life gets busy, and I know that my fellow veterinarians understand the stress that comes along with this lifestyle. I am not complaining, and I would not have it any other way. I love what I do, and I am happier now in my professional life than I have ever been before. I know it helped put some things in perspective the other day, and maybe it will help you in your life as well. Make yourself a cup of coffee, get a nice treasure-collecting pail, and go out and search for treasure my friends. Doctor’s orders!!

Grapes belong in Wine Bottles, Not your dog, cat, or ferret’s stomach!

We at Ohana Animal Hospital are so excited to be a part of our first Livermore Wine Country Downtown Street Fest this weekend! To go along with the theme of grapes and wine we thought we should do a quick post about grapes and raisins (a post on the danger of hops in dogs to follow shortly), as many people do still not know that they can be very toxic for our pets.

Bruin 2
Our Pal Bruin from the Steven Kent Winery – Don’t worry, he avoids the grapes!!

Did you know that grapes and raisins can actually cause kidney failure in dogs, cats, and ferrets?? This toxicity is very interesting (we don’t actually know why some animals are affected, or if the level of sickness has to do with how many grapes are ingested), and about 50% of dogs that ingest grapes or raisins show no signs of being sick. The other 50% of dogs will develop lethargy (being sleepy), anorexia (not wanting to eat), vomiting (I think we all get this one), diarrhea, kidney failure, and even death. It is very important that if you ever notice your dog or cat ingesting raisins or grapes (out in the vineyard, off your kitchen table, trail mix, granola, cereal, etc.) that you call your veterinarian immediately. Grapes are actually digested fairly slowly, so we will usually try to get your animal to vomit any undigested grapes. It is always a good idea to have your veterinarian start your animal on intravenous fluids (to keep the kidneys flushed out, and to try to get the animal to excrete more of the toxin), and to check some blood work over the next 72 hours to see if the kidneys have been injured or not. Many animals will do well if treatment starts early; so don’t just leave these intoxications to chance.


We hope that this quick post will help keep your pets safe this weekend and beyond. We hope everyone has fun at the Livermore Wine Country Downtown Street Fest this weekend, and tastes some great wine and food. Ohana Animal Hospital will be having a booth out in front of Sauced the whole weekend, so make sure you stop in and say hello! Come spin the prize wheel at our booth for free exams, pet toys, and enter the raffle for free flea/tick and heartworm preventatives! We will have some tortoises to meet, and there may be a guest appearance by a very large lizard at some point on Sunday!


Ohana Animal Hospital Presents Our Favorite Dogs of Beer and Wine

For this blog we wanted to write about something fun. I figured I should write about two things I really love. After much brainstorming I decided you probably would not be excited to hear about my family, or my daughter’s swim class, so I decided on dogs and beer (Although I will admit, a 2 year old’s swim class is about the most fun any father can have). I have had dogs ever since I can remember, and being a veterinarian, I figured this was a relevant topic. I started brewing beer about 5 years ago with a good friend, at a time when my favorite beer was still Newcastle brown ale. As my wife and I got into the craft beer scene, we noticed how many of the breweries allowed pets, or even had pets of their own at the tasting rooms. That is how this blog came to mind, and it was not surprisingly a really fun topic to research. I met some great people, tasted some great beer and wine, and met some really cool dogs. I hope you have as much fun meeting these dogs as I did, and I really hope that the next time you stop in at one of these places you will make sure to say hello to their soon-to-be famous pups!

Mike Hess Brewing—Bear

 Bear Hess

Bear, actually Bear The Magnificent, is a 2-year-old, male, Black Labrador Retriever. I have personally known Bear since he was a puppy, and he was the first brew dog I met when we lived and practiced in San Diego, CA. Bear has many important jobs within the Hess family. Bear helps drop the kids off at school in the morning before stopping at the park to play fetch to allow him to burn off some energy before his day at Mike Hess Brewing (if he does not get his daily exercise he can be a real handful). He usually keeps an eye on the production from the operations office, where he has his own dog bed (a Tommy Bahama beach chair). He occasionally likes to sneak out towards the cold box and production area to see if any of the brewers are eating anything, because if there is anything as important as brewing beer, it is snack time.

