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.

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!


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

Part II: Brain Activities for Your Canine(s)

In Part I, I briefly described basic behavioral enrichment concepts and ideas for physical activities to try with your dog(s). This part is going to focus on how to stimulate your canine’s brain—which is just as important as getting enough exercise!

Brain Exercises for Your Dog

Nose work

Humans have six million olfactory receptors, whereas dogs have up to 300 million. Not only that, but the part of the brain that analyzes smells is 40 times bigger in dogs than humans. Dogs learn about the world they live in through their sense of smell, so it’s important to provide activities that fulfill this need.

Nose work takes advantage of a dog’s innate scent capability.  Make a game out of hiding their food or play hide-and-seek with treats. You can even build obstacle courses for your dog out of boxes, sturdy containers, and portable stairs. Rub the scent in various locations, hiding the meal or the preferred treat in the toughest place to find. You can even hide favorite treats and toys all over the house or yard! Not only does this encourage the dog to problem solve, but it also builds confidence!


Ideally, every dog owner should have a few different types of puzzle toys. All you have to do it fill it up with healthy treats, place it on the floor near your dog, and they get mental enrichment and physical stimulation without you having to do anything but watch and be proud and/or entertained. In the photos below, you will see Anja completing three different puzzles (and looking VERY proud after she finished them all).  Being a German Shepherd, it’s important for her to get plenty of mental stimulation, and these puzzles are amazing!  There are lots of different kinds of puzzles out there, so my advice is to look online since that’s where you will find the best variety to choose from.

Obedience Training

More often than not, it seems that after puppyhood, and once the basic obedience commands have been taught, cognitive challenges tend to drop off.  Obedience training helps to establish boundaries with your dog—which is incredibly important because dogs look to their pack leaders (i.e., you, the owner) for not only direction but also protection.

Obedience training is very important when it comes to nurturing a healthy human-animal relationship and creating a socially compatible pet. Obedience-trained dogs often lead happier and healthier lives than their non-trained canine(s). If dogs learn to not jump up on strangers, sit or lie quietly when asked, and walk politely on lead, they will be more likely to spend time with their owners in public and in the home, and will spend less time alone.

Ring Stackers

Just as toys can teach toddlers eye-hand coordination, they can teach dogs eye-paw (or eye-mouth) coordination. This is a tough game that takes time to learn, so you and your dog will have to work together for hours, since it can take days or weeks to perfect this activity.

Remember to find wooden rings with natural dyes rather than plastic, since your dog will be biting down on these rings quite a bit. The size you’ll want to buy depends on the size of your dog and his dexterity with his mouth.

The Name Game

So your dog can put toys away, but can he/she put toys away by name? A great game to play with your dog is teaching him/her the name of specific toys, and then sending/asking him/her to go get that particular toy. It just takes a lot of repetition to teach the name (and I mean A LOT of repetition).

One way to get started is to hold a toy, say its name, let your dog grab it, then reward your dog for grabbing the toy. Let’s say it’s a stuffed toy named Duckie. Hold Duckie in one hand, say “Duckie,” let your dog grab Duckie, and give a reward (can be a treat or verbal praise). Repeat this 20 or 30 times. Then set Duckie next to a very different toy of equal value, like a ball toy named “Ball”. Say “Duckie” to your dog and if your dog selects Duckie, give a reward. If your dog doesn’t select Duckie but selects Ball instead, say nothing but place Ball back next to Duckie. Say “Duckie” again and let your dog choose. Once your dog is consistently selecting Duckie, place it next to another different toy, and repeat the steps until your dog is always choosing Duckie over other toys.

Run Errands 

Going to get the mail, making a quick stop at a friend’s house, getting your morning coffee from Starbucks (or Peet’s if you prefer), or a spin through the car wash (as long as this doesn’t cause anxiety) will expose your dog(s) to a variety of different stimuli.

Although I don’t have dogs, I’ve taken my cats on errands to help get them used to riding in the car, as well as helping them to understand that every time they ride in the car, it doesn’t mean they’re going to the vet!  This has made our visits to the vet much less stressful, so I suggest you try it if your canine(s) experiences anxiety when going to the vet.

Plus, your canine friend(s) will just be happy to just go with you wherever you go!  However, if you do decide to bring your dog(s) to run errands, I would recommend leaving them at home on days when you will need to leave them unattended in your car for longer durations of time (unless it’s a nice, cool day out).

Give Your Dog a Job 

Every dog needs a job, whether it’s carrying a backpack on the hike or fetching a ball. It helps boost their self-esteem when they feel like they’re contributing to their pack. However, some dogs play an important role beyond their immediate human family. They help keep us safe, assist those with disabilities, and manage our livestock (I will discuss this topic more in Part III).

