Halloween Pet Safety

Halloween can be a frightening time for pet owners across the country. It can be scary for our furry friends too. The American Animal Hospital Association encourages pet owners to protect their four-legged family members this October by being mindful of their F.E.A.R. – food, environment, attire, and recovery.

Food

Halloween means candy and tasty treats are plentiful and easily accessible to young children and pets. Candy, especially chocolate, is toxic to animals and can cause vomiting, restlessness, heart disturbances, and even death. Although grapes and raisins are a healthy alternative snack for humans, they can be potentially deadly for dogs. These fruits contain an unknown toxin that can damage dogs’ kidneys and cause kidney failure.

Candy wrappers can also cause health problems. Animals may eat the wrapper, causing obstruction or irritation to the pet’s digestive system. Candy and wrappers should be kept out of pets’ reach and young children should be taught not to share Halloween goodies with their pet. Seasonal foods such as pumpkins and corn may cause minor stomach irritation; however, they are relatively safe for Fluffy and Fido. Pumpkin seeds may cause digestive system obstruction if consumed by smaller animals.

Environment

Due to the increased foot traffic and commotion in your neighborhood, outdoor pets should be kept indoors during the days surrounding Halloween. Unsupervised outdoor animals are susceptible to stress, inhumane practical jokes or theft. Providing a safe, stress free environment reduces the probability of your beloved friend injuring himself or others. Loud and excessive noise created by trick-or-treaters can frighten your cat or dog. Animals should be kept away from the door and out of hearing range of a constantly ringing doorbell and excited children. Fluffy or Fido should be put in a room where they will not be disturbed by noise and activity. A frightened or upset pet may run out the door at the first opportunity and could harm the children in its way.

Be sure decorations are safe from the paws and teeth of curious pets. Crepe paper streamers, fake cobwebs, glow sticks, plastic spiders and cardboard wall hangings can easily be chewed and swallowed, damaging your pet’s digestive tract. Animals can also tip over the candle in a jack-o-lantern and burn themselves or start a fire. Keep decorations out of animals’ reach, and maintain supervision if they play nearby.

Attire

Transforming your pet into a superhero, witch, ghost, or goblin can be a stressful and unpleasant experience. Some animals love to dress up, but others dread it. If your furry friend doesn’t mind dressing up, make sure that you select a costume that doesn’t restrict his normal movements, breathing or vision. Costumes that interfere with these things can cause ligament or joint injuries, and animals are more likely to bite if their vision is impaired. Pets are better off left at home during trick-or-treating excursions. However, if they do tag along, it is best to keep them on a very short leash and harness to keep them from fighting with other animals, eating the treats, becoming victims of practical jokes – as black cats often do – or biting strangers they encounter.

Recovery

It is important to have a plan if your pet becomes sick, injured or lost this Halloween season. Since time is critical during any unfortunate incident, pet parents should always have contact information for their veterinarian and local animal shelters easily accessible. Also, pet owners need to be aware that not all veterinarians are available 24 hours. However, all AAHA-accredited hospitals have access or referral to 24 hour emergency care. It is also important to update your pet’s identification tags and micro chip information each time you move or change phone numbers so that current contact information is always available on your pet. The American Animal Hospital Association wishes all two and four-legged critters a happy and safe Halloween.

Established in 1933, the American Animal Hospital Association is the only organization that accredits veterinary practices throughout the U.S. and Canada for dedication to high standards of veterinary care. More than 3,000 AAHA-accredited practices pass regular reviews of AAHA’s stringent accreditation standards that cover patient care, client service and medical protocols.

 

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Diet do’s and don’ts for your pets

A healthful, balanced diet is as important to pets as it is to people, but with hundreds of different food brands to choose from, how do you decide what — and how much — to feed your pet?

“Because each animal is an individual, I always recommend beginning with a consultation with your veterinarian,” says Laura Eirmann, DVM, from AAHA-accredited Oradell Animal Hospital in New Jersey.

Your veterinarian will explain your pet’s nutritional needs based on age, breed, medical condition, and activity level. Although many dog and cat food manufacturers market products based on life stages, such as senior or lactating dogs, broad categories are not always appropriate for every pet.