Bear loves the production of good beer, but stays away from the finished product (he has heard that hops are actually toxic to dogs—another blog to follow eventually). He loves the first runnings of wort though, which is the sweet liquid before it is actually beer. The first runnings are actually the strongest of the wort, they have the highest maltose content, and do not yet have any hops added (a little piece for all the beer brewers reading this). Bear can generally be visited at the main brewery (North Park) every day during working hours, until about 2:30pm. If you do not see him walking around the brewery with Lynda (the COO and Bear’s mom) greeting everyone, you can ask one of the beertenders to meet Bear (he loves to meet new people).

Mike Hess Brewing locations are all dog friendly, and they regularly host fundraisers and adoption events at the brewery and tasting rooms. Just this past month they hosted Greyhound Adoption Center, Labs and More Rescue, and Next Step Service Dogs (which trains dogs for former military members suffering from PTSD). I have known the Hess family for years, and I know how important their dogs are to them, and that shows in how dog friendly they have made their business.

Mike Hess Brewing has some exciting new beers in the works for this summer. They will be releasing three new canned beers this summer that I cannot wait to try. Watch for their grapefruit IPA, an American Craft Lager called Steel Beach, and a Little IPA named 4:59 (as in, it’s almost 5 o’clock). They are rolling out brand new packaging for their line this summer, and will now have 12 ounce cans. On July 29th they will be holding their 7th Anniversary Party/Beer Festival featuring 20+ great breweries, live music, and games. If you are in the San Diego area you need to stop by this brewery, and if you are in Northern California you need to try their beer the next time you see it at a restaurant, tasting room, or store. I will admit that their Grapefruit Solis is one of my favorite beers of all times, and is a must try for any IPA lover. Next time you stop in make sure to say hello from me, and give Bear a good pet for me. I love that guy!


Meet Bruin—The Steven Kent Winery

Bruin 1

Bruin, better known as Bu, is a 9-year-old, male, yellow English Labrador Retriever. He is a Livermore native, and can often be seen walking the vineyard (The Steven Kent Winery) with his companions, or politely nudging visitors on the patio to play fetch. Bruin is an Instagram star, and although I hate to admit it, he has about 2,300 more followers than I (He is significantly more photogenic). Bruin is obsessed with his blue ball, and loves swimming and playing in the snow (although he is not quite sure how he feels about the sweaters his mom has been making him wear up in Tahoe). Bruin makes everyone smile, and most of us could only hope to live a life similar to this lucky canine.


Bruin would love for everyone to come and visit him at The Steven Kent Winery sometime soon. The winery has two dog friendly patios that are perfect for enjoying a bottle of the 2014 Cabernet Franc, or his companion’s favorite wine Lineage, which is known for its layers, structure, and complexity. The tasting room is open 7 days a week from 12:00-4:30pm, except on major holidays, and there is a special Reserve Room that can be reserved if desired. During the summer the winery has parties on the patio with live music and a food vendor, which make it a perfect place to hang out with your pooches, but make sure you check the website first as it is not every weekend.


Bruin would like everyone to know about the Pooches on the Patio event they will be having this year on Sunday, August 13th. There will be vendors selling pet merchandise, pet charities (the winery personally supports numerous local charities, including the Oakland Zoo), a great pet photographer, and of course food, music, and delicious wine! I have known Bruin for a couple of months now, and I can tell you that he is an incredible dog. If you have not yet met this guy, make sure you stop by the winery and give him a pet, and play a quick game of fetch. Bruin has also made sure that all the pets feel welcome by ensuring the winery always has water bowls on the property for the visiting pets.


