Keeping your pet safe during the holiday season

Now we are on the countdown to Christmas, many of us will be putting up the tree and decorations over the coming weeks. Your pets may find this time of year very exciting and even come up with some novel games like “Climb the weird indoor tree” and “eat the Christmas decorations as fast as you can”. I’m sure you will agree that you would prefer to spend the holiday season celebrating with your family, rather than visiting the vet; so here are our tips for having pet safe celebrations.

Dangerous Foods

Be very careful what you feed your pets because lots of festive treats can be harmful to our pets.  It may be tempting to give your pet lots of treats over the holiday period, but any sudden change of diet may lead to digestive upsets and very poorly pets. Be on the look out for well-meaning visitors giving extra tit-bits to your pets and remember that over indulgence can lead to an unhealthy weight gain. Make sure any festive treats and snacks for the family are kept well out of your pet’s reach.

Some examples of potentially harmful foods are

  • Chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Sweets
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Fruit cakes, mince pies, Christmas pudding
  • Onions
  • Alcohol
  • Meat Bones

Some Christmas foods and drinks are highly toxic to pets

Decorations

Shiny ornaments and decorations can be very attractive to curious pets who could suffer serious injuries from chewing and ingesting them.  Any decorations should be kept out of reach of curious pets when possible.

  • Tinsel can be very attractive to cats and dogs but if it is eaten, it can cause blockages which often require surgery to remove.
  • Ribbons and string can cause intestinal obstructions if swallowed and are a choking hazard to pets if they get caught around the neck.
  • Pot-pourri contains oils that can be toxic to pets if eaten.
  • Ensure that the base of your Christmas tree is as sturdy as possible and discourage your pets from climbing it.
  • Tree needles can be toxic and cause mouth and stomach irritation. Even needles and the wire of artificial trees could pose a problem.
  • Chewing on electrical cords of lights can cause problems ranging from burned mouths, to electrical shock and death.
  • A lot of Christmas plants are toxic to pets including Mistletoe, Holly and Poinsettia, which can all can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Ivy leaves and berries are particularly hazardous to rabbits.
  • If you have a real tree make sure your pet cannot drink the water in the bucket/stand. Many people use preservatives to keep their tree alive that are highly toxic to pets.
  • Never leave lighted candles unattended or within reach of your pet. If knocked over they can cause burns or lead to a fire.
  • Make sure your pet is always supervised when in a room with festive decorations

Always supervise pets around Christmas decorations

Gifts Under The Tree

Gifts under a tree can prove very attractive to pets for chewing or playing with so make sure that your pet is supervised at all times

  • Avoid putting any food gifts out until right before your family will be opening them, as these will be very appealing to your pet.
  • Perfumes and after-shaves usually contain ethanol and essential oils which can be very toxic.
  • Batteries for toys or other gifts can be toxic and cause intestinal obstruction, so keep them in a safe place until they are ready to be inserted into the gift.
  • Rawhide or other edible items for pets left under the tree can be very tempting.
  • Companies often package rawhide and other pet gifts wrapped in ribbon, so make sure to remove this packaging before you present gifts to your pets.

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Routine

Most pets are creatures of habit so try to keep your pets routine the same as normal if possible. With lots of excitement and visitors it is often easy to forget to walk the dog or let the cat outside. A dog that is tired after a good run will be happier to sit or lie quietly and get into less trouble than a bored one. Try to keep your pets feeding times the same and don’t be tempted to add too many rich festive extras to the bowl, as this may cause a tummy upset and could result in a trip to the vet.

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Fancy Dress

Christmas jumpers and Santa hats are popular with many of us at this time of year and because we consider our pets to be important members of the family, this trend is sometimes extended to them as well. With plenty of cute festive outfits being widely available from pet stores it can be fun to dress up your pet if he or she will tolerate it, but please remember that when wearing a pet coat, jumper or festive outfit that your pet could easily overheat in the extra layers; these extra items should be removed after a few minutes, especially if you are indoors.

  • Any dress up outfits should still allow your pet to move around freely and be able to eat, drink and go to the toilet.
  • Ensure your pet is not uncomfortable whilst being dressed up; if he or she just sits in one place and refuses to move, walks around hunched up or is pawing at the offending article, please remove it.
  • Watch for signs of overheating
  • Ensure your pet’s outfit doesn’t get tangled or caught on anything

Christmas fancy dress cat

Visitors

Sometimes lots of visiting people can be very stressful for our pets.