For example, “some pets are physiologically older than their peers (because of disease) even though chronologically they’re the same age. That physiological difference is why it’s important to consult with your veterinarian (before you select a food),” Eirmann explains.

What brand should you buy?

Deciding which brand of pet food to buy can be confusing, especially since hundreds of dog and cat food products are introduced annually.

As you sort through various brands, look for a nutritional statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

The AAFCO determines appropriate levels of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in growth and maintenance cat and dog foods and it “helps set the standards for the pet food industry,” says Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACCN, who works at AAHA-accredited Foster Hospital for Small Animals in Massachusetts.

Manufacturers frequently use terms like natural, organic, premium or gourmet to appeal to pet owners, but Freeman and Eirmann say “complete and balanced” are the terms pet owners should be most concerned about.

Before a food can be marketed as “complete and balanced,” it must undergo a strict feeding trial under AAFCO guidelines or meet AAFCO nutrition levels.

Cautions about raw food diets

Although raw food diets are popular with some pet owners, professionals from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say, “feeding raw meat products carries a risk to human and animal health that is significant” because of food-borne pathogenic bacteria.

The FDA cites published reports of pets becoming sick or dying after eating contaminated raw meat and warns that pet owners may be susceptible to “infection by pathogenic organisms from direct contact with the diet itself” or from contact with diet-related bacteria that passes from meat to pets. Bacteria may also be present in feces.

In addition, the FDA warns that raw meat diets may not provide proper nutrition for your pet. There may too little calcium and phosphorus, too much vitamin A (which may be toxic over time) or inappropriate amounts of other nutrients to ensure a complete and balanced diet.

In 2011, the American Animal Hospital Association passed a position statementopposing the feeding of raw protein diets to pets.

How much food should you give?

“If there’s one thing we know in nutrition, it’s that caloric restriction — keeping pets lean their entire life — helps them live longer,” Eirmann says.

Unfortunately, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) estimates that 25 percents of dogs and cats entering veterinary clinics are overweight and warns that “obesity can shorten a pet’s life by contributing to heart and liver problems, diabetes, arthritis, bladder cancer and skin disorders, and put a pet at higher risk while undergoing anesthesia and surgery.”

Gertie, shown to the right, is classified as obese by Pfizer Animal Health professionals, who provided the photograph. Check with your veterinary professionals to see whether your pet is overweight.

So does all of this mean you have to eliminate treats or the occasional table scraps from your pet’s diet? “There a little bit of leeway,” Eirmann says. “The general guideline is to look at the calories required to maintain ideal body weight. If you don’t exceed that number by about 10 percent of the calories, you’re unlikely to unbalance a complete and balanced diet.”

“My advice is to ask your veterinarian to assess your pet’s individual needs,” Eirmann says. “The amounts of those ingredients may vary by brand. Your veterinarian can determine if the amount (in a particular food) is appropriate for your pet.”

This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Volume 2 Issue 1, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.

Caring for pets during emergencies

Nothing says it better than the horror story from Hurricane Floyd: A man was leaving his flooded home when he noticed a neighbor’s dogs swimming in circles around the yard. Wondering why the dogs didn’t simply swim to safety, the man swam over to investigate. To his horror, he found that the dogs had been left chained to a stake in the yard and were swimming frantically just to stay alive. He was able to rescue the dogs, but stories such as this pointedly demonstrate the need for to you to have a good action plan in place in case a natural disaster strikes your home. In this case, the dogs’ owner most likely had been told to leave everything behind and flee as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, his dogs nearly lost their lives as a result.

In the event of an emergency, your life and your family’s lives are the first you should be concerned with. You should only look to save your animals once you are sure you and your family will be safe. But once you are safe, you most likely will want to ensure the safety of your pets. Are you prepared?

LittleRock-Veterinarian-Pet-Clinic-Maumelle-Belleview-Treasure-Hil-6Consider your location

First things first. You can only be prepared with a plan of action if you know what you’re planning for, so take some time to think about the area you live in. Some areas are naturally prone to certain disasters California’s earthquakes, for example. Find out what types of disasters have previously struck your area hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards, etc. Contacting your local emergency management office or Red Cross will help you to identify what could affect your particular neighborhood. You should also plan for non-natural disasters fires, gas leaks, chemical spills, etc. If, for example, there’s a big chemical processing plant in your area, then you need to be aware of the possible dangers so that you can react if need be. No matter where you live, you’ve got your own special brand of disaster just around the corner, and it may strike at any time.

