Keeping Animals Healthy in the Winter

pets in winter

Winter can be a harsh time for everyone, animals included. Diseases spread more easily when everyone is cooped up inside; cold weather can be hard on pet feet and wildlife struggle to survive. Here are a few suggestions to keep the animals in your life healthy during the long winter months, which have only just begun!

Plan Ahead When Boarding Your Dog
If you are making a quick trip to somewhere sunny and need to board your dog at the kennel, make sure he is up to date on vaccinations and is well protected against infectious diseases. In any place where dogs congregate, boarding kennels, doggie daycare or dog shows, infectious diseases can spread quickly. Ask your veterinarian if she recommends one of the canine influenza vaccines. Vaccines are available for both strains of the canine influenza virus and also against Bordetella bronchiseptica, a common bacterial cause of kennel cough. You might want to check and see if the kennel serves your dog’s usual fare. If not, consider sending his food to the kennel to prevent tummy upset from an abrupt diet change.

Provide Food and Shelter for Outdoor Cats
My neighborhood in New York City does not have many outdoor cats, but outside of Manhattan, whole colonies of cats are threatened by inclement weather. Some animal shelters and rescue groups can provide shelters for these outdoor cats. If you are the caretaker of an outdoor cat, you can create a weather proof shelter from a large plastic tub. Here are directions provided by the Danbury Animal Welfare Society for a do it yourself shelter. If you live in NYC, the Mayor’s Alliance NYC Feral Cat Initiative has workshops on building cat shelters.

Also remember to feed dry food in the winter as canned food can freeze and become inedible. You may also need electric water heaters to keep fresh water available even on subzero days.

Backyard Birds
Winter time brings beautifully colored birds like blue jays and cardinals to backyard feeders. To keep your pretty winter visitors as healthy as possible, follow these suggestions from Oregon State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Colin Gillin:

  • Use feeders made from non-porous material like plastic, ceramic, and metal. These are less likely than wood to harbor bacteria and other diseases, which can kill backyard birds.
  • Clean feeders, water containers and bird baths monthly by rinsing with soapy water and then dunking the feeder in a solution of one third cup of chlorine bleach per one gallon of water.
  • Install multiple feeders to prevent all visiting birds from congregating in one place where illness can readily spread.

If you find injured wildlife, birds or mammals, don’t try to rehabilitate them yourself. To find the appropriate rescue group, check this blog post about injured pets and wildlife for resources.

Summing Up 2017: AMC’s Top Blog Posts

AMC blog

The end of the year is often a time of retrospection. So for this final blog of 2017, I asked the AMC webmaster to give me a list of 2017’s most popular blogs. Seeing what was important to AMC blog readers might give me some insights to provide more great pet health information in 2018.

Here are the top five blog posts and their links:

  1. Traction Control: Tips for Preventing Dogs from Slipping and Sliding
  2. Rat Bite Fever and Pet Rats: How Concerned Should We Be?
  3. Toe Tumors in a Dog: A Cancer Survivor’s Story
  4. Tail Amputations: Are They Really Necessary?
  5. Home Euthanasia: The Pros and Cons

Human Factor
One common focus of the popular blog posts is the human factor in our pet’s health. Take for example the blog post on tail amputation. The genesis of this post was a call I took on a radio program about pet health. A tail amputation had been recommended for the caller’s pet and she was hoping I knew of an alternative procedure because she didn’t want to amputate her pet’s tail. The tail is such an expressive piece of anatomy, that we humans cannot imagine our pet without one; however a tail amputation is much less traumatic for the pet than for the family. The tail tends to heal poorly and surgery to repair a tail is fraught with complications. Amputation avoids that issue.

Defying the Odds
Everyone loves a champion and the post about a dog surviving not one, but two different toe tumors, was a story of observant owners, a resilient dog, and great cancer care. The take home message from this post applies to both dog and cat owners: if something about your pet is not right, seek veterinary care while the problem is small and correctable.

