All posts in Pet Safety Tips

Good Tidings

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Frosted windowpanes, candles gleaming inside, painted candy canes on the tree… The holidays are a time to eat, decorate and celebrate. However remember those same treats and trimmings can be potentially dangerous to our pets.

Sweets and chocolates can be poisonous. Chocolate contains theobromine –a potent cardiac stimulant. The highest doses of theobromine are found in unsweetened baking chocolate. Fortunately, milk chocolate has been “diluted” with sugars, creams and milk and contains much less theobromine. Milk chocolate ingestion can result in vomiting and diarrhea; it usually does not cause toxicosis unless a large amount is ingested. However, seizures and a dangerously elevated heart rate can easily occur when a 10 lb dog or cat ingests as little as ¼ ounce of baking chocolate. Xylitol containing sugar free chewing gum and candy can be hazardous. Xylitol ingestion can result in a sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures. There may also be a link between xylitol ingestion and liver failure. There was a 140 % increase in reports of xylitol poisoning from 2004 to 2005 at the Animal Poison Control Center.
Uncooked, yeast dough can cause alcohol poisoning in your pet. Alcohol is a breakdown byproduct of yeast and sugar fermentation. Rising dough can also bloat in your pet’s stomach causing severe abdominal pain. Many cases will require surgical removal of the dough and hospitalized supportive care.

Grapes and raisins when ingested can cause kidney failure in certain animals. Veterinarians don’t yet understand the causative agent or the exact mechanism of the kidney injury nor the exact amount ingested needed to result in kidney damage. Not all animals that ingest grapes or raisins become affected, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Take grapes and raisins off of your pet’s menu.

Holiday leftovers are often fatty, rich foods that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and lead to inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis is a serious disease that usually requires extensive hospitalization. Never feed your pet left over bones. Bones can lodge in the roof of the mouth, esophagus, stomach and the intestinal tract. Smaller poultry bones can splinter and lacerate the gastrointestinal mucosa similar to glass shards.

Mistletoe and Holly berries are especially dangerous plants. Be sure to keep these out of reach of pets and children. Don’t forget that your cat can be a sneaky climber and reach unthinkable heights when drawn to a new plant. Use artificial substitutes of both of these instead. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not toxic. Their leaves and branches can be very irritating to mucous membranes and thus may cause excessive salivation and vomiting but not toxicosis. Christmas tree tinsel, ornaments and needles can pose choking hazards. Ribbon and tinsel can cut the intestines and cause the loops to accordion onto themselves resulting in emergency surgery. Consider anchoring the Christmas tree to prevent curious cats from toppling the tree as they climb to the top. Remember most pets will help themselves to the Christmas tree water so don’t use additives or preservatives in the water.

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Safe & Happy Holidays for Your Pets: Tips from a Concerned Veterinarian in Springfield, MO

To help protect your loyal companions, let’s revisit safety tips on common risks that arise for pets during the holiday season.

A favorite of our veterinary hospital in Springfield, MO, Keira loved snow.

Many dogs love to play in the snow, like Keira here,
but even the biggest, wooliest pets are at risk when left outside unsupervised.


 
Chances are your beloved pets land right near the top of your 2014 Reasons to be Thankful list. We know our staff’s pets leave us all endlessly thankful. With a total of 11 dogs, nine cats, two fish, and one rabbit (among our many families, of course!), we have a bunch of cuddle buddies to keep us grateful. Along with all the smiles, pets come with a heap of responsibilities. That’s especially important to remember during the revelry and hustle and bustle of the holidays.

So you can give your pets the gift of Safe & Happy Holidays, we’ve put together the following set of useful pet safety tips.

Pet Stress

All those family get-togethers in November and December can, at times, be downright overwhelming for people — and humans at least know when and why our daily routines will be tossed aside. Just imagine the stress pets feel with all that chaos invading their homes without warning! To help your dogs or cats cope, designate a cozy, peaceful place they can escape to for some much-needed quiet time. Keep that spot stocked with food, water, and their favorite toys. We also recommend spending snuggle time together there in advance, so your pet knows the safe zone is a reward, not a punishment.

As your trusted veterinarian in Springfield, MO, we have one last important Pet Stress tip for you: Remember to join your buddy for a quick visit to the safe zone when you need it! Sneaking away to pet your pet for a few minutes will trigger endorphins for you both, helping your pet relax and helping you find your inner happy place. We find that helps people remember how thankful they are to be hosting the big family dinner.