  • Make sure your pet has somewhere to retreat to if it all gets a bit too much.  Provide a quiet room away from the commotion with water and food available.
  • Provide your cat with a litter tray if he or she is nervous of visitors, so that he or she does not have to worry about asking to be let out.
  • Don’t force your pets to be sociable and petted by visitors if they seem uncomfortable.
  • Brushing up on obedience training before the holidays may help a dog who has become a little rusty.
  • Be sure to inform your visitors of any household ‘rules’ or problem behaviours concerning your pets, for example, jumping up on the sofa, sneaking out the door or stealing food from the table.
  • If your pet gets distressed when you have visitors you can use Feliway (for cats) or Adaptil (for dogs), these give off pheromones which help calm cats and dogs during stressful periods. Speak with your veterinary nurse for more information.
  • For dogs who may not behave or could be aggressive, placing them in a separate room, using pet gates, or sending them to stay at a friend’s house during a party, may be necessary and sometimes, boarding a dog in a kennel may be the safest alternative.

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Travel

If you are travelling around to visit relatives and friends, make sure that suitable provisions have been made for your pets.

  • A bed or a travel crate is a good idea so that your pet has their own area to rest in.
  • Remember to take your pet’s food and bowls.
  • Find the number of a vet local to the place you are visiting and take a copy of your pet insurance policy, in case of illness or accidents.
  • Make sure your pet is micro-chipped and is wearing a collar with a suitable id tag, just in case he or she runs off.
  • If your pet gets distressed about travelling and visiting strange places you can use Feliway (for cats) or Adaptil (for dogs), these give off pheromones which help calm cats and dogs during stressful periods.
  • Remember to allow your pet time alone and a place to retreat to. This is especially important with dogs if there is another dog in the house that you are visiting (or if other dogs are visiting you).

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Summertime Pet Care, Health Checks and Holidays

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With summer in full swing most of us are spending more time outdoors enjoying the warm weather. Your pets will hopefully be enjoying the weather too but there are a few things you can do to ensure they stay comfortable and safe in the summer months.

To help keep your pet cool
  • Provide fresh water at all times. It is really important to check water bowls and bottles frequently and freshen the water as necessary. If you are taking your dog out in hot weather it is a good idea to take water and a bowl with you
  • Provide access to a shaded area and make sure your pet can get out of the sun if he or she wants too
  • Move cages and runs away from windows and/or direct sunlight
  • Place a wet towel on the ground for them to lie on if there are no cool tiles available
  • Use a fan but make sure your pet can get out of the air flow and can’t chew the cable
  • Exercise dogs early in the morning and late in the evening when it is slightly cooler
  • Pets with white ears and pink noses can suffer with sunburn so apply a pet sun block to these areas
  • Avoid long journeys in cars if possible and definitely do not leave your pet in a parked car (see our heatstroke article)
  • Some dogs like to play in paddling pools, but they should always be supervised
Summertime Hazards

Barbecues are on the agenda for a lot of households, but while they are fin for us they are a scavenging hazard for pets! In the summer months veterinary practices often see a lot of pets with tummy upsets or burns after scavenging food, as well as pets that need operations to remove things like corn cobs, bones and wooden meat skewers that have been eaten and got stuck in the stomach or intestines.

If you have a nervous pet who becomes  distressed when you have lots of visitors, make sure he or she has a room they can retreat to where they will be undisturbed.

Flystrike is another summer problem; it occurs when a fly lays its eggs on an animal and the maggots that hatch eat the flesh of the animal. Flystrike mainly affects rabbits, but other pets can and do get affected too.  The flies are attracted to soiled bottoms, poo and wounds, so make sure you check your pet daily and keep hutches, cages and bottoms clean. Flystrike is a veterinary emergency, so if you suspect your pet has flystrike contact your vet quickly.