Some easy jobs to try at home could be engaging your dog in a game of Frisbee, getting involved in a sport like agility or Flyball (which I mentioned in Part I). Take your pup for a long walk, hike, or swim (physically and mentally stimulating).  Ask your dog to get the mail or put their toys away.  There are SO many options!  You just have to find the right job for your dog(s).

A last, and critical part of giving your dog a job, is to find something that fulfills your dog’s breed. For example, if you have a retriever, nothing will leave it more satisfied than a hearty game of fetch.  Hounds would be delighted to complete a task that requires smelling or digging.


  • As a dog owner, it’s your responsibility to find activities your dog enjoys.  Not only will this help them, but it will also help you and your family to lead less stressful lives if you’re not constantly dealing with a bored canine.
  • Be patient with your dog during the learning process—it can take some time for them to become comfortable with the activity and/or the environment (e.g., agility facility).
  • Be creative!  Start using your imagination!  Make an obstacle course out of furniture and household items, make your own puzzles, or come up with a new game to play.
  • Take a few minutes to search for breed-specific activities for your canine(s). There is SO MUCH information out there (whether it’s online, books, magazines, etc.), and your dog(s) will thank you for helping them fulfill their duties! 

Well, that’s it for now! Thanks for stopping by, and remember, stay tuned for Part III: Breed-Specific Activities to Do with Your Canine(s)—coming later this week!


Until next time,

Ayriel, and the Ohana Animal Hospital Staff

What To Expect From Your Visit With The Exotic Animal Vet

My life as an exotic animal veterinarian has been interesting to say the least. I have worked on king cobras, rattlesnakes, crocodile monitor lizards, rabbits, chinchillas, hedgehogs, ferrets, opossums, endangered tortoises, and many others! My day often starts with my receptionist asking, “Hey Dr. Steffes, Mrs. Smith has a 20 foot reticulated python “Fluffy” that seems sick, will you see that?” My usual response is, “Of course!” My receptionist then usually comes back around the corner and says, “Mrs. Smith wants to know what is going to happen if she brings Fluffy in today, what should I tell her?” I am always surprised by this question, and surprised by the genuine concern that I hear in an owner’s voice when they ask. Is it going to be $1000.00 if I walk in the door, am I going to be judged a bad animal caretaker, is this going to be a waste of my time and money, is there anything that can even be done for Fluffy??? I cannot speak for every veterinarian, but I wanted to give everyone some insight into how we go through every case at Ohana Animal Hospital.

The first thing you can expect when you walk in the door at Ohana Animal Hospital is to be greeted by our amazing receptionist. She will make sure that you get all the necessary paperwork filled out, and can send for technician help if you need a hand carrying Fluffy in the door. At our hospital you can actually complete all the documents on your computer at home prior to arriving if you have the time. Many exotic animal problems are the result of a number of issues, and the in-depth exotic animal questionnaires help the doctors get a lot of the husbandry/care information out of the way before your appointment, so we can focus on the problem at hand when we get into the exam room. Once your documents are completed you will be ushered into one of our four examination rooms. One of our highly skilled technicians will then come in and get a weight and brief history on Fluffy. While the technician is getting the weight and history, the doctor is normally reading through the husbandry questionnaire and any previous records. Once the technician is finished with their questions they brief the doctor, and then the fun happens.

Zach - Indigo Snake
Dr. Steffes taking X-rays on a Mexican Indigo snake

Once the doctor enters the exam room you will get his/her undivided attention. I like to take time in my examination rooms getting to know the owner, the pet, and performing a thorough examination. Occasionally an angry or scared animal will need to be sedated for examination, but often times not, and so the exam will be performed right in front of you. Once I have performed my exam I have a discussion with the client about my thoughts on what the problem may be, and how we need to go about diagnosing and resolving the problem. Many of the exotic animals that come in have been hiding an illness for months, and can require testing the same day to get an answer, so don’t be surprised if tests are recommended. I always recommend what I feel is the best plan, and then the client and I will decide on the best way to proceed.

I feel it is my job to offer every client the best diagnostic and treatment plan I can, but that is often not the only way we can work through a case. Owners and I often times start off in a step-wise fashion, and progress through a case as needed. You will not be looked at as a bad owner if you cannot spend $600.00 on viral testing in your ball python. Some owners have been saving for months to have $45.00 for a course of antibiotics, and I understand when that is where we need to start off. We veterinarians know that you could have easily not come in the door, so we know that if you are here, your pet is important to you. Many hospitals offer various payment options; so don’t be embarrassed to ask what plans we can offer.