Shared Diseases
The popularity of a blog post on rats was surprising since rats are not the most common pet. But, this post was written when rat bite fever was in the news due to the death of a child from the disease, and rat owners must have been looking for reliable information. Given that the author of this post was the head of AMC’s Avian and Exotic Pet Service, Dr. Kathy Quesenberry, the source of the information was undisputedly sound.

Common Problems
Elderly dogs who slip and slide on tile and wood floors worry their owners because of their risk for injury. Based on the popularity of this post, it is a common problem in need of a solution. I think this post was popular because it offered a variety of simple solutions to protect your senior dog from fall injuries due to slippery floors.

Making the Right Decision for your Pet
I was not surprised at the popularity of the blog post on the pros and cons of home euthanasia. That post was written straight from my heart and was based on the distress I hear in pet family voices when they are facing the euthanasia decision. My only hope is that those reading the blog found the guidance they needed to make this difficult decision.

For me, the unifying theme of the 2017 top blog posts is the caring pet families lavish on their furriest members. Their concern encompasses veterinary care, home care, end of life care, and the hope that their caring will be rewarded with a healthy pet. So, a toast to a healthy and happy New Year for you and your pets from all of us at the Animal Medical Center

Why the Animal ER is the Right Place in an Emergency

pet emergency

I suspect every veterinarian hears this at least once a week, “But I want you to see my pet, not the ER.” Yet sometimes the animal ER is just the place your sick pet needs to be. I get it, I would rather see my regular physician than someone I don’t know in the ER. And yes, I hate the thought of a long wait in the ER. But think about it, if you are waiting in the ER, you should count your blessings because it means you are not the sickest patient; you are just an impatient patient.

Here are four really good reasons the ER handles urgent and emergent cases best.

1. The ER Sees it All
A specialist like me is really good at managing a limited number of medical conditions. The ER staff sees everything, and one of their best skills is determining what the problem is and what type of veterinarian is best to handle the emergency situation. Take for example a cute terrier who didn’t want to go to the ER. His family thought he should see a board certified neurologist. Begrudgingly, he came to the ER. In about a second, the ER veterinarian recognized this terrier had inflamed joints and transferred the cute terrier to an internal medicine specialist. Specialists worry we won’t pick up on a disease we rarely see as quickly as our ER colleagues will.

2. The Animal ER has Different Equipment
Each work area in a hospital like the Animal Medical Center is organized to promote efficiency. Case in point: my work area in The Cancer Institute has a machine to count blood cells. The AMC ER does not. This is because nearly all my patients need a blood count, but those in the AMC ER don’t. But the ER has equipment commonly used to manage emergencies not available in The Cancer Institute. With the right equipment, the animal ER is better able to manage urgently ill pets than specialists working in other areas of the hospital. Keep in mind, your urgently ill pet may not have the luxury of time in an emergency for the essential pieces of equipment to be assembled outside of the ER.

3. ER Veterinarians Have Different Training
ER veterinarians are trained to recognize and react to life-threatening abnormalities like low oxygen, massive bleeding, or severe trauma. The ability to recognize and react are critical skills in emergency situations. Internal medicine specialists are trained to evaluate a sick patient and make a diagnosis and then manage long-term care. Not emergency skills at all. Pets with emergencies benefit from the skill and rapid care provided in the animal ER.

4. The Animal ER Can Prioritize the Most Critical Patients
The veterinarians in your neighborhood and at a specialty hospital like AMC use a schedule of appointments to manage care for pets. Appointments control the flow of patients throughout the day to avoid overcrowding the clinic and allow pet families to budget their time. An emergency visit in the middle of appointments derails the entire schedule and disrupts the scheduled patients. Properly prioritizing a pet with an emergency is tricky when you have a full day of scheduled appointments. The animal ER has no appointments, which allows them to prioritize the most critical patients and save lives.