Meet Citra—Altamont Beer Works



Citra is an extremely photogenic 3-year-old, female, poodle/shih-tzu/schnauzer/yorkie mix that was adopted from the East County Animal Shelter in Dublin, CA. Citra’s name is reference to a hop variety, which is fitting being she is the brewery owner’s personal brew dog. Citra’s morning starts off with a drive to the brewery, where she gets to hang her head out of the car the whole way. Once arriving to the brewery she makes sure to check on her brew dog companions, Jake and Lola. She greets all of the staff members one by one, eats any extra malted grain off the brewery floor, and heads outside to make sure that all the other dogs still know this is her brewery. She then usually takes a nap on her chair in the office to ensure she is ready for her long day as canine hostess. I can tell you that she takes this job very seriously, as I have seen her climb over her gate to welcome guests to the brewery.

Citra is not a true beer lover, but does enjoy lapping up a bit of Nutty Operator (delicious peanut butter stout) if it happens to drip on the floor, but she knows any true beer lover will love the beer they produce. Citra would love to have everyone come and visit her at Altamont Beer Works Monday through Friday. I can personally tell you that the brewery has created an incredibly welcoming environment for canines and beer lovers alike, and I would recommend everyone stop in if you have not visited this Livermore brewery. In true dog lover form, they also partner with local animal shelters for fundraising events, and even sell cool dog schwag at the brewery.

Altamont Beer Works is the first brewery in Livermore since prohibition. They have a beer garden that is seasonally open on Friday-Sunday. They have great food vendors outside on Friday-Sunday (The South Smokin” BBQ is a must try), and some amazing beers. The beertenders know their beers, and the environment is fun and relaxed. I personally am a huge fan of the Shot Away IPA, and Green Collar Pale Ale. It is rare for me to rave about pale ale, as I am an IPA guy personally, but the Green Collar is truly exceptional. You can also see Altamont Beer Works at the Livermore Craft Beer Fest, and the Livermore Wine Country Downtown Street Fest this year (this weekend), as they are the major sponsor.

Meet Lola and Jake—Altamont Beer Works


Lola is a 4-6-year-old, female, pit bull that was rescued from Modesto by one of the brewers at Altamont Beer Works. Lola is a great representative of this so often misunderstood breed (we have two in our family!). She is kind and gentle, and in true pitty form, appears to love cuddling up on her bed and relaxing with her friends Jake and Citra while at the brewery. Lola’s companion says she loves meeting new people, running, and cuddling. Her typical brew day involves greeting all of the employees to ensure that morale stays high in the workplace, and then supervising the group from the comfort of her bed. She is a sweet dog, and we think she has found the perfect home.

Jake is a 6-year-old, male, lab/pit bull mix that was adopted from a friend of one of the brewers. Jake is very important at the brewery as he takes the role of ensuring kegs are filled correctly, and occasionally enjoys a little quality control. Jake even makes sure the employees stay fed and happy, as the other day he walked next door and came back with a napkin and a slice of pizza to share. His tastes are not completely refined yet, but he appears to have a preference for the dank flavors and tropical notes of Maui Waui and Hella Hoppy when they occasionally happen to get on the floor (I like this dog’s taste!).

Lola and Jake would both love to make some new friends, and have you all stop by and say hello. Lola can be visited at the brewery on Fridays, and Jake can be visited Wednesdays and Fridays. They are both also happy to have any well behaved, and leashed canine friends stop in and visit as well. The weather is starting to warm up, and there are some fresh, hop-forward beers being released soon (Mr. Nice Guy and Ganja Juice), so make some time to go check these guys out. Bring your dogs, bring your appetite, get ready for some incredible beer, and tell them Ohana Animal Hospital sent you!


Meet Sadie and Gunner—Eight Bridges Brewing

Brew Dogs

Sadie is an 11-year-old, female, miniature dachshund, and Gunner is a 1-year-old, male, chocolate lab. Sadie has been with the brewery since its inception, and Gunner is a new addition to the brew team. Sadie and Gunner are both the official greeters at Eight Bridges, and they make sure to greet everyone who passes through the doors when they are around. Gunner is usually at the brewery every day with his brewmaster companion Justin, and loves to play tug-of-war if you see him. Sadie has started to take a bit more time for herself as she has aged, and comes in when she feels she needs to check on operations (typical canine business owner). She still does make appearances though, and still occasionally tries to snag a bite of an unsuspecting toddler’s sandwich or pizza when the opportunity arises.