Grass Seeds and Plant Awns can be a real nuisance at this time of year and we  see a lot of patients (particularly dogs), with grass seeds and plant awns embedded in various parts of their bodies. Check your pet’s coat daily and remove any seeds or awns that you find. (You can read more in our Grass Seed article

Summer dangers
Holidays and Pets

With the summer holidays upon us once again, you may already have your holiday arranged, but are your pets ready for that “restful” break you are planning? We all love our holidays because they are a break from our normal daily routines, but it can be a very stressful time for our pets who may find a change to their normal routine very unsettling and this may present itself as behavioural changes and a loss of appetite.

Your pet will deal with their change in routine far better if they are fit and healthy. A veterinary check beforehand can be helpful in spotting any problems that may arise whilst you are away, it is also a great idea to let your veterinary practice know that you will be on holiday in case they need to see your pet in your absence or discuss your pets clinical notes with another vet. If your pet needs to take regular medication you will need to make sure that you have enough to last.

Kennels and Catteries

If your pet will be staying at a kennel or cattery, make sure that you arrange to visit it beforehand; You should be able to inspect it for cleanliness and see how happy the other boarders are. You will also be able to discuss the individual care your pet will receive and what their daily routine will be.

Many pets don’t mind going into kennels and there has been recent research that suggests some dogs find it really exciting. Some pets, however, really do not like the extreme change and sometimes noisy environment of a boarding kennel or cattery and can be very distressed by the whole experience.  Before you leave, make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date as they will not be allowed to stay in kennels if they are not, it is also a good idea to treat your pet for fleas before they go in to kennels.

Kennels and cattery

Pet Sitters

Some pets cope much better if they are looked after in their home environment and many companies now offer pet sitting services. Someone will either pop in to see your pet once or twice daily or move into your home until you get back to provide 24 hour care. these services are becoming more and more popular with pet owners and are a great alternative to the stressful kennel environment.

Dog sitters

Another option for dogs is that they go and stay in someone’s home until you get back from your holiday. After a chat with you about your dog’s requirements and favourite things a host or carer takes your dog into their home for the duration of your holiday.

Pet Sitter

Whichever type of care your choose for your pet, make sure that you let your veterinary practice know how long you will be away for and that you give permission for someone else to authorise treatment for your pet in case they cannot get hold of you in an emergency.

Taking your pet with you 

If you are lucky enough to be taking your pet on holiday, remember to take food, toys, bedding and insurance details with you. Ensure your dog or cat  is wearing an id tag with your contact details on it at all times, in case he or she gets lost,(or update your pet’s id chip details to your holiday address and contact number. It is also a very good idea to know where the local veterinary practice is and their phone number in case of emergencies.

Dog owners should make sure that they know of any local rules and regulations regarding where and how dogs can be walked – this is especially important on beaches and protected areas.

Remember not to leave your pet alone in a caravan, especially on a hot and sunny day as they will get far too hot.

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For more advice or an appointment please contact Castle Vets on 0118 9574488 or visit our website

The Dangers Of Grass Seeds And Plant Awns

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Summer is finally here and many of us are taking our dogs for lovely long walks through fields and woods. But at this time of year at Castle Vets we start to see a lot of patients (particularly dogs), with grass seeds and plant awns embedded in various parts of the body. This article will hopefully help raise awareness on this extremely painful problem.

During hot summery conditions grasses and plants start to dry out and their barbed seeds begin to scatter. These can cause major problems for our dogs (and occasionally other pets), who often get these seeds caught in their paws, nostrils, ears, eyes and skin. The problem is that these seeds have ‘one-way’ barbs that allow the seed to work its way through the fur, in one direction only, and then into the skin of the animal. If they are not found and removed quickly, these seeds have been known to work their way through the skin and end up causing serious problems as they migrate further into the body.

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Grass seed and plant awns cause serious problems for pets at this time of year

The most common places we see grass seeds or plant awns

Paws – The grass seed gets hooked into the fur, especially in the groves between the toes on top of the paw and the between the pads beneath the paw, and then starts making its way toward the skin. It can then penetrate the skin and burrow deeper into the tissue leaving a tract (narrow tunnel) behind. The first sign of this is usually persistent licking and/or nibbling between the toes or of the whole paw because the grass seed causes pain, discomfort, swelling, inflammation, lameness and infection.