Experience, equipment, training, and the ability to prioritize sick pets by their medical needs makes the animal ER a great place for your pet’s emergency visit. Not sure what an emergency is? AMC’s board certified emergency and critical care specialists have provided a list to help pet owners recognize an emergency.

Everyday Medicine: Cytology

cytology

“Everyday Medicine” is an intermittent series of blog posts highlighting tests, treatments, and procedures common in daily Animal Medical Center practice. Some past examples of this type of blog post include “The Highs and Lows of Blood Sugar” and “Blood Pressure.” Today’s post focuses on cytology.

Cytology is a very common exam room test performed by veterinarians. The test involves taking a sample – a swab of ear gook, a bit of diarrhea, or a few cells from a skin mass – and smearing a thin layer of the sample on a microscope slide. The slide might be dipped into a series of jars containing pink and blue dye. The dye colors the sample and helps differentiate the various cells and organisms in the sample when the slide is viewed under a microscope lens. Or, the slide might have a few drops of saline added in a procedure called a “wet mount.” In either case, the slide is then examined under a microscope to help facilitate a diagnosis.

Ear Gook
Every case of ear gook is not the same and veterinarians commonly use cytology to tell the difference between the types of ear infections. Black or brown discharge is common in ear infections and the presence of black discharge doesn’t tell us what the cause of the infection is. In cats, ear mites are really common causes of black discharge, especially in stray cats and kittens. Ear mites are not so common a cause of black discharge in dogs. Veterinarians mostly diagnose bacterial and yeast ear infections in dogs.

Yuck! Diarrhea
Diarrhea makes the pet patient uncomfortable and the pet family’s house a mess, so a quick fix is in order. A quick fix requires a quick diagnostic test like cytology. Using a “wet mount preparation” of a fresh fecal sample and a microscope, veterinarians can identify the eggs of roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms as well as protozoal organisms like coccidia, and Giardia. A second fecal sample may also be submitted to an outside veterinary laboratory for even more specialized testing.

Skin Masses
Another very common reason for exam room cytology is for the assessment of a skin lump. Keep in mind, a skin lump does not always mean cancer. Skin lumps can be abscesses, fluid filled cysts, benign fatty tumors, and yes, sometimes cancer. Knowing right now that I am dealing with an abscess means your cat gets the antibiotics she needs immediately. But, not every cytology sample can be evaluated in the exam room. Some samples must be sent to a laboratory where a veterinary specialist called a pathologist will interpret the cytology. Other samples indicate a biopsy is needed.

To learn more about lumps on your dog, review our previous blog post, “Will That Be One Lump or Two?

Holiday Pet Gift Guide 2017

holiday pet gift guide

Here it is: the Animal Medical Center’s 2017 pet gift guide. These pet products have caught our attention over the past year for their ability to stimulate the brain by engaging your pets in both physical and mental activity. Pets in more stimulating environments are happier and healthier, two great gifts to give your pet this holiday season.

If you don’t see anything on our list that is on your pet’s holiday list, check past years lists for ideas:

Usually our feline friends suffer from a lack of clever gift options, but not this year. These gifts are so engaging, I can’t wait for my cat to get up Christmas morning and find Santa has left every one of them under the tree.

A Pink Cat-illac
We all know cats love boxes. And this cat car meets your cat’s desire to have a cozy hiding place or a place to plant a sneak attack on your ankles. If pink is not your cat’s thing, try a fire truck.

Figureheads and Felines
No matter what your cat’s political persuasion, there is a Fuzzu toy for her. She will be entertained for hours by a liberals, conservatives, Democrats or Republicans without turning on the one of the 24/7 news channels or her favorite internet news outlet.

Satisfy the Scratching Urge
Scratching is a normal behavior for cats. To protect your furniture encourage appropriate scratching with catnip blasted scratching pads. If your cat likes to scratch vertically, the Lurvig scratching mat makes an easy stocking stuffer and turns any table leg into a scratching post.

