Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT & Renee Schmid, DVM
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is easy to let your guard down when it comes to preventing toxic exposures to your pet. While the holidays bring more challenges to the already difficult winter months, we cannot forget about outdoor toxin concerns frequently seen this time of year. Below is a list of holiday-related decorations, plants and food items that the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline recommend keeping away from pets.
Holiday Ornaments and decorations:
When decorating for the season, consider your pets. Holiday decorations such as old-fashioned bubble lights may contain poisonous chemicals. If a pet chews on them, the liquid inside could be dangerous to their health. Methylene chloride, the chemical in older bubble lights, can result in depression, aspiration pneumonia, and irritation to the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract. Glass ornaments that shine and shimmer are often an enticing toy for your pet. However, if they were to bite in to, or break one during play, the small glass pieces can lead to lacerations to the skin and mouth, as well as damage to the esophagus and gastrointestinal tract.
Homemade dough ornaments pose a risk for causing elevated sodium levels that may lead to severe neurologic abnormalities. If any of these types of tree decorations are being used for your tree, it is recommended to keep them towards the upper portion of the tree, where they are less likely to be accessed by your pet. Many animals develop electrical burns in their mouth from chewing on strands of lights, particularly cats and puppies. It is ideal to minimize dangling light strands to make them less appealing to pets.
Another holiday ornament to avoid is tinsel. If you own a cat, toss the tinsel! What looks like a shiny toy to your cat can prove deadly if ingested. While tinsel itself is not “poisonous,” it can result in a linear foreign body when eaten. A linear foreign body occurs when your pet swallows something “stringy” (like ribbon, yarn, tinsel, etc.), which wraps around the base of the tongue or anchors itself in the stomach, rendering it unable to pass through the intestines. As the intestines contract and move, this string or linear foreign body can slowly saw through the tissue, resulting in severe, potentially life threatening damage to your pet’s intestinal tract. Ultimately, pets run the risk of severe injury to, or rupture of, their intestines and treatment requires costly abdominal surgery. Save your holiday bonus for yourself instead of your pet’s surgery, and keep tinsel, ribbon, yarn, thread, fabric, etc. out of reach!
Filling your house with the smell of nutmeg or pine for the holidays may seem inviting—but if you’re partial to heating your scented oils in a simmer pot, know that they can cause serious harm to your cat; even a few licks can result in severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Dogs aren’t as sensitive, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry—so scent your home with a non-toxic candle kept safely out of kitty’s reach. Dry potpourri may also cause chemical burns in the mouth, and also potential foreign bodies and gastrointestinal upset depending on the size of animal and amount ingested. While candles are often scented with oils, the largest concern with ingestion is a foreign body and potential obstruction. In addition to an upset stomach, surgical removal of the candle may be necessary in severe cases.
Though they have a bad rap, poinsettia plants are only mildly toxic. Far more worrisome are holiday bouquets containing lilies (Lilium spp), holly, or mistletoe. Even bouquets brought into the house by holiday guests should be thoroughly inspected, as lilies are one of the most commonly used. Just one or two bites from a lily can result in kidney failure in cats – even the pollen and water that the plant is in are thought to be poisonous! When in doubt, don’t let these bouquets in a cat-loving household!
Other yuletide plants such as holly berries and mistletoe can also be toxic to pets. When Christmas or English holly is ingested, it can result in severe gastrointestinal upset thanks to the spiny leaves and the potentially toxic substances (including saponins, methylxanthines, and cyanogens). If ingested, most pets smack their lips, drool, and head shake excessively due to the mechanical injury from the spiny leaves. As for mistletoe, most of us hang it high enough so it’s out of reach of our pets – nevertheless, it can also be toxic if ingested. Thankfully, American mistletoe is less toxic than the European varieties. Mild signs of gastrointestinal irritation are seen, although if ingested in large amounts, collapse, hypotension (low blood pressure), ataxia (difficulty walking), seizures and death have also been reported.
