All Posts tagged pet safety tips

Safety Tips For The Holidays

Lights, decorations, good food… every year, as we celebrate the holidays, we fill our homes with seasonal cheer for ourselves and our families. However, what may seem beautiful and harmless to us may pose hidden dangers to our pets. Don’t let an emergency spoil the festivities! Below are some common holiday hazards for dogs and cats and ways to prevent them.

DANGEROUS FOODS

The following can be toxic to pets: chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, garlic, onion, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, bread dough, and sugar-free candy and gum containing the artificial sweetener xylitol.

HOLIDAY MEALS

Despite tradition, bones should never be given to pets. Even beef, ham, and other “regular” foods that are not considered toxic can cause illness in pets. If your pet is a moocher, keep a saucer of his regular treats on the table to offer when he asks. He probably won’t know the difference!

GIFTS

Even a pet-safe treat can cause stomach upset if it is new to your pet. Offer only one of these at a time (ideally, separated by a few days). If your pet becomes ill after eating a holiday treat, it will be easier to trace the source and discontinue it. Also, check new toys for sharp edges, pieces that can be chewed off, or other potential hazards.

GREENERY

Hazardous plants include mistletoe, some evergreens (including some types of pine), and holly bushes and berries. Try to keep these plants away from pets, or at least supervise pets when dangerous plants are nearby.

DECORATIONS

Tinsel, tree ornaments, ribbons, string, and garlands are some items that can be dangerous if eaten by pets. Keep these items away from pets — especially when pets are unattended. Don’t forget to cover any electrical cords or keep them out of reach.

FIRE AND CARBON MONOXIDE

Monitor pets near fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, candles, and portable heaters. Also, don’t forget to check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are functioning properly. Space heaters, furnaces, and idling cars (in a garage) can increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in pets and humans.

CHRISTMAS TREES

Monitor your pets when they are around your holiday tree. Pets may eat the needles (even from artificial trees) or drink water from the base of the tree, which can be toxic (especially if there are preservatives in it). Keep electrical cords and decorative lights out of reach, too.

In many cases, if your pet has eaten or drunk something toxic, warning signs will include gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Other signs may include tiredness and lack of appetite, especially in cats that have eaten lilies. If your pet shows any of these signs, or if you think he or she has eaten something dangerous but is not showing any signs yet, please call us right away. Treating your pet as soon as possible is essential!

We will be glad to answer any questions you have about your pet’s health. Let’s work together to make sure your entire family has a happy, healthy holiday season!

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Raw Food Diet Controversy

Take a stroll down the pet food aisle of your favorite store and your eyes will take in every imaginable color, a few cartoon characters and a lot of claims stating the food is “improved”, “natural” or even “organic”.  It’s truly a marketing bonanza!  More than 3,000 brands of pet food fill the aisles and pet owners will spend about $18 billion to feed their pets each and every year.

But, high profile recalls, sick pets and corporate mistrust has moved a small number of pet owners to consider making their pets’ food at home, instead of buying it in a bag.  An Internet search for “raw diets” brings up almost 3 million different results, many of which claim that this sort of food is nutritionally superior to the commercially prepared diets.

The raw food diet trend began in 1993 with the publication of “Give Your Dog A Bone” written by Australian veterinarian, Dr. Ian Billinghurst.  Building on the close evolutionary relationship between our dogs and their wolf cousins, Dr. Billinghurst claims that in domesticating the dog we “changed the wolf’s appearance and mind…but not the basic internal workings or physiology”.  Many pet owners agree with this theory and have flocked to a raw meat type of diet for their animals.

Proponents of raw diets claim the foods give their pets more energy, provide more nutrition and overall, their dogs and cats are healthier than animals fed a typical dry or commercial diet.  During the massive pet food recall of 2007, the number of people opting for homemade diets increased dramatically and many have continued to prepare their pet’s food at home.

Adding more fuel to the fire, advocates of homemade foods persist in claims that commercial diets, especially those with a high percentage of grain, are actually shortening the life span of our animals.

How many of these arguments are valid and which ones lack evidence?

First, it is important to understand that all of the reports of increased energy and healthier pets are simply observations by the owners.  Actual scientific and verifiable evidence supporting these claims is non-existent.  To be fair, there is no evidence to refute these statements either.

