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Welcome Dr. Alysha Swart

Welcome Dr. Alysha Swart

Welcome Dr. Alysha Swart to Animal Care of Ponte Vedra!

Dr. Swart is a recent graduate of the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine. Veterinary medicine has always been a part of her life from her high school days in the FFA to the 8 years she spent as a veterinary technician prior to going to vet school. Her major interests include diagnostic imaging, surgery, and international veterinary medicine.

She and her husband share their lives with 2 sweet kitties, Roo and Momma, and a 20-year-old green-winged macaw, Davi. During her spare time, she and her husband love to spend time traveling, hiking, going to the beach, and going to FSU football games. 

Learn about all the veterinarians at Animal Care of Ponte Vedra...

How Can I Remember to Give My Pet Their Heartworm Prevention Each Month?

How Can I Remember to Give My Pet Their Heartworm Prevention Each Month?

Remembering your pet’s medications and heartworm preventatives are vital to maintaining the health, and well-being, of your pet.  Monthly heartworm prevention (or those administered by a veterinarian every 6 months) must be given on schedule to maintain their effectiveness.

Heartworm medications work by eliminating the immature (larval) stages of the heartworm parasite. Unfortunately, in as little as 51 days, immature heartworm larvae can grow into an adult stage, which cannot be effectively eliminated by preventives. Because heartworms must be eliminated before they reach adulthood, it is extremely important that heartworm preventives be administered strictly on schedule. Administering prevention late can allow immature larvae to grow into adult worms, which is poorly prevented.

Your pet relies on you to provide them with the proper dosage at the proper times.  Here are some tips and tools to remind you when to administer your pet’s heartworm prevention medication:


Ways to Reduce Pet Stress at the Vet

Ways to Reduce Pet Stress at the Vet

Regular veterinary exams are important for all pets to live long, healthy & happy lives! Our veterinarians recommend all pets, even indoor cats and pets that appear healthy, have an annual exam each year (twice a year for senior pets) to help us help you identify problems before they become serious.

We realize coming to the veterinarian can be stressful on your pets (and you).  Here are tips to help make your next visit easier on you and your pet:

Kennel/Crate - Introduce your pet to a crate or kennel before it comes time to travel to the vet.

  • Bring the carrier out ahead of time to become accustomed to it. Leave the door of the open so they can explore as they please.  Reward if enters the crate.

  • Go on fun rides and reward with treats during and after.

  • Once your pet accepts the crate, the crate can be used to transport your pet to and from our vet clinic.

  • Consider placing stress-reducing products in or around the carrier (ask us for our recommendations).

Hiding places - Pets might feel comfortable when they can hide. Provide a blanket in the crate to hide under or to cover and give your pet a sense of protection.

  • Consider placing stress-reducing products on the blankets (ask us for our recommendations).

 Car rides – Place your pet’s crate in the floor of the front seat to provide a visual barrier as well as calming white noise from the engine running.

  • Safety belts specially adapted for dogs are also available.

  • If your pet gets car sick, ask us about strategies to alleviate the symptoms.

Practice sessions. Call ahead to our vet clinic to find out when there is a quiet time to visit. During the visit, your pet can calmly walk around the building and exam room. Use treats and positive praise with your pet as you tour around.

Distractions. Bring your pet’s favorite treats/toys to give them something positive to focus on during the visit.

Come hungry – Pets will be more receptive to treats given at our vet clinic if hungry.

Call us for questions or additional tips to make your next vet visit stress-free!

World Rabies Day is September 28th

World Rabies Day is September 28th

World Rabies Day is Sept. 28 - created to raise awareness of public health impact of the rabies virus & importance of vaccination.

Rabies remains a major concern worldwide, killing tens of thousands of people every year. In the US, two people die annually from rabies and there were more than 4,900 reported cases of animal rabies in the U.S. in 2016.

World Rabies Day, launched in 2007, aims to raise awareness about the public health impact of human and animal rabies.

Rabies vaccine is required by state law and often required for boarding or grooming. 

Keep your pet, and our community, protected by staying current on their rabies vaccination!

Pet Disaster Preparedness Tips

Pet Disaster Preparedness Tips

Pet disaster preparedness tips from The Humane Society of the United States.

Start getting ready now

ID your pet

Make sure that cats and dogs are wearing collars and identification tags that are up to date. You'll increase your chances of being reunited with pets who get lost by having them microchipped; make sure the microchip registration is in your name. But remember: The average citizen who finds your pet won't be able to scan for a chip, but they will probably be able to read a basic tag!