Recently, florists have started to use Japanese Yew (Taxus spp.) to make wreaths – all parts of this evergreen except for the flesh of the red aril are very poisonous, as they contain taxines, a cardiotoxin. If ingested, this plant can result in dizziness, an abnormal heart rate (initially elevated, then slowed), hypotension, dilated pupils, coma, and death. As horses are very susceptible to yew poisoning, make sure not to have this around the barn or pasture!
Most people know not to give alcoholic drinks to their pets; however, alcohol poisoning in pets is more common than you think. This is because alcohol can be found in surprising places! Rum-soaked fruitcake, or unbaked dough that contains yeast, result in alcohol poisoning and other problems. Rising dough will expand in the warm, moist environment of the stomach and can result in a bloat, which can then progress to a GDV or gastric-dilitation with volvulus (twisted stomach). Signs of this include vomiting, non-productive retching, distended stomach, an elevated heart rate, and weakness or collapse. Secondly, alcohol from the fermenting yeast is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure.
With the holiday season comes a delightful variety of baked goods, chocolate confections and other rich, fattening foods. However, it is not wise, and in some cases, quite dangerous, to share these treats with your pets. Keep your pet on his or her regular diet over the holidays and do not let family and friends sneak in treats. Foods that can present problems include:
Ice melts are commonly used around entryways and sidewalks and the containers that are filled with these products are often left within a pet’s reach. There are numerous formulations available, many of which contain salt (sodium chloride), and small exposures typically lead to stomach upset, and dermal and paw pad irritation. Larger ingestions may quickly cause salt poisoning which can result in a rapid onset of vomiting, excessive thirst and seizures. If your pet has consumed any amount of ice melt, it is important to call for help.
When it comes to the holidays, the best thing a pet owner can do is to become educated on common indoor and outdoor household toxins and pet-proof your environment accordingly. If you think your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680, with any questions or concerns.
Obesity is defined as the accumulation of excessive amounts of adipose (fat) tissue in the body and it's one of the most common conditions most vets see.
There are a number of things that can predispose a pet to being overweight or obese which includes genetics, being spayed or neutered, being on a diet that is too high in fat or calories and also living a non-active lifestyle.
How can you determine if your pet is overweight?
The first thing to do is look at the ribs...
If you cannot feel the ribs when you slightly press over the side of your pet's chest, then your pet is most likely overweight. Pets that are overweight also can have extra fat accumulate around the tail and typically do not have a waist.
When examining your pet, Veterinarians can use one of two scales to determine the Body Condition Score of pets. The first scoring system is a scale of 1-5 with 3 being ideal weight and 5 being obese. The other scoring system is a scale of 1-9; when 4.5 is ideal weight and 9 is obese.
Why is it bad for your pet to be overweight? If they are, they are predisposed to a variety of health conditions such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease and they can overall have a decreased life expectancy.
What to do if you feel your pet is overweight?
First, talk with your veterinarian about your pet. It is important to have your pet examined to ensure that they are otherwise in good health. With your help, your veterinarian can help you develop a weight loss plan. This includes calculating the amount of calories your pet needs based on their ideal weight. It will also include nutritional counseling and a discussion about activities to do with your pet.
Sometimes a diet change may be beneficial. It is always a good idea to decrease the daily amount of treats and snack that may be 'human' food. Sometimes one treat can be the equivalent to humans eating a candy bar. Some owners may feed 4-5 treats per day (that would be 4-5 snicker bars in a day!)
Ways to increase activity include daily walks, daily trips to a dog park and playing fetch for our canine companions. For cats, we recommend moving that food dish around to different spots, using toys that encourage movement and provided cat trees or places to climb.
Veterinarians are there to help pets live as long as possible. They can help you determine the best plan for your pet. There are wonderful stories of pets losing weight and feeling like young puppies again just from the weight loss.
Visit petobesityprevention.org for other ideas and resources.
Source: The Growing Problem of Obesity in Dogs and Cats1-3 Alexander J. German4
As your pet ages, many of their basic needs, such as diet and exercise, will begin to change.