People Food

Special treats are terrific rewards for pets, and we’re all for including every member of the family in the feasting — if done safely. It’s easy to indulge your pleading pet without risking harm or even death. Simply reserve the people food for people and stock up on safe yet tasty treats for the four-legged folk.

“Yeah, but what’s the big harm in sharing leftovers with pets?,” you ask. The risks are very real. Older pets are at particular risk with any uninformed guests around. Conditions like diabetes and chronic kidney disease in dogs and cats require crucial diet restrictions that many people don’t know about. If your pet has similar health issues, be sure to let guests know it’s just plain dangerous to share people food.

Here are just a few foods, as listed on the American Humane Association (AHA) website, that pose a threat to animals if not disposed of properly:

  • Chocolate can be deadly; it can also damage the heart as well as the central nervous system and urinary system. Like Dr. Ned warned last year, don’t forget pets can easily sniff out and unwrap gifts of chocolate, so keep those and other edible gifts put away.
  • Bones can cause deadly damage by tearing your pet’s intestines.
  • Onions from turkey stuffing can cause anemia in dogs.
  • Grapes can cause kidney failure.

Cocktails, beer, and wine are dangerous for pets too, so be mindful to keep an eye on your glass when sipping a drink.

All That Glitters

Among those who celebrate Christmas, who doesn’t enjoy the shimmer and sparkle of a beautifully adorned tree? Not many. You know who really finds your Christmas tree irresistible? The cat and the dog. With all that shiny tinsel and the glittery ornaments, not to mention the pretty ribbons on gifts, the towering tree is downright taunting your pets. And they may very well retaliate if you’re not watching. It may seem like such a scene would be comical to see, like in the classic Christmas Vacation flick. In the real world, though, the outcome can be far from funny if a pet tangles with the tree or other decorations.

Here are a few important precautions — again, as noted on the AHA site—to take when decorating:

  • Keep pets away from the tree water, which is often full of bacteria and/or poisons from preservatives used on the tree.
  • Ensure the tree is stable, so it won’t fall if a pet jumps on it.
  • Place any tinsel, ribbon, or breakable ornaments toward the top of the tree or on tall shelves, so pets can’t reach the would-be “toys” and risk swallowing them. Many pets have choked on these decorations or have needed surgery to remove obstructions once swallowed.
  • Sweep, sweep, sweep those pine needles and any leaves from other holiday plants. Curious pets don’t know that pine needles and many leaves are full of toxins.

 

Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful

Of course you love your pets too much to ever leave them out in the cold on purpose. But with all the shopping, cooking, gift wrapping, visiting, peacekeeping, and general preparing you have to do this time of year, the ol’ short-term memory can be taxed to capacity. That can lead to absent-minded accidents that put your pets at risk. To take proactive steps against that, you can use handy little tricks that remind you to check on your pet before leaving the house. Here are two tricks we suggest: Keep your keys next to a picture of your pet or leave a note on the door you regularly exit. Those reminders are simple but effective.

For additional tips on keeping your pets safe during the holidays, brush up on Dr. Ned’s 2013 Holiday Safety Tips, which still hold true. If your pet should fall victim to any risks that arise during the holidays, immediately contact your veterinarian or call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435.

Finally, on behalf of everyone at Deerfield Veterinary Hospital, here’s wishing you and yours love, laughter, and lots of snuggle time throughout the season.

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What Fall Flea Freeze Out? Busting a Myth That Leaves Pets at Risk

As we head deeper into fall and the temperature starts to chill a bit, it’s easy to worry less about our pets suffering through flea infestations. After all, fleas and other blood-thirsty parasites don’t thrive in the freezing cold, right? That’s true for the most part, but it only paints part of the picture. Many great pet owners who love and provide dedicated care for their dogs and cats simply don’t realize the risk of fleas doesn’t fade with the summer heat. In fact, a quick Google search for winter flea protection prompts far too many results pointing to the common misconception that fleas won’t attack pets during the fall and winter. It’s time to review the facts, so we can help put that myth out to pasture.

The Fall Flea Surge

As a trusted veterinarian in Springfield, MO, where it gets awfully hot in the summer and bitterly cold in the dead of winter, I field all kinds of questions about why our patient families would need to treat their pets for fleas all year round. The answer is that the cooler temperatures and increased precipitation September tends to bring leads to the fall flea surge—as Dr. Michael Dryden, widely trusted Professor of Veterinary Parasitology at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Manhattan, has deemed it.1 In fact, Dr. Dryden has found that wild animals carry 70 percent more fleas in the fall than in the summer! How did he discover that? He and his team actually sedated wild animals and then counted their fleas. One poor opossum played the unwilling host to over 1,000 fleas at the time of the research.1

A veterinarian in Springfield MO, Dr. Denise fights fleas from initial kitten shots to elderly dog care checkups.

