Holiday Travel with Your Pet

  1. Ask yourself if taking your pet with you is the right thing to do (for your pet and your family). If the answer is “no,” then make suitable arrangements (pet sitter, boarding kennel, etc.) for your pet. If the answer is “yes,” then plan, plan, plan!
  2. Make sure your pet will be welcome where you’re heading – this includes any stops you may make along the way, as well as your final destination.
  3. If you’re crossing state lines during your travel, you need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (also called a health certificate). You’ll need to get it within 10 days of when you plan to travel. Your veterinarian will examine your pet to make sure it doesn’t have any signs of infectious disease and that it has the appropriate vaccinations (e.g., rabies). This certificate can’t be legally issued without a veterinary exam, so please don’t ask your veterinarian to break the law.
  4. Make sure you know how you can find a veterinarian quickly if there’s an emergency on the way to or after you’ve reached your destination. The AVMA’s site allows you to search for a veterinary practice by zip code or city/state, even in an emergency.
  5. Prior to travel, make sure your pet is properly identified in case they become lost. Your pet should be wearing a collar with an ID tag (with accurate information!). Microchips provide permanent identification and improve your chances of getting your pet returned to you, but make sure you keep your registration information up to date.
  6. Properly restrain your pet with an appropriately-fitted harness or in a carrier of the appropriate size. “Appropriate size” means that they can lay down, stand up and turn around, but it’s not so big that they will be thrown around inside the carrier in case of a sudden stop or a collision. No heads or bodies hanging out the windows, please, and certainly no pets in laps! That’s dangerous…for everyone.
  7. Make sure your pet is accustomed to whatever restraint you plan to use BEFORE your trip. Remember that road trips can be a little stressful on your pet. If your pet isn’t already used to the harness or carrier, that’s an added stress.
  8. When traveling with your dog(s), make frequent stops to allow it/them to go to the bathroom, stretch their legs and get some mental stimulation from sniffing around and checking things out.
  9. Take adequate food and water for the trip. Offer your pet water at each stop, and try to keep your pet’s feeding schedule as close to normal as possible.
  10. When traveling, keep a current picture of your pet with you so you can easily make “lost” posters and/or use the picture to help identify your pet if it becomes lost.
  11. Make sure you take your pet’s medications with you, including any preventives (heartworm, flea and tick) that might be due while you’re traveling.


Holiday Toxins & Emergencies

Christmas is upon us and things have really gotten busy!  We ask you to take a quick check around your home and make sure your pets do not have access to any unsafe plants, foods, or items in your home.  Here’s a quick rundown of the most problematic holiday perpetrators!

Most species of lilies are deadly to cats. In some cases, a small amount of pollen or even one leaf can cause sudden kidney failure. Christmas cactus and Christmas (English) holly can cause significant damage to the stomach and intestinal tract of dogs and cats. Death is not usually reported, but it’s best to keep these plants out of reach.  If your pet ingests some of these plants, call Rita Ranch Pet Hospital immediately.  If we are not open, call the veterinary emergency room.

A holiday myth is that Poinsettias and mistletoe are toxic to pets.  These plants are not as toxic as urban legend describes.  Poinsettias have little crystals in them that can be irritating to the pets mouth or skin, but serious poisonings are almost unheard of. American mistletoe (the kind we use for Christmas parties), is not very toxic, generally causing mild stomach upset.  Its cousin, European mistletoe is more toxic and causes more problems.

The most dangerous foods at this time of year are chocolates and cocoa, sugarless gum/candies containing Xylitol, fatty meat scraps, and yeast bread dough.  If your pet ingests any of these, even if it seems to be just a small amount, call Rita Ranch Pet Hospital immediately. Surprisingly, fruit cake is actually quite dangerous to our pets. Grapes, raisins, and currants are common ingredients and have been implicated in kidney failure in dogs.  In addition, many fruit cakes have been soaked in rum or other alcohols making it doubly dangerous to pets.  Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the pet’s bloodstream causing drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature.

Liquid potpourris can cause chemical burns to the mouths of pets.  Cats appear to be more sensitive, but fevers, respiratory difficulty, and tremors can be seen in both dogs and cats.