Ikea for All
Since we consider pets members of the family, we want them to participate in quality family time. Ikea’s Lurvig pet products collection includes pet furniture that integrates into your living room décor. The Lurvig cat house has legs, can be wall mounted or slipped into your Ikea wall unit. The Ikea dog sofa folds out for doggie sleepovers or for more space to rest after a big hike and is attractive enough to fit in your living room.

Keeping your dog physically active helps to keep him mentally fit. To promote exercise, many pet families include their dog in activities like hiking and boating. Here are some gift ideas for active dogs.

Hydrate the Dog
The Eddy bowl is a portable, reusable, recyclable dog bowl. Lightweight and made of bamboo fibers, this bowl can be folded up and slipped into a pocket for use a bit further down the trail.

Give a Float Coat
Not all dogs can swim and even the best swimmers may find themselves in deep water unexpectedly. Float coats keep your dog afloat until they can be rescued and the bright color simplifies finding an overboard dog.

Travel Safely
Getting your dog to a hiking trail or board launch usually involves a car ride. Make sure your dog travels safely in a crate approved by the Center for Pet Safety.

Gifts for Pet Lovers
Kitten season is just around the corner and if you know a family planning on getting a kitten in the spring, this book would be a welcome addition to their library: 101 Essential Tips — Kitten or New Cat — Health and Safety by The Preventive Vet, Dr. Jason Nicholas. This book will help you create a safe and enriched environment for your cat.

Or if you have dog-loving children on your list, Hero may make then squeal with delight. This book for children 8-12 years of age tells the inspiring story of a handsome black Labrador search and rescue dog who uses his skills to save lives.

Eye Conditions

eye conditions in pets

Because your pet’s eyes are front and center every time you glimpse their cute little fur faces, abnormalities of the eyes are easy to recognize. And, of course, none of us would want our vision compromised by an eye disorder, so we worry about our pet’s eyes as well. Below are descriptions of some of the more common eye disorders in dogs and cats.

Cataracts
Older dogs commonly have a visible cloudiness to their eyes. The cloudiness is normal aging of the lens, called nuclear sclerosis. Nuclear sclerosis does not compromise vision, and is often mistaken for cataracts. Cataracts are an abnormal cloudiness of the lens caused by a buildup of protein or pigment in the lens which interferes with normal vision. In dogs, genetics and diabetes play a role in cataract development. Canine cataracts can be removed surgically, followed by placement of an artificial lens. Cataracts are uncommon in cats.

Dry Eye
The eyelove campaign on television and the internet promotes awareness of dry eye in humans. Dry eye is a decrease in tear production and occurs in dogs, especially those with bulgy eyes, like pugs. Treatment requires lifetime eye medications to stimulate tear production.

Cherry Eye
Under the third eyelid of dogs and cats is a small tear gland. In certain breeds, such as bulldogs, cocker spaniels and Burmese cats, the gland pops up and forms a red mass in the eye, colloquially known as “cherry eye.” This abnormality typically occurs in young dogs and cats. Treatment involves tacking the gland back in place with a suture.

Glaucoma
One of the most common eye abnormalities pet families recognize is a red eye. Glaucoma is one cause of a red eye. The redness results from a painful increase in pressure inside the eye. Management of glaucoma can be challenging and involves drops, ointments and even surgery.

Corneal Ulcer
Another cause of a red eye is a corneal ulcer, a sore on the clear part of the eye. Corneal ulcers are common in dogs with dry eyes, as a sequela to feline viral respiratory infections, or trauma. A dog or cat with a corneal ulcer will squint or rub their eye because ulcers are painful. Typically, application of antibiotic ointment and oral pain medication correct this condition.