Pets are very good at hiding health problems and as an owner, it's our responsibility to keep an eye on them to ensure that we adjust their routine to match changes in their body and immune system that make them less able to cope with physical and environmental stresses.
Routine pet wellness exams, preventative medicine and adjustments to your pet's lifestyle can help them stay healthy even as the years creep up.
Different sized dog's age at varying rates, with larger dogs reaching senior status much sooner than smaller dogs. While each dog reaches 'senior hood' at a different age, most canines become seniors after seven years including cats. It is important to know your pet's age so you know when he becomes a senior and can ask your vet about when you're pet's needs may begin to change.
As your pet ages, different diseases might potentially come into play. These diseases include arthritis, cancer, cognitive disorders, vision and auditory problems, liver, kidney and dental disease, diabetes, and heart disease. Just as with people, regular health checkups become increasingly important as pets grow older and should be seen at least once every six months. The purpose of these wellness exams is to promote your pet's health and longevity, recognize and control health risks and detect any illnesses in early stages, which may improve treatment options.
A typical exam will include health-related questions in order to build a snapshot of your pet's medical history. During the check-up, the vet will check for body tumors, signs of pain, body appearance and condition along with examining the eyes, ear, nose, and mouth for irregularities as well as listening to the heart and lungs. Many times a number of diagnostic tests will be ran including CBC (complete blood count), chemistry screen to check the liver and kidney, urinalysis, thyroid function, and heartworm and fecal test. Baseline laboratory tests should be ran early before your pet becomes a senior as this allows your vet to monitor any developing trends in your pet's health status as it changes from year to year.
As an owner, you should consistently monitor your pet's health between vet visits. Signs to look for include incontinence, lumps, constipation or diarrhea, breathing abnormalities, coughing, weakness, changes in appetite, water intake or urination, stiffness or limping, increased vocalization and uncharacteristic aggression or behavioral changes. Fluctuations in weight can be an early sign of an underlying disease and should be checked frequently. By keeping a close eye on your pet, this will allow a better insight for your veterinarian to be able to recognize abnormalities.
Adjusting your pet's nutrition is very important as these senior foods are designed to have less fat and salt, therefore decreasing the stress on the different body systems. Frequent bathroom breaks are also warranted for a smooth transition into those elderly years to come. These may seem like simple adjustments but they are very important for a happier healthier companion.
Along with being more watchful over your senior pet's health, it's crucial that you keep up with routine preventative care such as parasite prevention, dental care, vaccinations and nutritional management. As your pet's immune system weakens with age, the importance of routine basic care only increases. Always create a comfortable environment for your ageing pet with easy access to food and water and supportive bedding along with old fashioned TLC which is beneficial to both you and your pet.
Undoubtedly, your veterinarian is key to helping in your pet's transition through these senior years, but as an owner, you are also key to your pet's life. Together, your pet is on track for a long and healthy life.
Call today and schedule your senior pet care appointment and make sure they are on the healthy track to living a long and happy life.
Myth: Seeing one or two fleas is no big deal.
Reality: A few fleas can turn into a massive infestation in a hurry! One adult flea can lay 2,000 eggs in its lifetime. And if your pet is sensitive to flea saliva, even one or two bites can make him very uncomfortable. Your pet deserves to be completely free of fleas.
Myth: Pets need flea preventive only a few months out of the year.
Reality: Even in our seasonal climate, a warm spring or fall can lead to a flea season that is nine or ten months of the year. Plus, fleas can survive on your pet and inside anywhere! Flea eggs and larvae can find places to hide and survive in the house. Year-round flea control is best for your pet.
Myth: I've never seen a flea on my pet, so she doesn't need flea control.
Reality: You may be in flea denial. Just because you don't see fleas doesn't mean they aren't there. Your veterinarian can use a special comb to detect fleas and their waste, so ask her to do this if she hasn't already. Even if your pet's clean, she can pick up fleas at any time, so it's a good idea to protect her.
Myth: I can get good flea products at the Big Box Store.
Reality: Over-the-counter flea control products are not as potent and therefore not as effective as the prescription products you can get from your veterinarian. Some are even toxic, especially if administered incorrectly.