It’s time to fight the fall flea surge.

The increased flea population during cooler months makes sense when one considers that thicker winter coats hide fleas when wildlife attempts to groom the pests away.2 Fleas find warm places to survive as long as possible, and there’s no host quite as a warm and cozy as a furry animal—including any dog or cat who enjoys free run of the house. When fleas attack pets and then make their way inside, they quickly make themselves at home. Fleas nest and lay 40 to 50 eggs every day, wherever they please. Carpets, clothing, and beds make it particularly easy for fleas to thrive throughout the winter.

Compounding the issue, fleas adapt to extreme cold with varying degrees of success during the different stages of life. For example, both adult fleas and flea eggs struggle when temperatures remain at 37°F or below, and they die if it remains that cold for more than 10 days. Flea pupae, on the other hand, are bundled up in a protective layer that can keep them alive in the frigid weather throughout the winter and beyond—for up to a full year.

The Winnable Fight Against Fleas

Unlike wildlife that can only rely on grooming to control fleas, your pets have an advocate to help protect them from fleas throughout the year. Whatever the season, a monthly flea preventive is critical to stopping flea infestations, and fall is the absolute worst time of year to cut back on flea control. If we erroneously let fleas off the hook during the cooler weather, those pesky parasites have a far better chance to invade our homes and happily overwinter with our pets.

The proven need for year-round flea control applies to pets of all ages. You already know the importance of scheduling preventive kitten shots and puppy vaccinations, but many people don’t realize even young animals can safely receive flea control medicines. At Deerfield Veterinary Hospital, we urge pet owners to begin a monthly preventive plan during the very first visit for their new kitten or puppy. That lets us protect the pet right from the start and gives our caring staff the opportunity to show new pet owners how to properly administer the medicine.

The year-round approach is equally important for elderly dog care and senior cat care. Although our older pals generally don’t go outside as often, that doesn’t mean they are at less risk of contracting fleas. As older pets slow down, they become easier targets for fleas and other parasites. Older cats typically aren’t as fastidious of groomers, so your elderly cat may not keep up that beautiful coat as well as when she was younger. Thankfully, we can prevent the discomfort and pain fleas cause for older pets. That’s even more crucial when considering any chronic underlying issues your beloved pet may be enduring.

Our Preferred Flea Control Methods

Thanks to the many powerful breakthroughs in parasite prevention in recent years, dealing with fleas and flea bite allergies is something our pets no longer need to do—at any age.

It is, of course, always important to consider the unique needs and living situation for individual pet patients before making a final choice of flea control medicines. So stop by Deerfield Veterinary Hospital or visit your local veterinarian to learn which option is best for your pet. While you’re there, ask about a few of the flea control methods I find to be particularly reliable and effective:

  • Topical Flea Prevention for Dogs: Frontline and Revolution are great choices.
  • Oral Flea Prevention for Dogs: Nexgard and Trifexis are known to work well.
  • Topical Flea Prevention for Cats: Revolution is a reliable option.
  • Oral Flea Prevention for Cats: Currently, there are no approved oral options for cats.

If you have any questions about flea prevention, we would love to meet your pet and recommend the option that’s right for his or her needs: Get in touch with a Deerfield Veterinary Hospital staff member.

References

  1. “No Foolin’ Fall Is Prime Flea Season.” Dale, Steve. Oct. 18, 2011. “Steve Dale’s Pet World” on the ChicagoNow website. Accessed Sept. 15, 2014 at chicagonow.com/steve-dales-pet-world/2011/10/no-foolin-fall-is-prime-flea-season/.
  2. “Why Fleas Surge in the Fall.” Dr. Bramlage, DVM. The Revival Animal Health website. Accessed Sept. 15, 2014 at revivalanimal.com/articles/Why-Fleas-Surge-in-Fall.html.
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Springfield MO Vet Aquires New Digtial X-Ray Technology

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Deerfield Veterinary Hospital in Springfield Mo. purchased a Vet Ray Digital radiography machine. How does this machine differ from our previous veterinary digital radiography machine?

Our new veterinary digital x-ray emits 8 times less radiation than our previous machine.  This makes our machine more environmentally friendly by decreasing its carbon footprint. This also means that your pet and our veterinary team are being exposed to less radiation with each radiograph performed which significantly decreases our chances of obtaining radiation exposure from repeated contact with the x-ray beam.

