The sunshine and milder weather of spring is a welcome change for many families and their pets. With increases in outdoor activity at home, and a new emphasis on cleaning and disinfecting our home environments in response to COVID-19, taking common-sense precautions can help to protect our pets from potential toxins.

Watch where pets dig in the yard, as some flowers and their bulbs can cause sickness if eaten. Tulip, hyacinth, and Spring crocus (Iridacea) bulbs, and all parts of the daffodil plant, can cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. The later-blooming fall crocus Colchicum autumnale (Meadow saffron) is much more toxic (can cause liver or kidney failure).

Lilies are of special note. Some, like the Peace lily, Calla lily, and Peruvian lily, have oxalate crystals in their stems and leaves that cause mouth irritation and drooling. However, the true lilies (Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter lily, and Japanese show lily) are extremely poisonous, in any amount, particularly to cats. Even small bites of a leaf, or grooming and ingesting pollen, can cause kidney damage or kidney failure within hours. If you see or suspect that your pet has eaten any part of a true lily plant, seek veterinary care immediately. (While Lily of the Valley (Convallaria) is not a true lily, it can cause vomiting, heart trouble, and seizures, and intoxication should be treated quickly).

Fertilizers and garden chemicals can be unexpected hazards. Bone meal can cause gastrointestinal blockage; blood meal can trigger pancreatitis. Rose fertilizers may contain organophosphates or other pesticides. Slug or snail bait with metaldehyde can cause seizures in pets. As always, keep antifreeze safely stored, and keep pets out of areas where leaks or spills could happen. Antifreeze is sweet-tasting and small amounts can cause kidney damage or failure. If you see or suspect antifreeze exposure, please contact your vet immediately.

Read all label directions, and store cleaners safely. Phenols, quaternary ammonias, acids, and alkalis (such as lye) can cause contact irritation, digestive troubles, or neurologic problems if eaten. Never mix cleaners! Most detergents and soaps are mild and non-toxic. And, hand sanitizer does not contain antifreeze, so small exposures should not be a worry. More information is available at – “Toxic Disinfectants.”

For questions about poison exposure, please contact your veterinarian’s office, or a pet poison control center. For a reasonable fee, they will assess your pet’s exposure, and develop a treatment plan to assist your veterinarian in caring for your pet.

ASPCA Poison Control – (888) 426-4435
Pet Poison Helpline – (855) 764-7661

Dental disease is one of the most common health complaints of pet rabbits and guinea pigs.  Unlike dogs and cats, rabbits and rodents have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives.  Their teeth are normally worn down by their rough, fibrous diets, but sometimes they can become overgrown.  This can lead to the development of sharp spurs that will cut the cheeks or entrap the tongue. As the problem progresses, the tooth roots can elongate within the jaw causing pain and infection.

Signs of dental disease in rabbits can include decreased appetite or difficulty chewing,weight loss, drooling (or “slobbers”), and pawing at the mouth.  There may also be a decrease in the amount or size of feces, discharge from the nose or eyes, lumps on the face, or poor grooming habits. Overgrowth of the incisors (front teeth) is often the first abnormality noticed by owners, but it is almost always indicative of underlying disease of the cheek teeth.  

Diagnosis requires a physical exam and usually x-rays of the skull.  Treatment ranges from trimming of overgrown teeth to tooth extractions and surgical debridement of abscesses or bone infections.  Dental disease has a good prognosis if diagnosed early, although lifelong management with periodic tooth trims under anesthesia may be required.  Feeding rabbits and guinea pigs a diet rich in timothy hay and fresh vegetables can help to keep their teeth worn down, reducing the risk of dental disease.

What about other exotic pets?  Lizards such as bearded dragons are also commonly seen for periodontal disease, or “mouth rot.”  Like with rabbits, this condition is easiest to manage and has the best prognosis if caught and treated early, making regular wellness exams essential for recognition of milder stages of disease.

Many pet owners don’t realize that flea season doesn’t end when cooler temperatures arrive in autumn. Your pets are actually more likely to carry fleas in the fall than in the spring or summer, when most people are using flea and tick products regularly.

This late season surge is caused by certain conditions that encourage fleas to reproduce.

Fall Rains Attract Pests

First, there’s usually more precipitation in the fall, and fleas are attracted to moisture. In addition to added moisture, your pet’s winter coat will start to come in during the fall, which makes it more difficult to pick off fleas.

These pests also reproduce rapidly. Flea eggs can be laid on carpets, furniture, or on the pets themselves. Fleas can lay up to 50 eggs a day, which hatch within 10 days. Once the cocoon transforms into the pupae state, it can remain there for days or even months until an adult flea forms. And once they’ve infested your home, you may need a more comprehensive plan to take care of the issue.

It’s important to protect your pets and your home since fleas can bite people as well, and they may be looking for a warm place to lay eggs when the weather turns cold.

Don’t Stop Flea & Tick Prevention in the Fall

However, the biggest reason fleas are such a problem in the fall is that people stop using flea and tick products.

Obviously, the best way to keep these pests at bay is to continue using flea and tick products regularly even after summer ends. Always be sure to read the instructions on flea treatments, and never use a product intended for dogs on a cat.

Is it safe to stop flea and tick prevention in the winter?

Old man winter is upon us, which usually means snow and freezing cold weather.  Unfortunately, the climate is ever changing, bringing periods of warmer weather that is unexpected for Erie winters! For ticks, this is the perfect time to feed on our furry four-legged pets and why you need to think about flea and tick prevention, even during the winter months.  