In addition, cats (and some dogs) are attracted to long string-like objects including garland, tinsel, and ribbons. Although these are not poisonous, they can be ingested and that is where they can cause serious problems.  These “linear (or string) foreign bodies” can get stuck in the pet’s stomach or intestines and slowly saw through the tissue causing a potentially fatal infection of the abdomen. Surgery & subsequent intensive hospitalization is the only treatment.

Play it safe with your pets this holiday season. Keep dangerous items out of reach, secure trash cans, and do a “pet proofing” walk through of your home.  While decorations are out, do your best to keep an eye on your pets or keep them separated from them to prevent exposure to these festive, yet potentially dangerous things.  If you have any questions about the potential dangers of holiday plants, decorations, or foods, contact Rita Ranch Pet Hospital at (520) 624-6100 for answers.  If we are not open, you can call Pima Pet Clinic emergency veterinary hospital at (520) 326-7449.  You could also call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 1 (888) 426-4435.

We wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday!

Arthritis During Winter

Arthritis is a degenerative and painful condition that affects millions of people in the US. It is even more prevalent in dogs: 1 in 5 adult dogs have it and that number doubles once the dog is older than 7.  Up to 90% of all cats aged 12 years and older have radiographic (x-ray) evidence of arthritis!  What pet owners should realize is that arthritis in dogs and cats is just as painful as it is in humans.

Arthritis can affect any age, size, or breed of dog and cat. However those most at risk are senior pets (age 7 year and older), large breed dogs, overweight pets, and those with inherited joint abnormalities such as elbow or hip dysplasia.

Because dogs and cats by nature hide their pain, it is often difficult to tell when they  have arthritis. Frequently, dog owners overlook the signs of arthritis, calling it simply “old age” or “slowing down.”  Signs of arthritis in dogs can include tiring easily on walks, limping, appearing stiff after activity, reluctance to climb steps or jump up, and being slow to rise from a resting position. Cat owners will often misinterpret arthritis as “slowing down” with age. Cats may be reluctant to jump up or down and, because arthritis in cats often affects the same joint on both sides of the body, they may appear to slow down, not groom as much, and seem more grouchy or irritable.

There are ways for you to help your arthritic pet that can be done right at home. Help your pet shed those extra pounds through increased exercise and diet (your vet at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital can help with diet recommendations). A warm soft bed helps soothe aches and pains. A ramp for helping the dog in/out of the car or upstairs will help make a difficult climb easier.  For cats it can be as simple as buying or making some steps for cats to reach her favorite perch or the bed.  Make sure to buy litterboxes with lower edges and bring food and water bowls down to ground level.

There are excellent treatments available to help manage arthritis. These include joint supplements, anti-inflammatories (never give your pet over the counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen/Tylenol/Aleve as they can be toxic to your pet), acupuncture, even laser and physical therapy.

Your pet doesn’t have to suffer in silence. Arthritis can’t be cured, but it can be managed, environmental changes to ease discomfort, and TLC.  Call to set up an appointment with your veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital — your pet will get a full physical exam so that the doctor can consult with you.  Then, we will make a custom treatment plan to help your pet start feeling better right away!

Holiday Hazards for Your Pet

Holiday Hazard 1: Liquid Potpourri

Liquid Potpourri: While the scents of simmering potpourri can be delightful, ingestion can prove deadly, especially for cats. While any pet might be burned by heated oils, cats are particularly sensitive to the components & detergents that are found in such products. If eaten, severe burns to the mouth, esophagus, and stomach may occur. Liquid potpourri may also cause severe irritation to the skin. If pets come into contact with it, their fur needs to be washed with liquid hand-washing soap until all traces of the oily residue are removed.
Because it’s difficult to determine exactly how much of thisdetergent is in liquid potpourris, we suggest that clients avoid using them. For those, who insist on scenting their homes, safer options include plug-in air fresheners or scented candles kept high away from pets.

Holiday Hazard 2: Chocolate
Chocolate: We’ve all heard that chocolate can be toxic to pets, but just how much is too much? Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine that’s highly toxic to dogs and cats. The darker or more concentrated the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains. Therefore, the most dangerous chocolates are baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and gourmet dark chocolates. Dark chocolate covered espresso beans are particularly problematic since they may contain large amounts of both theobromine and caffeine.