What are my options for flea and tick products?
There are several topical products which have continued to work well for us. This product is Vectra. This product is applied between the shoulder blades, working through the oil glands to fight against all stages of the flea. While these products do work very well for us, one disadvantage is that your pet does need to stay dry for a period of time. This can be very difficult for dogs that live outdoors or need frequent bathing. They can also temporarily leave an oily residue on the coat. For some patients, the topical preventatives are not the ideal product.
We now also carry a chewable product designed to kill BOTH fleas and ticks. The product is very palatable and kills fleas before they can lay eggs, thus preventing infestations. Just as Vectra, the chewable product (NexGard) is also good for 30 days after administration.
Myth: I only need to treat one of my pets that is sensitive to fleas, not the other pets in my house.
Reality: All of the pets in your household need to be treated. Some pets are more sensitive to fleas than others, so if you only treat the pet that's scratching and has fleas, she's likely to be re-infested. Treating all of the pets in the house keeps the flea lifecycle stopped.
Myth: I can't afford to give a flea preventive monthly.
Reality: Can you afford to change the oil in your car to keep it running smoothly and help cut down on expensive repairs? Providing preventive health measures for your pet is the same approach. Compared to the stress and cost of treating flea-related illnesses and possibly paying someone to decontaminate your home monthly control is a low-cost alternative.
Myth: My pet stays in the back yard, so he won't pick up fleas.
Reality: Your yard is constantly being visited by wildlife such as raccoons and opossums, as well as other neighborhood pets (cats are notorious roamers). These animals can spread fleas and flea eggs, which can infest your pet when he goes outside.
Myth: All flea preventives protect pets from fleas only.
Reality: Flea products are often combined with agents that control other parasites as well, helping protect your pets from additional diseases some of which can be transmitted to you. So keeping pets on flea control is best for the whole family.
Myth: Flea products are toxic.
Reality: Products, prescription flea control agents have been extensively tested and approved by the FDA. Veterinarians trust the products and use them on their own pets.
If you have ever lost your pet, you know that terrible feeling at the pit of your stomach that you may never see them again. Microchipping your pet is the best way to make sure they make it back home safely.
What is a Microchip?
A microchip is a permanent identification that is placed just under the skin of your pet. If your pet gets lost and is taken to an animal shelter or veterinarian, they will scan the microchip to read a unique ID code. Each ID code is tied to a database with their owner's name, address, and contact information so you can easily be contacted when the pet is found. The best part, it's affordable!
How is it implanted?
It may sound "high-tech," but placing a microchip is a simple procedure. A veterinarian simply injects the microchip (which is about the size of a grain of rice) beneath the surface of your pet's skin between the shoulder blades. The process only takes a few seconds, is similar to a routine shot and requires no anesthesia.
Not sure where your pet's chip is registered?
Visit the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool by going to petmicrochiplookup.org. In order to update your pet's registration information, you'll need your pet's microchip number.
If you haven't already created an account with the manufacturer, you'll need to do that as well so you can access the registration in the future to update their information. Make sure all of the information, particularly your phone number(s) and address, is correct.
Can I track where my pet goes if they are microchipped?
No, the microchip is not a GPS tracking device. Only your veterinarian or a location with a universal scanner can scan your pet's microchip.
A microchip only works if its registration information is accurate!
Take advantage of our Microchip special April 24th- 28th
Normally $60 now ONLY $34.99 (HomeAgain Microchip registration and enrollment included.)
The most popular holidays of the year, (Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas) are times for family, friends, decorations and treats. Pet owners can celebrate the holidays safely by avoiding this list of poisonous or hazardous materials found around your house during the holiday seasons...
As always, if you are concerned your pet may have consumed a potentially hazardous item or is showing any of the warning signs above, make sure to contact us immediately.
Question: I’ve heard that sugarless gum can be toxic to my dog...Is that true?
Answer: There are a lot of myths out there regarding things that can be bad for your furry friends, but unfortunately, this one is indeed true. Sugarless candy and gum can contain an ingredient called xylitol, a common sugar substitute which can be fatal.