I never perform any tests or treatments without you being completely on board, and you will always be provided an estimate for services BEFORE those services are done. Being a veterinarian is about working with the animal owners to best care for their pets. Once we decide on the plan, we will either take the pet into the treatment area for testing, or we will make up the medications we are sending home. Once we are done with our tests, and we have any medications put together, we will show you how to perform any treatments we are sending home. I always let people know that if they have any trouble with treatments they can come back for help, and I mean it. Owners are often nervous about performing treatments, and we do our best to do everything we can to make sure you are comfortable before you leave.

Argentine Boa intubated under anesthesia

Once you feel comfortable with the plan, you know how to perform the necessary treatments, and you are ready to go home we will help you get Fluffy back out to the car and on the road home. I always make sure my clients have ways to reach me when I am not at the hospital, as Fluffy’s recovery really does concern me. You may think your veterinarian goes home and forgets about Fluffy, but you are wrong. There have been many occasions when I have woken myself up in the middle of the night thinking about what else I need to do to help your pet, or wondering how one of my patients is responding to treatment. Hopefully, after a couple of weeks Fluffy is back to normal, and you will not have to see me again until Fluffy needs her normal yearly exam.

Going to the veterinarian should not be scary, and it should be as painless as possible. At Ohana Animal Hospital we do our best to make the experience painless, educational, and sometimes even fun. After 10-12 hours of work, Dr. Steffes then goes home, takes care of his 20 animals, kisses his daughter goodnight, and then falls asleep on the couch. Until tomorrow, when it starts all over again.


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How We Are Making Rabbit Anesthesia Safer At Ohana Animal Hospital

I can remember starting off my veterinary career being terrified to anesthetize rabbits. I had always heard that they did not do well with anesthesia, it wasn’t safe, they were impossible to intubate (get a tube into the trachea to provide a secure airway), and most of them would die!! I used to be scared to anesthetize my rabbit patients, and I completely understand why many rabbit owners come into Ohana Animal Hospital afraid of anesthesia.

Jessica Rabbit feeling good after being spayed

Anesthesia is required to perform surgery on a rabbit (spays, neuters, mass removals, etc.), to appropriately evaluate the teeth and perform occlusal adjustments (trim the teeth into normal alignment), and occasionally for x-rays and diagnostic sample collection (blood collection, mass cytology, skin tests). We can perform most x-rays, blood samples, and other tests with injectable sedation, but occasionally general anesthesia is needed to limit the stress for the patient.

I learned early on that anesthesia could not be avoided, so I made it a focus of mine to learn how to make it safer for my patients. I remember when rabbit anesthesia was no more than holding a facemask over the rabbit’s nose to administer gas anesthesia, listening to the heart with a stethoscope, and then hoping luck was on my side that day. Many of those procedures went just fine, but I can still remember a couple of cases where that was not the case, and those cases are what drove me to be better.

I am proud to say that here at Ohana Animal Hospital we are practicing at a whole new level. Rabbit anesthesia still has it risks, but we have found ways to make it much safer. We have special in-house lab equipment so we can make sure your rabbit is healthy before moving forward with anesthesia. We have a special exotic animal hospital ward, which allows our rabbits to be housed away from dogs and cats, which can be very scary for a nervous rabbit. All of our rabbits are given pre-anesthetic medications which help us provide more balanced anesthesia, and not have to use too much of any one drug. All of our patients have an intravenous catheter placed so we can provide fluids during anesthesia to help maintain blood pressure, and also so we can give emergency medications if needed. Our rabbits are all intubated with the help of an endoscope, which allows us to make sure that we can breath for the rabbit if needed (most rabbit anesthetic deaths are the result of failure of the respiratory system). Our rabbits all have their blood pressure monitored, heart rate and rhythm monitored, end-tidal CO2 monitored, and body temperature monitored while under anesthesia, and until fully awake. We use heated surgical tables and warm air devices to keep our patients warm while anesthetized. There is also one technician dedicated to monitoring anesthesia, one technician dedicated to assisting the surgeon, and at least one doctor on the case at all times during the procedure.

The majority of our surgical patients are awake and eating within 1-2 hours. I can now honestly say that I do not fear rabbit anesthesia, but I still maintain a healthy respect for each case. I know that in the future we will be even better than we are now with anesthesia, but I know that I personally am so much better now than I was at the beginning of my career. I look at each patient as a member of the Ohana Animal Hospital family, and that means they get the best care that can be provided.

Thanks for reading today! I’m off to play with an Angora rabbit who is now happily recovered from mass removal surgery and eating some fresh greens.

Jannie recovering from her mass removal surgery with Dr. Steffes

Feel free to call Ohana Animal Hospital anytime at 925-394-4990, or email me at with your questions. And check out our website to see all the surgical services we offer for exotic animals!

Zach Steffes, DVM