Holiday Fireworks


Humane societies and shelters typically take in more stray animals after the holidays because many pets are scared off by fireworks. Below are some tips to help pets cope with outdoor noises.

Holiday fireworks and other fanfare are often frightful experiences for dogs. The loud noises can hurt their sensitive ears.

Frightened dogs have different reactions: some tremble at their owners’ feet, others retreat to a hiding place, some try to run off (traveling for miles), and others display bizarre behavior. According to behavior specialist Dr. Elizabeth Shull, low-frequency, percussive noises such as fireworks and summer thunderstorms trigger wild fear in about 20% of dogs. Under such circumstances, ordinarily well-behaved pets may become aggressive, destructive and/or unpredictable.

Here are some precautions you can take to help your pets:

* Exercise utmost caution when taking a dog into new environments.

* Make sure all pets always are wearing well-fitted collars and securely fastened ID tags. Microchips are a form of permanent identification — insure your contact information is up to date with your pet’s microchip company.

* Don’t take pets to events with fireworks.

* If fireworks are being set off nearby, or if you’re having guests over for a holiday celebration, find a quiet, secure place to keep your pets. Darkening the room can help. This is when a crate trained pet makes your life easier!  If you crate your pet regularly, place the crate in the quietest part of the home. Make sure you put safe chew toys in the crate to occupy and distract the pet during the event. You can close the curtains and turn up the radio, CD player or TV to drown out noise.

* Do not leave pets outside, even in a fenced yard, anytime when fireworks might be set off in the distance.

* Rather than cuddle a frightened dog, try to distract the dog from the disturbing noises with physical activity such as playing ball.

* Remember that scolding or coddling a scared dog will not help. Scolding will scare and confuse the animal, and coddling serves to reinforce fearful behaviors. Instead, act confident and unbothered by the noise and activity outside. You can give your pet a gentle massage or even just place your hand calmly on the pet’s head.

* If the sounds and lights of fireworks frighten your dog, here’s an innovative technique from the most recent issue of “Unleashed! The Pet Care Forum’s Newsletter for Dog Lovers” ( Make an “anxiety wrap” using an adult or children’s T-shirt. Put the dog’s front legs through the arm holes, then knot the hem over the dog’s back.  Wrapping fabric around an animal can give the pet a feeling of greater security. Also in wide use are Thundershirts for cat and dogs which can be purchased online and at pet stores — these have the same effect when used properly.


* If you’re going out of town for the holidays, entrust the care and feeding of pets to an adult friend or a boarding kennel you know very well.

We wish you all a very safe & Happy New Year!


Have We Seen Your Cat Lately?

There are 82 million pet cats in the U.S., compared with 72 million dogs, making cats the most popular pet.

Yet studies show the number of feline veterinary visits is declining steadily each year. For example, a recent industry survey revealed that compared with dogs, almost three times as many cats hadn’t received veterinary care in the past year.

The disparity may be related to common myths about cat health, such as:

• Cats are naturally healthier and more problem-free than dogs

• Feline health problems come from outside and don’t affect indoor cats

• Cats will display visible signs of illness like dogs do

The truth is, cats need regular veterinary care, including annual exams and vaccinations, just like dogs do. And because they are naturally adept at hiding signs of illness, annual exams are especially important for early diagnosis of health problems.

Here at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital, we are taking steps to raise awareness about the importance of regular veterinary care for cats. In all pets, especially in cats, early detection is critical.  Truthfully, cats age faster than people do.  Only going to the see the veterinarian once a year would be similar to you visiting your doctor or dentist every four to five years. Prevention is always safer and less expensive than treatment.

However, we understand the difficulty that cat owners have getting their pets to the veterinarian and identified that as one of the reasons we are seeing cats less often. We recommend leaving your cat’s carrier out in the home at all times to help with desensitization.  Placing fluffy blankets, their favorite toys, or even treats can help them see their carrier as a nice “den” and not just the box that takes them to the vet.  With many of our nervous feline patients, the doctor can even complete an exam and do their vaccines while leaving the pet in the bottom tray of their carrier, usually with a blanket from home to help ease their stress.

Call our office at (520) 624-6100 or email us at if you have questions or need more information!




Poinsettias & Your Pets

The following information is from the Pet Poison Helpline.  If you are ever worried your pet has ingested or been exposed to something toxic, call them at 800-213-6680 or go to

Though poinsettia plants get a bad rap around the holidays, they are only mildly toxic to dogs & cats.


Signs of poisoning:

Mild signs of vomiting, drooling, or rarely, diarrhea may be seen. If the milky sap is exposed to skin, dermal irritation (including redness, swelling, and itchiness) may develop. Rarely, eye exposure can result in a mild conjunctivitis (“pink eye” secondary to inflammation). Signs are self-limiting and generally don’t require medical treatment unless severe.

There is no antidote for poinsettia poisoning. That said, due to the low level of toxicity seen with poinsettia ingestion, medical treatment is rarely necessary unless clinical signs are severe.


Far more worrisome are holiday bouquets containing lilies, holly or mistletoe. Even bouquets brought into the house by holiday guests should be thoroughly inspected, as lilies are the #1 flower often used by florists. Just one or two bites from a lily can result in severe acute kidney failure in cats – even the pollen is thought to be poisonous!


Other yuletide pants such as holly berries, mistletoe, and rosemary can also be toxic to dogs and cats. When Christmas or English holly is ingested, it can result in severe gastrointestinal upset thanks to the spiny leaves and the potentially toxic substances (including saponins, methylxanthines, and cyanogens). If ingested, most dogs and cats lip smack, drool, and head shake excessively due to the mechanical injury from the spiny leaves. As for mistletoe, most of us hang it high enough so it’s out of reach of our dogs and cats – nevertheless, it can also be toxic if ingested. Thankfully, American mistletoe is less toxic than the European varieties of it. Mild signs of gastrointestinal irritation are seen, although if ingested in large amounts, collapse, hypotension, ataxia (walking drunk), seizures and death have also been reported.


