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Holiday Safety Tips

The holiday season is a joyful and merry time with friends and two- and four-legged family members.  The following holiday safety tips will help make the holidays safe for your furry family members and enjoyable for all. 

Christmas Trees
Make sure your tree is secure and can’t be tipped over by playful or curious pets. Placing it in an off-limits room or gating it off is helpful.  Make sure ornaments that could be mistaken for chew toys, fragile ornaments, and those with sentimental value are hung close to the top of the tree so they’re not tempting. Christmas tree water additives can be potentially hazardous to your pets. Some contain antifreeze, and the old wives tales about adding aspirin or sugar to your tree water to keep your tree fresh are not only false but they can cause serious harm to your pet.
 

Decoration
Holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, and some lilies are poisonous.  They should be kept in areas where your pet can’t get to them at all.  If you think your pet has ingested any amount of these plants—call your veterinarian for immediate help. Candles and exposed wires may be attractive to your pet as items to play with.  Make sure they are hidden or kept in pet friendly areas. Tinsel and strings are fun for cats to play with but they are also very dangerous. If ingested they can get tangled up in the intestines and cause blockages.

Food
Eating and treats are part of the holidays. While it’s OK for your pet to safely join in the edible festivities—make sure they don’t ingest certain toxic foods.  Chocolate and candies can contain harmful chemicals that are toxic to pets. Avoid turkey and chickens bones for your pets as they are small and sharp and can cause harm while being eaten and also once they are in the intestines. High fat and spicy foods can cause intestinal discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, and, in some cases, pancreatitis.

If you want to give your pet a special holiday treat offer them plain green beans and carrots, turkey or chicken with no seasoning, or other bland foods. Make sure to limit the amount and ensure they don’t overeat.  If your pet has free access to the house when you’re away—be sure to take out the trash or lock it away removing any temptation.

Enjoy the holidays with your beloved pets in a safe and pet-friendly way. 

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Tips to Keep Pets Safe When You Have Guests

  • Warn your guests if your pets will be free inside your home so they can be sure not to let them out by mistake.
  • Consider leaving your pets in a closed room if they are highly reactive to people they don’t know.
  • Supervise any children your pets don’t know as many children are not taught how to interact around pets and could accidentally become injured.
  • Inform your guests not to give your pets any table scraps.
  • Holiday decorations and plants can be very dangerous for your pets so be sure you and your guests keep them out of your pets’ reach.
The Emergency Division of The Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year to provide exceptional care for your pets when needed. You can reach our Emergency Division at 703.361.8287.
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Food Safety Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe this Thanksgiving

  • Keep holiday food out of reach of pets as any food that your pet is not used to eating can wreak havoc on your pet’s gastrointestinal system.
  • Don’t give your pets foods that contain too much fat such as dark meat turkey, butter, nuts, gravies, bacon, ham, etc. as they can cause pancreatitis which is a potentially life-threatening condition.
  • Never ever give your pets chocolate or any candy or desert containing Xylitol which is an artificial sweetener as chocolate and Xylitol are highly toxic to your pet.
  • No garlic, onions, raisins, grapes, currants, herbs, or essential oils as they can be toxic to your pet.
  • Turkey bones can puncture or become lodged in your in your pet’s gastrointestinal system so don’t give your pets access to them.
  • If you deep fry your turkey—do not allow your pet anywhere near the deep fryer.
  • Keep your holiday trash out of your pet’s reach.
  • If you must share your holiday meal with your pet—offer a very small amount of white meat turkey without skin, a dollop of mashed potatoes, some green beans, and a little lick of pumpkin pie.

The Emergency Division of The Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year to provide care for your pet when needed. You can reach our Emergency Division at 703.361.8287.

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Keep Your Pets Safe at Halloween!

Follow these tips to ensure your pets have a safe and Happy Halloween.