Put your cell phone number on your pet's tag. It may also be a good idea to include the phone number of a friend or relative outside your immediate area—in case you have had to evacuate.

Put together your disaster kit

Use our checklist to assemble an emergency kit for yourself and ALL your pets. During natural disasters, disaster plans for feral or outdoor catshorses and animals on farms can be lifesavers.

Find a safe place to stay ahead of time

Never assume that you will be allowed to bring your pet to an emergency shelter. Before a disaster hits, call your local office of emergency management to see if you will be allowed to evacuate with your pets and verify that there will be shelters in your area that take people and their pets.

Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to find out if they accept pets. Ask about any restrictions on number, size and species. Inquire if a "no pet" policy would be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of animal-friendly places handy, and call ahead for a reservation as soon as you think you might have to leave your home.

For help identifying pet-friendly lodgings, check out these websites:

Make arrangements with friends or relatives. Ask people outside your immediate area if they would be able to shelter you and your pets—or just your pets—if necessary. If you have more than one pet, you may need to arrange to house them at separate locations.

Consider a kennel or veterinarian's office. Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices that might be able to shelter animals in disaster emergencies (make sure to include their 24-hour telephone numbers).

Check with your local animal shelter. Some shelters may be able to provide foster care or shelter for pets in an emergency. But keep in mind that shelters have limited resources and are likely to be stretched during a local emergency.

Plan for your pet in case you're not home

In case you're away during a disaster or evacuation order, make arrangements well in advance for someone you trust to take your pets and meet you at a specified location. Be sure the person is comfortable with your pets and your pets are familiar with them. Give your emergency caretaker a key to your home and show them where your pets are likely to be (especially if they hide when they're nervous) and where your disaster supplies are kept.

If you have a pet-sitter, they may be able to help. Discuss the possibility well in advance.

If you evacuate, take your pet

Rule number one: If it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for your pets. You have no way of knowing how long you'll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able—or allowed—to go back for your pets. Pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed. Remember to make plans for ALL your pets; during natural disasters, disaster plans for feral or outdoor catshorses and animals on farms can be lifesavers.

Pledge to take your pet with you when disaster strikes »

Rule number two: Evacuate early. Don't wait for a mandatory evacuation order. Some people who have waited to be evacuated by emergency officials have been told to leave their pets behind. The smell of smoke or the sound of high winds or thunder may make your pet more fearful and difficult to load into a crate or carrier. Evacuating before conditions become severe will keep everyone safer and make the process less stressful.

If you stay home, do it safely

If your family and pets must wait out a storm or other disaster at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together.

  • Close off or eliminate unsafe nooks and crannies where frightened cats may try to hide.

  • Move dangerous items such as tools or toxic products that have been stored in the area.

  • Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say trouble is on the way. Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and make sure they are wearing identification.

  • If you have a room you can designate as a "safe room," put your emergency supplies in that room in advance, including your pet's crate and supplies. Have any medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies. If there is an open fireplace, vent, pet door or similar opening in the house, close it off with plastic sheeting and strong tape.

  • Listen to the radio periodically, and don't come out until you know it's safe.

After the disaster

Your home may be a very different place after the emergency is over, and it may be hard for your pets to adjust.

  • Don't allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet will probably be disoriented. Pets can easily get lost in such situations.

  • While you assess the damage, keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers inside the house. If your house is damaged, your pets could escape.

  • Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible. Be ready for behavioral problems caused by the stress of the situation. If these problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.

  • If your community has been flooded, check your home and yard for wild animals who may have sought refuge there. Wildlife can pose a threat to you and your pet. Check out our tips for humanely evicting wildlife.

Be ready for everyday emergencies

You can't get home to your pet

There may be times that you can't get home to take care of your pets. Icy roads may trap you at the office overnight, an accident may send you to the hospital—things happen. But you can make sure your pets get the care they need by making arrangements now:

  • Find a trusted neighbor, friend or family member and give them a key. Make sure this backup caretaker is comfortable and familiar with your pets (and vice versa).

  • Make sure your backup caretaker knows your pets' feeding and medication schedule, whereabouts and habits.

  • If you use a pet-sitting service, find out in advance if they will be able to help in case of an emergency.

Heat wave

High temperatures can be dangerous. Learn more about hot weather safety for pets.