Questions?  Call Rita Ranch Pet Hospital at (520) 624-6100.  If you have concerns after hours, contact Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty & Emergency center at (520) 888-3177.


Recovery is Sweet: A Case Study in Xylitol Toxicity

As the close of the 2012 approaches, we are reflecting back on some of our memorable cases of the year.  Earlier this year. one of our beloved patients, a 13-year-old Australian Shepherd named “Kato,” was hospitalized after ingesting a near-fatal amount of the sugar substitute, Xylitol.

Xylitol is a white, crystalline sugar alcohol that is used as a substitute sweetener in many products.  It can be found in sugar-free gum, candy, and foods.  It is also available in a granulated form for baking, and is popular among diabetics and those on low-carb diets.  It is also used in some toothpaste due to its anti-cavity properties.

In humans, Xylitol is absorbed slowly and has little to no effect on our blood sugar or insulin levels.  However, in dogs, xylitol is rapidly absorbed.  It then causes their pancreas to release insulin, which causes their blood sugar to drop.  In dogs, xylitol can also cause liver failure, bleeding, and death.

Unfortunately, it takes very little xylitol to cause signs of toxicity in dogs.  Greater than 0.1gram per kilogram of their weight can cause illness such as vomiting.  At only 1.0 gram per kilogram of body weight, their liver tissue starts to destruct and acute liver failure with death can follow.

Just as an example, a typical stick of gum contains 0.3-0.4 grams of Xylitol, which means a 10lb dog could be poisoned by as little as a stick and half.  If they ate an unopened package, liver destruction would most likely occur.



Our friend “Kato” ingested 9-10 cupcakes that a friend had made for his family.  The cupcakes were placed high on a counter out of his reach, but he managed to somehow get them down!  These cupcakes were baked using Xylitol, and Dr. Krauss suspects that he could have ingested as much as 95 grams (that would be almost EIGHT grams per kilogram that he weighs!) of Xylitol!  His owners rushed him to the hospital as soon as they discovered what had occurred.  Needless to say, he was very ill and extremely dehydrated.

Kato’s liver chemistries were too high for our blood machine to read for the first 2 days that he was hospitalized.  A normal level for this enzyme is between 10-100, and on Day 3, it was finally able to read that Kato’s value was almost 4,000.  With values this high, he started to exhibit “icterus,” which is very similar to jaundice in humans.  This means his gums & eyes started to have a yellow tinge.  He was lethargic, exhausted and was unwilling to eat.


Kato was maintained on IV fluids to help rehydrate him.  He was given supportive hospital care for almost 3 days.  He was placed on several medications to help protect his liver from being damaged further.  We were very worried that he would not survive.

However, at the end of his second day in the hospital, things start to turn around.  He started to eat and was perky when his family came to visit.  He had even gained two pounds! All of his medical therapies were working together to help repair his liver.  We were all ecstatic that he was feeling better!

At the end of Kato’s third day in the hospital, he was finally well enough to go home.  His family continued his medications and he was placed on a special diet for liver health.  We will be monitoring him closely over the next few months and seeing him back to check his liver values.

Though Kato’s story ended happily, unfortunately this is not often the case.  Xylitol ingestion used to be a rare problem, and in the last few years it has become a common one.  The number of products containing Xylitol for use in humans continues to rise.  We hope that by sharing Kato’s story, we can educate pet owners on the danger of this household substance!

Caring for Your Pet’s Anal Glands

Watch Out for the “Scoot”

You might have seen one of the many videos on You Tube where a dog is scooting his butt across the floor in a most humorous way. While silly, this could also be a sign of a potentially serious problem – impacted or infected anal glands.

It may not be something you want to bring up with us, but it is important to do so.  Learning how to care for your dog’s anal glands will help insure he stays healthy and may save you the cost of an emergency visit to the vet later on. Anal glands are a dog’s calling card – they emit a small amount of fluid when pressured by defecating and that fluid has your dog’s own unique smell. They can also release the smell when a dog is excited or even frightened. If the glands aren’t expressed (releasing built up fluid) naturally and regularly, they become impacted which can lead to infection or even a rupture of the glands.

Regular Care of the Anal Glands

Some dogs never have a problem with their anal glands so it’s up to you to be aware of the warning signs. The famous scoot across the floor is a good indication that your dog needs his anal glands expressed. Other signs are a fishy odor around your dog’s behind, your dog licking near his anus, or soft stools. If you notice any blood where your pup has scooted, call us or come to the office right away!

The Role of Nutrition

By feeding your dog a higher quality dog food, your dog will likely produce firmer stools which will naturally express the anal glands.  What makes a quality dog food?  Bring it up with us at your next appointment, and our doctor can give you personalized recommendations for your pet.  Table Scraps or too many treats can be more likely to cause soft stools.

Having a Professional Express the Glands

This is really recommended as an expert is less likely to hurt your dog and can do it quickly and efficiently. You can bring your pet to Rita Ranch Pet Hospital to get the glands expressed when you notice a sign that they’re impacted.  We will express the glands internally and empty the glands completely.  You can also take your pet to the groomer. Groomer’s express the glands externally, but even this may provide your pet with relief.  A groomer may be a good choice — they likely see your dog every few months, so there may less time that the glands are going unchecked.


Anal glands can be easily overlooked when you consider your pet’s health. But these small, stinky sacs can cause a lot of trouble if they aren’t checked. An impaction is uncomfortable for your dog, an infection is painful and a rupture is extremely painful and leads to further complications. And the next time your pup scoots around the floor, call us at (520) 624-6100.