Many of Dr. Billinghurst’s basic arguments are answered by veterinarians, both in the clinic with clients and in the media.  For example, the claim that dogs must eat meat because they are related to wolves is discussed and usually dismissed.  As a well respected blog, Skeptvet.com, states dogs are omnivores and will often eat a wide variety, including some fruits and vegetables.  Not to mention that there has been more than 100,000 years of divergence between dogs and wolves as well as intense selective breeding, especially in the last 3,000 years.

Another claim that is used by raw food advocates is that dogs and cats can’t digest grains, especially the corn and wheat ingredients found in many commercial diets.  This contention is also refuted by scientific studies showing dogs use these cooked grains as effectively as other carbohydrate sources.

But, perhaps the biggest reason many pet owners opt for preparing their pets’ meals is a mistrust of the corporations formulating the dry foods.  Recalls due to contamination, excessive or deficient nutrients and bacterial contamination seem all too commonplace.  Although these recalls have happened occasionally and pets have become sick, the reality of the situation is that the vast majority of commercial diets are not only safe for our pets, they also provide an optimum level of nutrition, helping out pets live full and healthy lives.

So, is one type of diet actually better than another?

The answer to that question is complex and should always involve a discussion with your veterinarian.  Raw diets, for all their purported benefits, do come with significant risks.  Bacterial contamination is more prevalent with these diets and the potential for an imbalance of nutrients is very high.  If you do choose to use a homemade or raw diet, talk with your veterinarian and use an approved veterinary nutritional site, like BalanceIt.com to insure that your pet does benefit from your extra work.

Also, remember that many pet food companies have decades of experience, research and testing proving the effectiveness and safety of their diets.  It’s true that occasional recalls have happened, but these unfortunate events have also helped determine how to effectively handle this sort of crisis.  Lessons learned from past situations will help to prevent future issues.

Looking forward, science may give us an answer to this on-going and very passionate debate.  But, for now, your best source of advice is not an online forum or manufacturer’s website with products to sell, but rather you should put your trust in your veterinarian.

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HALLOWEEN SAFETY FOR OUR PETS

The fall colors are at there peak today and most of us are looking forward to the  Halloween festivities this weekend, but our pets can truly be “spooked” by all of the noises and costumes.   We hope you have a wonderful time this weekend,  but remember Halloween is a holiday with many potential dangers for our dogs and cats.

First let’s consider the ghost and goblin visits on Halloween eve. The excitement of the day may be too much for even the best-behaved dog.   Constant visitors to the door as well as the spooky sights and sounds may cause some pets to become fearful.  Costumes on people can be scary to pets.   Masks, large hats, and other costume accessories can confuse pets and may even trigger territorial instincts.   It is not unusual for pets to act protective or be fearful of people in costumes, even if they normally are very social with that person.  Your pet could run away and become injured in a variety of ways.  Consider allowing your dog or cat to spend the evening in his own special place inside with special treats, safe and secure from the goblins.  Even if you have a fenced yard, Halloween is definitely not a good night for your dog to be outside without supervision and restraint.  If you can’t keep your cat indoors, considering a boarding facility or your family veterinarian.   Remember, you are responsible for controlling your pet and insuring that he does not bite any of the neighborhood ghosts.

Judging by the pet pictures we get this time of year, many of our clients enjoy dressing their four-legged friends up for the holiday.  Dressing up is fun for everyone, but may not be very fun for our pets.  If your pet tolerates a costume, there are some things to keep in mind.  Your pet must be comfortable at all times.  Avoid any costumes that use rubber bands or anything that might constrict circulation or breathing.  Likewise, avoid costumes with toxic paints or dyes.   Your pet’s costume should be inedible.  If your pet appears uncomfortable in any way, allow him to dress up in his “birthday suit”.

The two biggest concerns for pets during the holiday are injuries and poisonings.  Some Halloween decorations can be unsafe.   Fake cobwebs or anything resembling a string can be tempting to cats, leading to a foreign body obstruction.   Candles inside of pumpkins are easily knocked over, burning your pet or even starting a fire.  Although the threat is probably minimal, many people are concerned about black cats during this time of year.   It might be wise to keep all cats indoors during this holiday.

Keep your pet away from the Halloween candy.   Chocolate can be toxic to pets and even small amounts can cause heart problems and vomiting.  Lollipop sticks and foil wrappers can become lodged in your pet’s digestive tract, causing painful obstructions.  Low carbohydrate, sugar free, diabetic-friendly candy or gum that is sweetened with Xylitol can cause low blood sugar in dogs and has been implicated in liver failure as well.

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