If You Leave, They Leave

In the event that you have to leave your home, take your pets with you. If it isn’t safe for you to be there, it isn’t safe for them either. Too often people rationalize that their pets’ instincts will kick in, and they’ll be okay. Even if your cat, who has spent the last six years of his life hunting only the fake mice you pull around on a string for him, does have the instincts to survive, it doesn’t mean that the conditions are survivable. No drinkable water for you means no drinkable water for him too. Of course, you have to have somewhere to take your four-legged friends–Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept pets. Make a list of all the places with in a 100-mile radius of your home where you might be able to take your pet if the need arises, include boarding facilities, veterinarians with boarding capabilities, hotels that will accept pets (ask if they’ll allow pets during a disaster situation), and animal shelters. (Use animal shelters only as a last resort, as they will be overburdened with other animals whose owners did not plan for them). Also, you need to gather your critters inside the house as soon as you are aware that you may have to leave, so that you can easily get them when it’s time to go. Then, when you do leave, make sure you have your little friends under firm control–even the best behaved dog can become scared during an emergency, making his behavior less than predictable.

Be prepared

Like a Boy Scout, you should always be prepared. This means having a disaster kit in your home as well as a smaller version in the trunk of your car if your pet routinely rides with you. Make sure that your pet’s kit is contained in something that is easy to pick up quickly and take out the door with you. You should replace this food and water every six months and rethink your pet’s needs for the kit once a year to make sure that the supplies meet your current needs the same collar that fits your new kitten is not likely to fit him a year later.

The kit should include a week’s supply of food and water in nonbreakable, airtight containers to ensure safety and freshness. If you pack canned food you’ll want to make sure you have a hand-held can opener too. And don’t forget a plastic dish that can double as a food and water dish. An extra collar and leash are also important things to have in your kit. You should also have a portable kennel for each of your critters handy. The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says that the official Red Cross policy is that there are no animals allowed in emergency shelters, but they have been known to make exceptions if the animal is securely confined. Pets such as birds will obviously have to have a carrier of some sort as they cannot be leashed. You will want to make certain that you have a well-stocked first-aid kit for your pet that includes tweezers, gauze bandages, first aid cream, antiseptic spray, and hydrogen peroxide. Ask your veterinarian about storing any medications that your pet may need to take regularly.

All the right papers

Many people have their home telephone numbers on their pets’ ID tags. You may want to have an extra set of tags made that list the number of a friend or family member outside the area so that if your phone lines are down, or you’ve been evacuated, your pets can still make it back to you. Another option is to simply include an out-of-area number on your pets’ everyday tag, which can be useful if you’re away on vacation too. And many people don’t have tags for their cats at all, even though they should. According to the 1996 National Council on Pet Population Study, out of one million dogs and 580,000 cats that were taken in as strays, only 17 percent of the dogs and two percent of the cats made it back to their owners. The American Humane Association strongly believes that tags are your pets’ ticket home. You may also want to consider having your pet microchipped or tattooed. And finally, don’t forget the paperwork. Have a copy of your pet’s recent vaccination records in your kit–some boarding facilities may require them before they will take your pet in. A recent picture of your pet may also come in handy if you should become separated and need to make “Lost” posters. Hopefully you won’t ever have to put them up, and hopefully you’ll never have to use your disaster plan. But if you do ever need it, you’ll be very thankful that you were prepared; it could make a trying time a bit easier for you and your faithful companion.

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Ask an accredited vet for worry-free kennel care


LittleRock-Veterinarian-Pet-Clinic-Maumelle-Belleview-Treasure-Hil-5A stressful part of travel is leaving pets in the care of others. Careful planning, however, can help ease anxiety for both pets and their owners. The first step is to talk with your veterinary professional to get recommendations on pet sitters and boarding facilities.