Erie Ticks

Erie has a large population of blacklegged (or deer) ticks that transmit Lyme Disease to both animals and people, making tick prevention especially important in our area. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial agent called Borrelia burgdorferi. Once the tick begins to feed, it takes 24-48 hours to transmit Lyme disease to your pet.  In 2019, 1 out of 12 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease in Erie County!!!

Most dogs will develop subclinical infections, however acute disease may present with fever, shifting leg lameness, swollen joints, enlarged lymph nodes, lethargy and anorexia. Clinical improvement is usually seen following initiation of antibiotic therapy.  Although chronic disease is uncommon, it can cause progressive joint changes. Rarely, dogs can present with acute kidney insufficiency which carries a very guarded prognosis for recovery. 

Tick Prevention & Lyme Disease

Testing for Lyme disease is available, however does have its limits. If you see a tick on your dog, call your veterinarian immediately for instructions on how to remove it.  Your veterinarian will then consult you on possible prophylactic treatment, vaccination and prevention. Although the Lyme vaccine has been shown to be efficacious, it by no means takes the place of prevention! It is now recommended that all pets be maintained on year-round highly effective flea and tick prevention. It’s better to be prepared and have your pet protected than to have to battle lyme disease.

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“Veterinary hospice is not about extending suffering, but rather preventing suffering from occurring at all.”

What is veterinary hospice? Veterinary hospice is the comprehensive care for your pet that focuses on comfort as they approach end of life.

From feeding our pets the most nutritious foods to keeping them pain free, playing fetch and letting them sleep in our beds, there are various ways we show our love for them. As our pets age, their needs will change, and it can be difficult to know the best way to keep them happy and healthy.  This is where veterinary hospice starts to play a role.  

Traditionally, hospice care had been reserved for terminal patients. It is also useful for those pets showing general signs of ageing, such as an arthritic Labrador that requires pain management. The main components of hospice care consist of pain management, home environment and general supportive care.  

Pain Management: Oral pain medications are the hallmark of pain management. Depending on your pet’s specific condition, multiple pain medications can provide better pain control. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture may also provide pain relief. 

Home Environment: Minor changes in the home can result in significant improvements to your pet’s quality of life. For example, many older dogs will slip and slide on tile or hard floors.  Laying down yoga mats or carpet runners will help with traction. Cats and dogs with arthritis will often benefit from raising food and water bowls to a more comfortable level. These two examples are only scratching the surface of changes we can make to help your pet.

Supportive Care: Supportive care includes, but is not limited to, subcutaneous fluid therapy, nutrition, incontinence management and cognitive support. 

In-home hospice care provides you and your loved one with one-on-one care that is tailored to your pet’s needs and lifestyle. Please ask us about scheduling your in-home hospice appointment. 

At Halloween Pet Safety is Important!

Pumpkin spice, crisp air, football games, ghosts, witches, and candy all mark the start of a spooky Halloween season.  But what can be more terrifying is what dangers lurk for our four legged family members during Halloween.

Top 5 things that we need to be on the look out for our fur babies and keep away from our pet at Halloween to keep them safe:

  1.  CHOCOLATE. I am pretty sure that everyone know that chocolate is bad for dogs.  Make sure that when you have the Halloween candy laying around, it is out of Fido’s reach.  Chocolate can cause serious health concerns.  If your dog ingests any chocolate, you should seek medical care.
  2. SUGARLESS TREATS:  Sugarless candy (which I hope that no one hands out….I mean come on, chocolate is the good stuff for those cute kids coming to the door!) is very dangerous for dogs.  The candy contains  xylitol which can cause hypoglycemia and liver damage in dogs.  Call your veterinarian if you dog gets into any sugarless candy or gum.
  3. GLOW STICKS:  While glow sticks are great to find your kids in the dark, they aren’t good for any feline friends that decide to chew on them.  The chemical inside the glow sticks isn’t poisonous to cats but does cause excessive drooling, inappetence, oral pain, and vomiting.  Flush out your cats mouth as quickly as possible.  Make sure to get any of the chemical that may have leaked on their fur as they will continue to groom themselves and ingest it.  Call your veterinarian if symptoms persist.
  4. RAISINS:   Found in the popular candy, raisinets and individual trail mix packets, raisins can find their way into Halloween candy piles.  Be sure to keep raisins away from Fido as they can cause kidney failure.  The signs don’t usually show up for several days after the ingestion has occurred.  If you are concerned about raisin ingestion, please call you veterinarian.
  5. ELECTRIC AND BATTERY POWERED DECORATIONS:  Keep electric and battery-powered Halloween decorations out of reach.  Electric and battery-powered Halloween decorations are certainly safer than open candles, but they still can present a risk to pets. Pets who chew on electrical cords can receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock or burn. Batteries may cause chemical burns when chewed open or gastrointestinal blockage if swallowed. Shards of glass or plastic can cause lacerations anywhere on the body or, if swallowed, within the gastrointestinal tract.  Call your veterinarian if you are concerned with any foreign body ingestion.

Have a safe and spooky Halloween!  Remember that if your pet gets stressed with a lot of chaos, costumed people, and constant door bell ringing, please keep them in a back room away from the stress with a TV/music on and calming pheromone such as Adaptil or Feliway.