Allergic Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis is probably the most common eye problem on the list, since allergies are common in dogs. Allergic conjunctivitis is yet another condition resulting in red, weepy eyes. Distinguishing it from red eyes due to glaucoma or a corneal ulcer requires testing the pressure inside the eye and measuring tear production. Making the correct diagnosis is critical, since the treatment for each is different. Management of allergies with antihistamines or immunotherapy, plus anti-inflammatory eye ointment usually resolves allergic conjunctivitis.

Next time your pet gazes lovingly at you, make sure they are doing it with picture perfect eyes.

The Difference Between Diagnostic Radiology, Radiation Therapy and Interventional Radiology

radiation therapy

At first glance, these three disciplines within veterinary medicine seem pretty much the same, but at the Animal Medical Center, diagnostic radiology, radiation therapy, and interventional radiology represent three different groups of veterinarians with three very different sets of background and training. What ties these three disparate groups together is their use of radiation to diagnose and treat disease.

Diagnostic Radiology
These days you are more likely to find a Department of Diagnostic Imaging in a hospital than a Radiology Department. Radiology is an older term, used when x-rays were the only testing modality using radiation available in medicine. Today, AMC’s Diagnostic Imaging Service uses not only traditional x-rays but also ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the diagnostic evaluation of patients. AMC’s Diagnostic Imaging Service also has a fluoroscopy unit, which is like a video x-ray. This machine allows us to watch bodily functions like blood flow or swallowing in real time. To see an example of fluoroscopy, read about Molly the Ganaraskan. Every veterinarian at AMC depends on our diagnostic imaging team for their expertise in imaging sick pets and helping us to make an accurate diagnosis.

Radiation Therapy
A very accurate description, AMC’s Radiation Oncology Service uses radiation to treat tumors. Specifically, we have a linear accelerator (linac), a giant machine that creates various types of radiation depending on patient needs. Our state-of-the-art linac can make electrons for superficial treatments, produce high energy pinpoint beams for stereotactic radiosurgery, and stereotactic body radiation therapy. Diagnostic Imaging’s CT scanner interfaces with Radiation Oncology’s 3-D computer planning system. The interface allows the linac’s multileaf collimator to sculpt the radiation beam to precisely target the tumor being treated. The veterinarians working in radiation therapy have training in both the physics of radiation as well as the management of cancer.

Interventional Radiology
Specialists in interventional radiology use minimally invasive techniques to make image-guided diagnoses and also deploy high tech treatments for a variety of diseases. Using a range of techniques which rely on the use of images generated by diagnostic radiology equipment such as fluoroscopy, ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI imaging, the interventional radiologist precisely targets various organs with treatments such as stents, occluders and medications. Watch a video where AMC’s interventional radiology team uses fluoroscopy to close off abnormal blood vessels in the liver. The veterinarians in our Interventional Radiology Service have diverse backgrounds in surgery, internal medicine plus specialized training to use minimally invasive equipment.

Linked together by their use of radiation as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool, diagnostic radiology, radiation therapy and interventional radiology are just a few of the highly trained specialists at AMC working to make sick pets healthy again.

Antibiotics: Precious Medical Resources

antibiotics

November 13-19 is World Antibiotic Awareness Week. I can’t believe any of my readers need to be made aware of the importance of antibiotics in both veterinary and human medicine, but we all need to be aware of how to protect these precious medical resources.

Antibiotics have been around for less than 100 years and yet as a class of drugs, their discovery revolutionized the practice of medicine. Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the first antibiotic, in 1928, and in 1945 won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery. Since then, dozens of antibiotics have been identified in nature or synthesized in the laboratory. Even though antibiotics save millions of people and pets every year, misuse and abuse are rendering them less effective every day. Antibiotic use should be reserved for patients who are likely to benefit from their administration and not be prescribed just because you or your pets are feeling sick. For some diseases, antibiotic treatment would be a poor therapeutic choice.