Ears – Grass seeds that get caught in the ear hair can soon make their way down the ear canal and end up next to the very delicate ear drum. The signs of this are usually pawing of the ear, head shaking, rubbing the head/ear on the ground and also inflammation (redness) of the ear flap. If left the grass seed may penetrate the ear drum and cause worse problems,

Nose – Grass seeds are sometimes inhaled by the animal and then get lodged in the nasal passage. The signs of this are usually sneezing or snorting, pawing at the nose and some nasal discharge.

Other less common places can include the eyes where the seed causes irritation to the surrounding area or even penetrates the eye itself. Or the mouth where the seeds can get lodged in the gums or throat causing irritation, pain and discomfort. From here the seed could travel down into the body causing abscesses and damage to internal organs.

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Seeds and awns in the paw, ear and nose

Removal of grass seeds and plant awns

If you are lucky you may find the seed as it is just starting to penetrate the skin. These can usually be pulled out gently with some tweezers and the wound can be bathed and treated with an antiseptic solution.

Once a grass seed has penetrated the skin the process becomes much more difficult. Because they are vegetable matter, grass seeds and awns will not show up on an X-ray and can be very difficult for the vet to locate; it is often like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack!.
In most cases the patient will need a heavy sedation or a general anaesthetic before the vet can remove the seed because of the pain and inflammation caused.

When removing seeds from the ear canal the vet uses the otoscope to look down the ear canal and a pair of sterile crocodile forceps (pictured), which are narrow and long and have a grasping mechanism that can be used to remove the seed once it has been located.

For seeds in the paws and skin, the vet will again use the crocodile forceps by inserting them into the tract left by the seed as it entered the skin, unfortunately because the seed cannot be seen this is often a very frustrating procedure for the vet, and may require several attempts with several anaesthetics for the pet.

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Crocodile forceps

Prevention is better than cure!

  • Be particularly vigilant at checking your pet’s coat for grass seeds, plant seeds and burs that may become entangled in the hair.
  • Daily grooming will help remove any attached seeds and help you check for any suspicious looking areas or wounds.
  • Keep hair around the feet, foot pads and ears trimmed short if possible, as this will help prevent grass seeds attaching.
  • Avoid walking in areas with long grasses during this time of year.
  • Don’t allow your dog to chew grasses that have seed heads on them.
  • If your pet is showing any signs of discomfort, such as licking, lameness, head shaking, excessive sneezing, coughing etc. or if you find a wound that you suspect could be from a seed take them to the vet as soon as possible. The quicker we can remove the seed, the less damage it will do.

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Keep Your Pets Safe This Halloween

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Halloween can be a fun and exciting time for families with children but please spare a moment to think about your pets and the potential hazards at this time of year.

Sweeties 

We all know that sweets are not good for our pets but it is worth remembering that chocolate is especially toxic to dogs even in small quantities (depending on the type of chocolate) and can cause symptoms ranging from mild excitement and tremors to vomiting, diarrhoea and collapse.

Sweets, gums, mints, baked goods and chocolate containing the “sugar free” sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to our pets and can cause rapid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure in dogs and possibly other species such as ferrets.

Lollipop sticks can also cause obstructions if they are swallowed whole

Strangers at the door wearing scary costumes

This can be very stressful for some pets and both cats and dogs may become worked up by the constant knocking on the front door. Some dogs may also become unexpectedly fearful or show aggression when faced with these very odd looking people. Make sure that your pets have a safe and quiet place to retreat to when the trick or treating starts. If you are going to dress up your dog and have him great the visitors make sure you monitor him or her for signs of distress.

Pumpkins, Candles and Lanterns

These can be a fire risk if they are knocked over by a wagging tail or a scared cat so be wary of where they are placed around the home.

Dressing up your pets

Halloween costumes can look great on our pets and there are certainly lots of costumes available to buy but before you dress up your pet you should consider the following:

  • A pet in costume should NEVER be left alone and unsupervised.
  • Tight elastics on the costumes can get lost in the pet’s hair, potentially causing owners to overlook them, leading to swelling and possibly pain or infection.
  • Some pets, if left alone in costume, may chew it up and eat it, which may cause an internal obstruction.
  • If the costumed pet escapes or is frightened away, the costume could entangle the pet on trees, fences, etc.

Bottom line – if your pet enjoys being dressed up that’s brilliant but, if he or she looks uncomfortable or just sits/lies in one place you should remove the costume.

 

Happy Halloween from Castle Vets