The electricity goes out

If you're forced to leave your home because you've lost electricity, take your pets with you to a pet-friendly hotel. If it's summer, even just an hour or two in the sweltering heat can be dangerous. If you stay at home during a summer power outage, ask your local emergency management office if there are pet-friendly cooling centers in the area.

If it's winter, don't be fooled by your pets' fur coats; it isn't safe to leave them in an unheated house.

Plans are for ALL pets

Disaster plans aren't only essential for the safety of cats and dogs. If you're responsible for other kinds of animals during natural disasters, disaster plans for feral or outdoor catshorses and animals on farms can be lifesavers.

Pet disaster preparedness tips from The Humane Society of the United States.

Why Should I Vaccinate My Pet?

Why Should I Vaccinate My Pet?

Pet owners - you might be asking yourself, “Why should I vaccinate my pet?”

Here is some insightful information from our veterinarians to answer your questions about the safety of pet vaccines and their necessity to keep pets healthy.

  • Vaccinations are the best weapon against many viral and bacterial infections in pets.

  • Millions of dogs & cats have been saved by vaccines.

  • Pet vaccines help spread diseases between pets and other pets and pets and humans.

  • Vaccines help your pet live a longer, healthier and happier life.

  • Vaccinations prevent against incurable diseases such as canine distemper that can lead to seizures or death.

  • Rabies vaccination is required by state law.

  • Dogs that visit dog parks, go into the woods or stay at pet boarding facilities may need extra protection and vaccines.

Vaccinating your pet as a puppy or kitten while their immune system is still young and developing will give your pet the protection it needs to stay healthy. Keeping up to date with your pet’s annual/scheduled vaccines while they grow is vital to their health and even the health of other pets and people in our community.

Pet Vaccinations - What to Expect At the Veterinarian

During an appointment, our veterinarians will provide you with vaccine education, discuss topics like scheduling booster shots, the importance of returning annually, your pet's history, lifestyle, the prevalence of disease, your travel plans and dog park protocol.

Required or Recommended Vaccines for Cats and Dogs by Veterinarians

Vaccines required or recommended for the majority of dogs include (not all-inclusive):

  • Rabies - Rabies vaccination is required by state law

  • Canine distemper

  • Canine parvo

  • Canine leptospirosis

  • Canine hepatitis

  • Canine Influenza "Canine Flu"

  • Parainfluenza

  • Bordetella “Kennel Cough” - if dogs stay at boarding or grooming facilities

Vaccines required or recommended for the majority of cats include (not all-inclusive):

  • Rabies - Rabies vaccination is required by state law

  • Feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia (FVRCP) – Feline Herpes 1

  • Feline leukemia

  • Feline pneumonitis (chlamydia)

  • Bordetella “Kennel Cough”  - if dogs stay at boarding or grooming facilities

Call us today to learn more about recommended pet vaccines, check your pet's vaccination records, or schedule an appointment to keep your pet protected!

Why Do We Recommend Early Detection Tests?

Why Do We Recommend Early Detection Tests?

Pets can’t say how they feel - it’s usually how they look or act that tells you something is wrong. You play a key role in helping your pet combat illness and stay as healthy as possible.

Our Early Detection Testing provides information about your pet’s liver, kidneys & pancreas, blood sugar levels, white & red blood cell and platelet count and so much more.

Why do we recommend annual preventative testing? 

  • One in 10 dogs develop diabetes

  • Overweight cats have a greater chance of developing diabetes

  • Kidney disease occurs in 1 in every 10 dogs and 1 in every 3 cats

  • The 5th leading cause of death in dogs is liver disease

ANNUAL testing allows us to determine what is normal for your pet. Trending results over time allows us to diagnose problems as we notice changes in your pet. Advanced disease is associated with more complications and it can make treatment harder and more expensive.

Summer Tricks to Get Rid of Ticks

Summer Tricks to Get Rid of Ticks

What are ticks?

Ticks are tiny bloodsuckers of the arachnid family that are particularly fond of burrowing into your pet’s skin. Although they look harmless, they can pass diseases into your pet’s bloodstream.

What illnesses can a tick carry?

* Lyme Disease (attacks the nervous system and potentially eyes, joints, liver and heart)

* Anaplasmosis (attacks white blood cells)

* Ehrlichiosis (very similar to Anaplasmosis)

* Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (bacterial infection)

* Hepatazoonosis (can affect multiple organ systems)

* Babesiosis (affects red blood cells – turns urine red or black)

* Bartonellosis (known as cat scratch fever)

How do I remove a tick from my pet?