Good Uses of Antibiotics
Antibiotics are especially effective in treating bacterial infections. Common bacterial infections in pets include skin, ear and urinary tract infections. Veterinarians base their selection of an antibiotic on several factors: the location of the infection and the typical bacteria causing that type of infection. Additionally, a sample taken from the site of infection can be observed under the microscope and the antibiotic can be chosen based on the type of bacteria seen. The best indicator of correct antibiotic choice is to sample the infection, grow the causative bacteria in the laboratory and actually test which antibiotic best kills the bacteria. This takes a few days and usually we make an educated guess about which antibiotic is likely to work and prescribe that until the laboratory gives more specific results.

How AMC Uses Antibiotics
Antibiotics are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in veterinary medicine. I checked with our systems administration and for the past three years running, and probably in 2017 as well, AMC veterinarians have written over 7,000 antibiotic prescriptions per year, or 20 antibiotic prescriptions per day. This number does not include antibiotic ointments for eyes, antibiotic drops for ears, and any topical antibiotic creams. The most frequently prescribed antibiotics will be familiar to many pet owners as I suspect they are commonly used by many veterinarians: Clavamox®, Convenia®, Simplicef™ and Baytril®. Since skin disease is one of the most common reasons pets are seen by veterinarians, the antibiotics on the list are no surprise; they all are good antibiotic choices for the treatment of skin disease. The top four antibiotics prescribed by AMC veterinarians comprise over half of all the antibiotic prescriptions at AMC and should convince you how important a role antibiotics play in making your pet better.

What Antibiotics Can’t Do
Bold face name antibiotics like amoxicillin, Keflex® and the eponymous Z-pack® treat a variety of different bacterial infections. If your pet has a viral infection like feline herpes virus or canine influenza virus infection, no antibiotic will help. Viruses need to run their course in order for your pet to feel better. Using antibiotics in viral diseases only creates antibiotic resistant bacteria without improving your pet’s health.

Bad Ideas When it Comes to Antibiotic Therapy

  1. Don’t use your dog’s antibiotic for your cat, or vice versa. While not wasting this precious medical resource seems reasonable, the differences in canine and feline metabolism prevent safe swapping of antibiotics between pets of different species.
  2. Don’t use antibiotics prescribed for one pet on another, even if they are both the same species. Veterinarians carefully select the antibiotic based on the type of infection being treated and the size of the patient and you may end up doing more harm than good.
  3. Keep to the prescribed medication schedule and finish every last one of the pills. Tedious, I know, but if you are having trouble keeping to a medication schedule, confess to your veterinarian. There is a good chance a different treatment plan can be implemented.
  4. Dispose of unused antibiotics appropriately. Check the Food and Drug Administration for guidance.

Everyday Medicine: Blood Pressure

pet blood pressure

Everyday Medicine is an intermittent series of blog posts highlighting tests, treatments and procedures common in daily Animal Medical Center practice. Some past examples of this type of blog post include “The Highs and Lows of Blood Sugar” and “The Third Eyelid.” Today’s post focuses on blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Definition
Everyone has had their blood pressure taken at the doctor’s office and we all know high blood pressure, or hypertension, is bad. But what does that Velcro covered cuff really measure? The cuff measures the pressure the circulating blood exerts on the walls of the blood vessel. When your blood pressure is taken, the nurse reports a number over a number. The top number (systolic blood pressure) is the pressure on the vessel walls when the heart pumps and the diastolic blood pressure or bottom number is the pressure when the heart relaxes. The blood pressure monitors veterinarians use in the clinic for dogs and cats usually measure only the top number, or systolic pressure.

Causes of High Blood Pressure
The most common cause of hypertension in both dogs and cats is chronic kidney disease. The International Renal Interest Society recommends all pets with kidney disease have their blood pressure measured as part of a clinical evaluation. Hypertensive pets should be treated with antihypertensive agents to protect their eyes, heart, brain and kidneys from damage due to high blood pressure.

Hyperthyroidism is another known cause of hypertension, most commonly in cats. Successful treatment of hyperthyroidism typically resolves the hypertension without administration of antihypertensive medications.