Eight Bridges has been working with the Tri-Valley Humane Society for the last couple of years hosting fundraisers, donating items for auctions, and even holding a “Name a Beer after your Dog” fundraiser. On Saturday, June 17 they are holding a fundraiser at the brewery to support the Tri-Valley Humane Society, and will be renaming one of their beers Ruby, who was the winner of the “Name a Beer after your Dog” fundraiser this year (Such a great idea, and next year there is no way I am not bidding).

Sadie and Gunner would love for you to come and say hello at Eight Bridges Brewing, try some amazing beer, and support this dog friendly establishment. All friendly dogs are welcome to visit the tasting room with their companions, and can usually even get a special snack from the secret stash of dog treats. Gunner recommends you taste the O’Beardsley Stout as it is full of chocolate aromas and flavor. Sadie, in true German style, thinks the Golden Nektar Pilsner should make it into your tasting flight (also Debbie’s favorite beer, and if you want a good story ask her about this beer sometime). The last time I was there I really enjoyed the Hoppy Salvation, which is a great example of a west coast IPA, being very hop forward with some great floral and citrus aromas wafting from the glass.

The brewery holds Brewzza Palooza the 3rd Saturday of every month. They have a food truck out front, and live music in the late afternoon. There is not always a food truck, but they have menus for all the local delivery places, so it is very easy to find some good food to go with your beer. The tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday, and you can check their website for hours. We love this place, and we are sure you will as well. Just make sure you keep food close because Sadie is watching, and if she sees the opportunity, she may just help you eat your lunch.



This has been my favorite blog so far, and I look forward to doing a second series as I meet more local animals. I want to personally thank all of the above breweries and wineries, as they made this a really fun experience. All of these establishments are doing things the right way, and I highly recommend you all check them out. Thanks again for reading, and if you see Dr. Jennifer Hacker or myself (Dr. Zach Steffes) when you are out tasting make sure you say hello.

The Ohana Way – What to Expect As Our Client

Over the past few weeks, we have had multiple people ask us if their pet doesn’t get better can they simply come back to see us or should they go to ER? We reassured every single one that as clients of Ohana Animal Hospital we do everything in our power to keep you and your pet out of the ER. Now of course there are true emergencies that a general practice can’t handle, special surgeries that are needed, or specialist opinions that we just can’t avoid. Also, if we are closed and your pet is sick, ER is going to be the best option for your pet. However, if you are our client and your pet is sick, and truly needs to be seen today, we will do everything possible to get him or her in TODAY.


At Ohana Animal Hospital we always start off by taking a thorough history and performing a physical exam, which allows us to make the best recommendations for you and your pet. Sometimes those recommendations include simple things, and other times in our sick patients, it can include tests like blood work, urine tests,  X-rays, and sometimes even hospitalization on IV fluids and other medications. Sometimes we talk about all these options, but if your pet is acting stable we may decide together as a team to start off simple, and leave those more advanced tests for if we don’t start feeling better over the next 1-2 days.


This is where the Ohana Way comes into play. Our philosophy of treating you and your pets like family isn’t just a cute thing we say- we named our hospital for this philosophy. What this means is you have nothing to fear if you say “hold off on the blood work today”, because if your pet still isn’t feeling well after a couple of days and you want to do that test NOW, even if we are completely booked up, we will find a way to see you. Whether its working you in between appointments or offering you a drop-off exam, we will make sure you aren’t turned away and forced to go to ER, unless that is in your pet’s best interest.

We hope you appreciate our way of doing things. Now if its something simple and non-emergent like a skin rash in an otherwise healthy dog, well, we might make you wait until tomorrow! 🙂

The Doctors at Ohana Animal Hospital