You must use extreme care when removing a tick. Ideally, you want to pinch the tick (with tweezers) as close to the head as possible. If the head of the tick does get stuck, don’t try to dig it out! Your pet will expel it naturally in a few days. You should flush the tick down the toilet just to be sure there is no chance of its infected blood spreading.

Advice: Do not squeeze the body! If you squeeze the little guy, it will explode expelling infected stomach contents onto you and your pet. Yuck!

How do I prevent ticks in my yard?

Here are a few simple tricks and techniques to reduce the tick population in your yard.

* Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns

* Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and playground equipment (This restricts tick migration into recreational areas)

* Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked.

* Stack wood neatly and in dry areas (discourages rodents that ticks feed on)

* Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees. Place them in a sunny location, if possible.

* Remove any old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that might give ticks a place to hide.

Tick prevention is recommended year-round for pets, especially pets that are outdoors often and in wooded areas.  We have many tick and flea/tick preventions that are safe and effective for your pets. 

New Year's Resolutions for Healthy & Happy Pets

New Year's Resolutions for Healthy & Happy Pets

1. Schedule two vet appointments this year- Pets need regular veterinary care to live long, healthy & happy lives. Seeing your pet when he or she is feeling good during a wellness exam gives veterinarians a baseline to use in case of trouble. We will update needed vaccinations and discuss early disease detection blood and lab tests. 

2. Discuss annual dental cleanings - Besides bad breath, poor dental health can cause pain and lead to heart, liver & kidney disease. 

3. Don’t skip on their exercise - Regular exercise maintains your pet's healthy weight, builds strength and endurance. Exercise reduces behavior & medical problems associated with inactivity. Do not let the winter keep you from jogging or walking your dog - most dogs will retrieve balls or toys for hours if you will toss it for them! Encourage cats to be active with toys or chasing laser pointers.

4. Consider training – Beyond learning sit, stay & come here, effective obedience training can help your pet become a successful member of your family.

5. Provide year-round heartworm prevention - Heartworms, a potentially life-threatening disease, is prevalent in the south because of mosquitoes. While treatment is available, heartworm prevention is safer, more cost-effective & without side effects. All pets - even indoor - need to be on year-round heartworm prevention. We have safe, effective products available. 

6. Help your pet be reunited if lost - Microchipping is a permanent form of pet ID. Veterinary hospitals and animal shelters can scan a lost pet and obtain the owner's contact information if implanted with a microchip. Make sure the information is up to date if you moved or changed phone numbers. Ensure ID tags are current also and securely fastened onto your pet at all times.

7. Be mindful of what they eat - Talk with us about nutritional counseling for your pet. Certain "people foods" are toxic to pets - chocolate, avocado, grapes/raisins, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts and alcohol and any foods containing xylitol (artificial sweetener often found in peanut butter and desserts).

8. Keep them looking & feeling fresh and clean - Regular bathing & grooming keeps skin, coat & nails healthy!


How Old Is My Pet In Human Years?

How Old Is My Pet In Human Years?

Ponte Vedra Beach pet owners, do you wonder “How old is my pet in human years?”

As your pet ages, their healthcare needs to become greater.  Since pets age at a faster rate than humans, Animal Care of Ponte Vedra recommends an exam every six months after your pet reaches age 7 to help them be happy, healthy and pain-free.  

Good senior pet health care should be a discussion between you and your veterinarian about:

  • Diet and weight management

  • Joint health

  • Cancer screening

  • Heart disease screening

  • Dental care

  • Diabetes screening

  • Function of thyroid, kidneys, and liver

  • Eye and vision health

  • Pain management

Regular Preventative Care Exams are Important for Senior Pets

Regular exams and testing allow us to determine what is normal for your pet. Knowing these results helps us detect any abnormalities or problems early on. When diagnosed early, many conditions can be successfully managed, leading to better outcomes for your pet and, often, reduced treatment costs.

Animal Care of Ponte Vedra has developed a comprehensive senior wellness program that meets the needs of your senior pets:

  • Complete physical exam - evaluates the heart, lungs, eyes, ears, abdomen, joints, and skin

  • Intestinal parasite exam – checks for worms

  • Early Disease Detection Testing: 

    • Urinalysis – detects ph balance, crystals in urine, abnormal cells, and urinary tract infection 

    • Blood tests – evaluates the liver, kidneys, thyroid levels, blood sugar levels, white & red blood cell count, and platelet count

*We may also recommend further diagnostics based on exam and test results.