 

What to look for in kennels:

  • Cleanliness, including regular changes in bedding
  • Centrally monitored fire alarms
  • Access to your veterinarian if medical care is needed
  • Regular walks on a leash
  • 24-hour supervision
  • Medications given regularly
  • Fenced area in the event an evacuation of the building is required
  • Staff that asks for contact information and verification of vaccinations

What to look for in pet sitters:

  • Good references, personal recommendations
  • Sitter who can recognize signs of illness
  • Sitter who can transport your pet to your veterinarian if necessary
  • Sitter who is comfortable handling and walking your pet
  • Sitter who can monitor food and water intake
  • Sitter who is insured/bonded

“When selecting a kennel/boarding facility, consider the facility’s cleanliness and housekeeping, [which are] essential to the prevention of contagious diseases such as kennel cough or other illness,” said David Crawford Carroll, DVM, of AAHA-accredited Eastlake Animal Clinic in Watsonville, California.

Cleanliness should be obvious. “Smell tells a lot,” Carroll explained. “If it smells like urine or feces, leave. A facility should be open 24 hours, and they should allow you to take a tour.”

Carroll also advises pet owners to think twice about requesting dogs to be housed in the same cage even if they are normally at home together. “I think it’s a real negative,” he said. “There’s no way to keep track of whether each animal is eating and going to the bathroom regularly, getting adequate drinking water, or otherwise thriving.”

If your area does not have a kennel or veterinary boarding facility, look into hiring a pet sitter who will come to your home.

Nancy Peterson, DVM, of AAHA-accredited Bryan Animal Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, said that pet sitters – in some cases – are the best solution to pet care.

“For some animals that are easily stressed, home care can be the better choice,” Peterson said. However, she continued, “Be certain to get references and personal recommendations documenting the sitter’s experience.”

Professional experience is important when hiring a sitter, said Carroll. “The neighbor’s child or someone down the block is generally not the best choice. Get someone who is paid on a regular basis, knows animals and what to look for, and asks you who your regular veterinarian is in case there’s any problem.”

Peterson also suggests having the sitter and pet meet before the trip, but warns that if a pet is typically very nervous, he/she may not eat while an owner is away.

In addition to providing a familiar environment, another reason to consider in-home care is the prevalence of canine influenza, which is spread when pets are in close proximity.

A highly contagious respiratory infection caused by a virus, canine influenza spreads quickly from dog to dog.

Ask your veterinary professional for more information about this disease and how you can protect your pets from it. You can also ask your vet for kennel/boarding recommendations or to refer you to a reliable pet sitter.

In general, be sure your pets are properly vaccinated. Ask kennels to provide proof that all guests have the following vaccinations: Parvo, distemper, rabies, canine infectious hepatitis (adenovirus), and Bordetella. Lyme disease and Leptospirosis are advised in areas where the diseases are common.

For sick pets, boarding with veterinarians or at facilities with around-the-clock care may be the wisest choice.

This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Volume 2 Issue 3, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA.

General Health

LittleRock-Veterinarian-Pet-Clinic-Maumelle-Belleview-Treasure-Hill-4Micro chipping? Holiday safety? Pet insurance? Read up on some of our common health and safety topics.

Got a pocket pet or other small animal? We have resources for you, too! Check out our small animal care guides for tips on caring for your rabbit, reptile, bird, or other small mammal.

 

Cat Care

LittleRock-Veterinarian-Pet-Clinic-Maumelle-Belleview-Treasure-Hill-3Our cat care section gives you the health and behavior information you need, as well as an A-Z listing of cat diseases and conditions.

Dog Care

LittleRock-Veterinarian-Pet-Clinic-Maumelle-Belleview-Treasure-Hill-2  Learn about your dog’s health and behavior in our dog care section, or check out our A-Z listing of dog diseases and conditions.

Pet Health

LittleRock-Veterinarian-Pet-Clinic-Maumelle-Belleview-Treasure-Hill-1 An educated pet owner knows the right questions to ask their veterinarian. The AAHA Pet Health Library gives you information you can take to your next veterinary appointment so that you can make an informed decision about your pet’s health care. Build a strong relationship with your accredited veterinary hospital today by bringing educated questions to your next appointment. Together, you can choose the right care for your pet.

Not sure if your veterinary hospital is accredited? Find out here.