Milk chocolate contains lower amounts of theobromine. Typically, animals need to consume at least 1 to 2 ounces of milk chocolate per kilogram of body weight before symptoms occur. The amount of chocolate in many baked goods, including cookies, cakes and candies is often relatively low and less frequently causes serious chocolate poisoning. However, significant gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and diarrhea, are common following the ingestion of any chocolate product.
Signs of chocolate or theobromine poisoning include salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, pacing, tachycardia, arrhythmias, tremors, and seizures. Ingestion of chocolate may also cause pancreatitis because of the high fat content. Breeds such as Yorkshire terriers, miniature schnauzers, and Shetland sheepdogs, along with obese dogs and those on certain medications (such as potassium bromide, azathioprine, etc.) are more at risk for pancreatitis.

Holiday Hazard 3: Plants
Holiday plants: Curious pets often nibble on holiday plants. Though most are fairly safe, some can prove to be fatal, even with small ingestions.
Lilies: All flowers of the Lilium species, including Stargazer, Easter, Tiger, and other Asiatic lilies, are extremely poisonous to cats. Lilies are not toxic to dogs, and only self-limiting vomiting is expected if a dog ingest them. The ingestion of just one or two leaves or petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure in cats. Even the pollen from these flowers is toxic to cats. Signs of kidney failure due to lily ingestion include vomiting, reduced appetite, increased or decreased urination, and lethargy. Kidney failure will begin within a few days of a cat eating lilies and, if not treated, the cat often dies. Any cat ingesting even small pieces of lily needs an immediate medical evaluation accompanied by intensive intravenous fluid therapy, blood work, and hospitalization.

In spite of their names, plants such as the Peace Lily, Lily of the Valley and the Calla Lily are not true lilies. While they may cause other issues (gastrointestinal distress, arrhythmias) for pets, they do not cause sudden kidney failure.
Poinsettias, Holly, and Mistletoe: Though traditionally thought of as quite toxic to pets, the potential for poisoning from poinsettias is “overhyped.” The milky sap of poinsettias contains irritating saponin-like (or detergent-like) properties. While exposure to the sap may cause irritation to the skin and mouth, along with vomiting and diarrhea, serious or fatal poisoning is highly unlikely.
American mistletoe is commonly used in the U.S. as a Christmas time decoration, and is less toxic that its European counterpart. Ingestion of mistletoe most commonly causes self-limiting vomiting and mild neurological depression. Rarely, diarrhea and hypotension (low blood pressure) may also occur.
Holly is also less toxic than previously touted. The most likely problem caused by ingesting holly is irritation to the gastrointestinal tract from the saponins (similar to poinsettias) and physical damage to the stomach and intestinal tract from the spiny points of the leaves. Though holly also contains methylxanthines (also found in chocolate and caffeine) and cyanogens, these chemicals rarely lead to poisoning from small ingestions of the plant. Additionally, large ingestions of holly may also cause a bowel obstruction because the leaves are difficult to digest.

Holiday Hazard 4: Ribbon and Tinsel
Ribbon and Tinsel: These shiny strings are simply too tempting for cats to resist. Though they’re not poisonous, ingesting these strings can result in a life-threatening linear foreign body, intestinal perforation, and septic peritonitis (infection in the abdominal cavity). A linear foreign body occurs when pets swallow something stringy, like ribbon, yarn, floss, or cassette tape ribbon. The stringy item wraps around the base of the tongue or anchors in the stomach and is unable to pass through the intestines. As the intestines contract and move, this string slowly saws through the intestinal tissue, resulting in severe damage and possible rupture of the pet’s intestinal tract. The treatment for linear foreign bodies involves complex and expensive abdominal surgery, hospitalization, antibiotics, and pain management. Even after surgical removal, some pets may not survive.

If a pet does ingest a long piece of tinsel, ribbon, thread, or string, it is advisable to take the pet immediately to a clinic or hospital for an examination. Most importantly, if a pet owner reports seeing a string hanging from the pet’s mouth or anus, they should not attempt to pull it out themselves and risk further damage. Only trained veterinary professionals should remove such strings.