Causes of Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure is a common problem in AMC’s ER patients. Many ER patients have fluid loss. For example, vomiting and diarrhea-producing dehydration decrease the amount of fluid in the blood vessels, as does hemorrhage. Both dehydration and hemorrhage can result in low blood pressure. A severe systemic infection often leads to low blood pressure through a complex series of physiologic events. Since so many emergency situations lead to low blood pressure, an intravenous catheter and administration of intravenous fluids is typically one of the first emergency therapies administered in an animal ER.

If your pet has recently been anesthetized, he probably has a clipped spot on one of his front legs. That spot identifies the location of an intravenous catheter placement. General anesthesia decreases blood pressure. Veterinarians monitor blood pressure during anesthesia and give intravenous fluids during anesthetic procedures to help maintain blood pressure within a normal range.

Pets with hypertension have frequent blood pressure measurements taken while their veterinarians adjust medications to normalize blood pressure. Blood pressure medication must be titrated to the proper amount to prevent low blood pressure or hypotension. Hypotension makes pets weak and may negatively impact their kidney function.

If your pet is making a trip to the veterinarian soon, don’t be surprised if one of the nurses brings out a petite blood pressure cuff and places it around your pet’s wrist, since blood pressure is an important medical test.

The Horrors of Halloween: The Pet Version

halloween pets

When witches go riding, and black cats are seen. The moon laughs and whispers, ‘tis near Halloween. – 19th century postcard

Although black cats are one of the spooky creatures connected with Halloween, many cats and dogs may not be as excited about Halloween as their families are. Halloween has become one of America’s premier holidays, and according to the National Retail Foundation, the total spending for the holiday in 2017 is expected to reach $9.1 billion. But have pets fallen under the magical spell of Halloween like their families have? Candy, costumes, witches and wizards can make Halloween downright frightful for pets.

Tricks Not Treats
About one-third of the money spent on Halloween goes towards the purchase of candy. But the trick or treat bags should be off-limits for pets. Chocolate contains theobromine, a substance similar to caffeine. The amount is lowest in white chocolate and highest in dark chocolate, but any chocolate consumption is risky in pets because chocolate causes vomiting, diarrhea and hyperactivity. Some health conscious spirits distribute little boxes of raisins as an alternative to candy. But when dogs consume raisins, these healthy little snacks become tricks, not treats, and can damage your dog’s kidneys. If your dog eats sugar-free Halloween treats containing xylitol, expect a hair-raising trip to the animal ER because xylitol can be lethal in dogs.

Keep the candy cauldron out of your pet’s reach to prevent grave consequences.

Creepy Costumes
Most pets rush to the door when the doorbell rings, but the appearance of ghosts, goblins and the Grim Reaper at your door screaming “Trick or Treat” may be your pet’s version of a zombie apocalypse. Keep your pet safely confined and well away from the front door to prevent an accidental escape when unexpected apparitions startle your pet.

Of the 179 million Americans celebrating Halloween, 28 million will purchase a costume for their pet. Not all pets think dressing up is bloody good fun. Hazardous hats and tight tu-tus may turn your pet’s Halloween into a nightmare. Do a costume trial run before the big night to prevent Halloween from becoming a bad dream.

Which Witch is Pet Safe?
To create a haunting aura on Halloween, half of Americans plan to decorate their homes this year, although not all decorations are pet safe. Jack-O-Lanterns add to the eerie atmosphere of Halloween night, but the candle inside can easily set a curious cat or dog’s fur on fire. Use battery operated flickering lights in place of the traditional candles in your carved pumpkin. I love to decorate with fake cobwebs and plastic spiders. If you have cats, I don’t recommend using this scary décor since cats love to eat anything that is stringy. Strings can easily lodge in your cat’s intestine causing a blockage.

All of us at the Animal Medical Center wish you and your pets a safe and fun Howl-oween.