The Vet Ray produces a clearer, more detailed image which allows us to appreciate the finer details of our patients organ shape, size, and overall organ health. For instance,  we are able to appreciate the thickness of the intestinal bowel loop walls and determine if inflammation, infection, or possible neoplasia may be present; whereas with our previous machine we were only able to see the loops of bowel and not appreciate the wall thickness. This allows us to diagnose abnormalities sooner and provide intervention to hopefully reverse or prevent further progression of diseases and to improve the quality of life for your pet.

Additional patient friendly features include a 4 Way Float Top Table! This means that the table glides gently left, right, forward, or backwards as needed to properly position your pet to obtain the best image possible. We no longer have to physically slide the animal on the table to be directly under the beam, but instead move the table while the patient rests comfortably for appropriate positioning. This reduces stress and anxiety for our patients allowing them to spend more time in your arms, and less time on our table.

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Veterinary Technician Specialists – Extraordinary Partners in Your Pet’s Care!

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Like human medicine, veterinary care has made some fantastic strides in both knowledge and technology in the last few decades.  Pet owners and general practice veterinarians increasingly look to specialists, such as veterinary oncologists or veterinary dentists, to help resolve complicated problems.

Veterinarians who specialize undergo a multi-year process of work ending in a board exam and what is known as “board certification”. In many cases, it is the equivalent to another doctor’s degree.  Working alongside these specialists are growing numbers of Veterinary Technician Specialists who carry the designation: VTS.

Most people are aware that veterinarians need a knowledgeable and helpful staff for the day to day running of the hospital, but many don’t know that some team members are actually credentialed professionals – usually identified as a CVT, or certified veterinary technician.   Beyond that, some techs have taken additional time to advance their knowledge and skills and have been awarded certification in one of several areas of technician specialization.

In 1994, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) granted their first provisional specialty to the newly formed Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians.  In this case, the term “academy” designates an organization that administers a formal process of education, training and testing prior to awarding recognition to individuals as “specialists”.   Only registered, licensed or certified veterinary technicians can be part of any academy.

Credentialed technicians can now choose from 11 different academies of specialization.  These range from anesthesia to dentistry and internal medicine to behavior, equine care and even zoo animal medicine.   A complete list of approved academies can be found at the NAVTA website (www.navta.net).

Technician monitoring patient Veterinary News NetworkTo accomplish this, veterinary technicians will need to work thousands of hours in their chosen area and log dozens of cases for review.  In the case of Veterinary Technician Specialists in Anesthesia (VTSA), these individuals must work at least three years as a veterinary technician and submit more than 4500 hours of work with anesthesia.  During the calendar year of application, the technician must also submit 50-75 case logs, including at least four cases submitted in full detail to highlight the applicant’s knowledge and skills.

Even after all of this, extensive continuing education credits must be proven along with two letters of recommendation and the completion of the certification exam.  Some academies also call for annual examinations to insure that their specialist technicians are staying up to date with the changes in veterinary medicine.  Although each academy has slightly differing requirements for their applicants, the Anesthesia Academy’s example details just how challenging this career path can be!

Whatever specialty they choose, VTSs are crucial in helping the veterinarian specialist provide the highest level of care to patients.  As a case in point, veterinary emergency and critical care technicians (VECCT) will function to triage animals coming into the hospital as well as manage the patients present in the ICU ward.  These highly organized individuals function well under the pressure of a chaotic emergency room atmosphere and can be an island of calm when owners are frantic and worried about their pets.

Technician explaining heartworm prevention to client Veterinary News NetworkClient interaction and education is another important task for veterinary technician specialists.  Often, the patient’s condition is complex and serious and worried owners may not remember all of their questions or concerns while speaking with the veterinarian.  By being available and knowledgeable enough to handle these situations, technician specialists will help lessen client’s fears, provide a higher level of patient care and increase their veterinarian’s efficiency.

Beyond specialty hospitals, veterinary technician specialists can also be found at general practice veterinary clinics, helping to educate staff members and increase the hospital’s expertise.

There’s no doubt that everyone who works in any veterinary practice, from the smallest country clinic to the largest specialty hospital, has a passion for helping pets.  But, when your regular veterinarian talks about the need for a beloved fur-friend to see a specialist, it can be unnerving and stressful.  Rest easy and know that dedicated doctors, along with compassionate and knowledgeable technician specialists, will do all that they can to ease your pet’s ills and send him back home to you.

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