Treats
Make sure your pets only receive pet-specific treats. Candy is unsafe for pets. There are two kinds of candy that are extremely dangerous for your pets.

Chocolate: In all forms chocolate can be toxic to your pet—dark chocolate and baking chocolate are the most potent and are the most dangerous forms for your pet. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity include, but are not limited to:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Panting and restlessness
  • High heartrate
  • Severe cases can include
    • Muscle tremors
    • Seizures
    • Heart failure

If your pet has ingested a large amount of chocolate, especially dark and baking, take your pet to your regular vet or emergency hospital immediately.

Xylitol: This is an ingredient in sugar-free candy. Dogs and cats can’t process Xylitol like we can—even a small amount can be very toxic. If you think your pet has ingested Xylitol it is important to get them to your veterinarian or emergency hospital right away. Symptoms of Xylitol poisoning include, but are not limited to:
• Weakness/lethargy/collapse
• Vomiting and/or black tarry stools
• Tremors and seizures
• Loss of consciousness/coma

Safety: It is best to bring your pets inside before the trick or treating starts. The chaos, costumes, and surrounding activity can be overwhelming for them. Sadly some people take Halloween as an opportunity to do aggressive and mean things to pets. If your pet becomes agitated from repeated knocking on the door you can set up outside to pass out candy.

Decorations: Pumpkins, corn, hay, candles, and candy make for festive decorations. Be careful where you place them around the house. Pumpkins, although non- toxic, can cause upset stomachs if eaten in large volumes. Large chunks of pumpkin and especially corn can get lodged in the stomach or intestines making for an extremely dangerous blockage which would require immediate surgery. Don’t leave lit candles in places that could be easily knocked over. If you have particularly adventurous or playful pets it may be best to use outside decorations only.

Happy Halloween!

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Holiday Safety Tips for Your Cats

my-cat-at-christmas-tree-1-1406484Christmas decorations can be especially dangerous for cats.  Cats are naturally attracted to garland, tinsel, small ornaments, and ribbon.  They look like fun toys for our kitties.  Since cats are able to reach high places many more of these items are accessible to them.  Some cats ingest parts of these items which can require you and your pet to visit the emergency room during the holidays.  You might not realize that your cat is secretly eating tinsel from your Christmas tree while you are sleeping until it is too late.  You can take precautions by keeping small, edible decorations and garland, tinsel, and ribbon out of their reach.

If you notice your cat playing with a dangerous ornament or piece of ribbon, tinsel, or garland you should remove it right away.  If you think your cat has a loss in appetite, is lethargic, or you notice vomiting or diarrhea, it is important to call your veterinarian immediately for a check-up.

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The Dos and Don’ts for Thanksgiving Table Scraps

vrc-thanksgivingIt is easy to give table scraps to our dogs and cats after the Thanksgiving meal.  It is not advisable to offer table scraps to pets on a regular basis but Thanksgiving can be an exception if you follow the recommendations below:

  • Set aside a small amount of turkey and sprinkle it over your dog’s or cat’s normal food for several  meals.
  • Allow your pet to have a small bowl of cooked vegetables or raw vegetables.
  • Add a small amount of mashed potatoes to their food.
  • Let them have a small bite of pumpkin pie or canned pumpkin.
  • Split a dinner roll with them.

 

Do NOT allow your dog or cat to eat any of the following from Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Turkey Bones
  • Raisins or Grapes
  • Chocolate
  • Ham (which can be very hard for pets to digest)

 

Be sure to give your dog or cat only a small amount of the approved table scraps above.  Avoid high fat foods because they can cause pancreatitis.  If your pet has food allergies—be sure to adhere to their normal diet only.

Remember—if you have a pet emergency—the Emergency Clinic of the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia is open 24/7 365 days per year including holidays to take care of your dog or cat.  Our new state-of-the-art Emergency Clinic has a hospital design complete with ICU, oxygen cage, all new equipment, and more.  Our number is 703.361.8287.