There are two different ways that xylitol can have potentially fatal effects. First, the pancreas confuses xylitol with real sugar and then releases insulin to store the “sugar.” The insulin then removes real sugar from the blood stream instead, leading to hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This causes disorientation, weakness, tremors and even seizures.
Higher doses of xylitol can actually cause destruction of liver cells. In the worst cases, this can lead to an inability to clot blood and internal hemorrhage. It is still not understood how xylitol causes liver damage, and not all dogs will experience signs of low blood sugar first before liver damage occurs.
As little as one stick of gum could cause hypoglycemia in a 10 pound dog. It takes about ten times that amount to cause liver damage in a 10 pound dog. If your dog ingests sugarless gum, it is best to get them to their veterinarian right away so that vomiting can be induced. IV fluids and blood monitoring may also be necessary. As always, call us if you have any questions.
Question: Why does my animal itch so much?!
Answer: Unquestionably, this is a loaded question, but we can break it down into three basic categories of why your animal might be itching. The categories include, but are not limited to, allergies, skin parasites, and skin infections. Skin allergies can be broken down into a food allergy or an environmental allergy.
Environmental allergies are diagnosed by doing a skin test (similar to a scratch test in humans) to find out what the animal is allergic to. Once completed, allergy injections are then given to hyposensitize the patient. A food allergy is treated by feeding a hypoallergenic diet with single unique protein ingredients such as fish, rabbit, duck or venison with a single carbohydrate such as potato or rice and no other treats or chewable supplements can be given for a minimum of eight weeks.
Skin parasites include fleas and a variety of mites which can be diagnosed through a physical exam and skin scraping. Parasitic skin infections are treated with dips and oral anti-parasitic medications. Skin infections are usually secondary to skin allergies and parasites and require antibiotics to resolve it. Without a doubt, skin issues can be very frustrating and time consuming to treat, but there is light at the end of the tunnel with some patience and persistence.
Contact your veterinarian if you have any questions, or if you think your pet may have a skin condition.
Question: What is this and why is it green?
Answer: This is a corneal ulcer in the eye of a dog. The reason that it is green is because in order to diagnose a corneal ulcer, we must do a fluorescein stain to see if there is any green uptake indicating an ulcer. A corneal ulcer is a break in the outer layer of the cornea and though initially painful, should heal within 4 to 7 days with appropriate topical antibiotics.
However, ulcers that are not healing are deemed complicated and may require surgery to help the healing process. Signs of an eye ulcer include holding their eyelids shut, excessive tearing and blinking, and rubbing their eye on things.
If you suspect a coronary ulcer, see a veterinarian immediately because simple ulcers can quickly develop into complicated ulcers which can compromise your dog’s vision.
Question: My cat hates to go to the vet. I have such a difficult time getting her into the carrier, and then when we get there, she hisses and spats at the vet and me. Is there anything I can do?
Answer: I am sorry to hear that your cat gets so anxious and nervous about coming in for a visit but there are some things that can make the experience better for both of you.
First, make sure to get your carrier out a few days ahead of time. Put it in an area that your cat enjoys. You can even place a few treats inside the carrier to encourage her to go inside and place a towel in the carrier to make it more comfy for your kitty.
I also recommend purchasing a product called Feliway. It comes in a spray as well as a diffuser. Feliway is a cat pheromone product that can help a cat feel more relaxed. About one hour prior to your veterinary appointment, spray the inside of the carrier with Feliway. About ½ hour prior to your appointment, place your cat within the carrier. Do not feed your kitty the day of the appointment, so that she will be more interested in treats.
When you’re at the veterinarian, check to see if there are any dogs in the waiting room. If there are, ask to be put into an exam room right away and once in, make sure to open the carrier right away. You can give your cat some treats to help make the experience pleasant. If you have a carrier that the top comes off easily, remove the top.
Many times the veterinarian can examine the cat while in the carrier. Let your kitty explore the exam room and encourage her with praise.
With these tips, your next visit should be a good one or at least better than the last.