Dog and Cat Holiday Hazards
October is finally here! It’s my favorite time of year and Halloween is my all-time favorite holiday. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved Halloween. I loved the ghoulish decorations, costumes, and of course, candy. While I can’t say candy still motivates me the way it once did, I still relish decorating the house and getting dressed up. As a parent, I have the added pleasure of seeing my human children get excited about my favorite holiday, and at least for a few more years, I can dress them up in adorable costumes. This year we are all going to be pirates, even our dog Oski!
Dr. Ruth MacPete's Blog is not intended to be a substitute for the regular veterinary care of your pet, which should be provided by a licensed veterinarian through regular, routine office visits, supplemented by diagnostic procedures and care as necessary. The blog is not an emergency consultation facility and cannot and does not provide individualized treatment plans for any pets or their situations. If your pet has been in an accident or is in need of immediate medical care, please contact your local veterinarian or emergency veterinary hospital as soon as possible. Arrrh!
While my dog Oski likes dressing up (or at least is a good sport) and loves trick-or-treating with his family, not all animals enjoy Halloween. In fact, many animals are downright terrified by the holiday. In addition to being scary, Halloween can be dangerous to our pets, with candy and decorations being common household hazards.
The spooky decorations, eerie noises, ghoulishly dressed little people ringing doorbells and yelling “trick-or-treat” can be frightening to our pets. If you have a nervous, shy or easily frightened pet it is best to keep them inside your house and away from the door. Likewise, if your pet is very protective, keep your pet safely secured inside the house. Sadly, many frightened pets get lost during Halloween every year when they dart out of an open front door or escape from their yard. It’s best to give your pet a treat and keep them safely away from the commotion in a back room.
Scary trick-or-treaters aren’t the worst hazard to our pets. Candy is probably the biggest danger. As most people know chocolate is toxic to our pets and can be fatal. However, it’s not just chocolate that we have to watch out for. Candy with xylitol, like sugar-free gum, is also vey dangerous to pets. Xylitol causes insulin release and low blood sugar levels and can lead to liver failure. Be sure to keep all Halloween candy away from your pets. If your pet manages to steal some candy, immediately call your veterinarian for help or take your pet to a veterinary emergency clinic.
Halloween decorations can be another big danger to our pets. Flickering candles, jack-o-lanterns, and twinkling lights don’t just capture our attentions, pets are curious by nature and are drawn to these lights as well. Unfortunately, pets can get burned if they get too close to a candle or jack-o-lanterns, or worse, start a house fire. Halloween lights are pretty but can also be dangerous to ours pets. Pets can get tangled in lights, or worse yet, they can get electrocuted if they chew on them.
This Halloween, make it a priority to keep your pets safe and sound. Keep your cats inside if you don’t already do so, and don’t leave your dog outside, especially if they are shy, nervous, or easily frightened by kids, loud noises, and lights. Be aware of common Halloween hazards like candy and decorations. Finally, if your pet doesn’t already have a collar, ID tag and microchip, get these before Halloween just in case your pet gets frightened and runs away during all the spooky commotion.
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
Dog and Cat Snakebites
Where do you find venomous snakes?
Think these slithery dangers don’t exist in your neck of the woods? Think again! There are 20 species of venomous snakes in North America and they are found in every state except Alaska, Hawaii and Maine. There are two families of venomous snakes in the US: the Crotalidae family (pit vipers such as rattlesnakes, copperhead, and water moccasins) and the Elapidae family (coral snakes). Since the majority of bites are due to rattlesnakes, I will focus primarily on them in this blog.
There are 32 species of rattlesnakes that range from southern Canada to Argentina and 16 species live in the US (Eastern Diamondback, Western Diamondback, Sidewinder, Lower California, Timber, Rock, Speckled, Blacktail, Twin-spotted, Red Diamond, Mojave, Tiger, Western, Ridgenose, Massasauga and Pigmy rattlesnake). Rattlesnakes come in a variety of colors such as tan, brown, gray, black, red, green and even white. While found in most US states, they are most concentrated in the southwestern United States. They can be found in many different habitats such as deserts, mountain ranges, forests, prairies and along the coast. Rattlesnakes can be around all year but are most commonly encountered during the warmer months and usually hibernate in the fall and winter.
Snakes bite when they feel threatened. A common scenario occurs when your dog encounters and startles a snake on a trail. A rattlesnake can bite your dog even if the meeting is not face-to-face. Rattlesnakes can strike as far as half of their own body length. Although they usually warn before striking by rattling their tail, rattlesnakes do not always rattle before they strike. Rattlesnakes can also control how much venom they release. They release more venom when threatened than when they strike offensively to warn. The severity of the bite depends on the amount of venom injected, the location of the bite, size of the victim, rate of venom uptake and time before treatment is initiated.
Snake venom contains a mixture of enzymes and peptides that cause a number of different signs and symptoms in pets. Dogs are typically bitten on the head and face while cats are often bitten on the legs, paws or body. Initial signs and symptoms are pain, rapid swelling and the presence of fang marks. It is important to note that fang marks may or may not be seen depending on the extent of swelling and also whether they are covered with hair. Within 1-3 hours pets may also become depressed, febrile, vomit, have trouble breathing, have low blood pressure, have a rapid heart rate, develop bruising around the bite mark and have bleeding problems.
Rattlesnake bites can be fatal. Left untreated they lead to circulatory collapse, bleeding disorders and death. The sooner treatment is initiated the better the prognosis. If you think your pet was bitten, take them to a veterinarian immediately. Do not wait for signs to appear before seeking veterinary help.
Be sure to come back Thursday and read Part II for information about how rattlesnake bites are diagnosed, treated and tips on how to prevent them in the first place.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.