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"If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got, he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get."
– Frank A. Clark  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 11 November 2018  

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Dr. Jim Humphries

  Holiday pet safety
  By Dr. Jim Humphries

   Christmas is here, but nothing ruins the holiday like a trip to the pet emergency room. Hopefully, these tips will help prevent that from happening.
   First, make sure you know how to get to your 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic before there is an emergency. In Falcon, we are lucky to have Tender Care Veterinary Clinic very close, and they offer “on call” emergency services (719-559-8282). They can handle many urgent needs during and after hours. Another option is the Powers Pet Emergency Clinic near Powers and Stetson Hills Boulevard (719-473-0482). Place these numbers close by to save valuable minutes should an emergency happen.
   Next, keep holiday food away from pets. If you want to share holiday treats with your pets, make or buy treats made just for them. This is a list of foods that are especially hazardous for pets:
  • Chocolate is an essential part of the holidays for many people, but it is toxic to dogs and cats.
  • Other sweets and baked goods often contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, and it has been linked to liver failure and death in dogs.
  • Turkey and turkey skin and anything fatty, even in small amounts, can cause a life-threatening condition in pets known as pancreatitis.
  • Table scraps are not good for pets and can be poisonous, including things you might not think about like onions, raisins and grapes.

   All those cool decorations can be a problem.
  • Christmas trees can tip over if pets climb on them or try to play with the lights and ornaments (cats are you listening?). Consider tying your tree to the ceiling or a doorframe, using fishing line to secure it.
  • Water additives for Christmas trees can be hazardous to your pets. Do not add aspirin, sugar or anything to the water for your tree if you have pets in the house. 
  • Ornaments: Broken ornaments can cause injuries, and ingested ornaments can cause intestinal blockage lacerations or even toxicity.
  • Tinsel and other holiday decorations also can be tempting for pets to eat. Eating tinsel can cause blockage and severe cutting of the intestines.
  • Electric lights can cause burns when a curious pet chews the cords.
  • Flowers and festive plants: Be careful of Amaryllis, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, and holly — they can be dangerous. The ASPCA offers a list of plants toxic to both dogs and cats.
  • Candles: Never leave a pet alone in an area with a lit candle; it could result in a fire.
  • Potpourris should be kept out of reach of your pets. Liquid potpourris contain essential oils that can severely damage your pet’s mouth, eyes and skin. Even solid potpourris could cause problems if eaten.
Many of us take our pets along on a trip to see family. Whether you take your pets with you or leave them behind, take these precautions to safeguard them whenever you’re traveling.
  • Interstate and international travel regulations require any pet you bring with you to have a health certificate from your veterinarian - even if you are traveling by car. Learn the requirements for any states you will visit or pass through, and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get the needed certificate within the time frames required by those states.
  • Pets in vehicles should always be safely restrained, and should never be left alone in the car in any weather. Proper restraint means using a secure harness or a carrier, placed in a location clear of the airbags. I see this a lot, but please never transport your pet in the bed of a truck. You are just asking for a very severe injury to your best buddy.
  • If you’re traveling by air and are considering bringing your pet with you, talk with your veterinarian first. It is something you really need to think carefully about. It is not simple and not without hazards. Air travel can put some pets at risk.
  • Pack for your pet as well as yourself, if you’re going to travel together. In addition to your pet’s food and medications, this includes bringing copies of their medical records, information to help identify your pet if it becomes lost, first aid supplies and other items.
  • Boarding your dog: The very first thing is to talk with your veterinarian about how best to protect your pet from canine flu and other contagious diseases, and to make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines. We have some fine boarding facilities near Falcon, and I would recommend a call, then a tour of the place and talk about any special needs your pet has. Remember, very often, no matter how well they take care of your dog, they will often lose weight; and it is not the boarding facility’s fault. And remember, the facilities fill up fast so book as soon as you can!

   Merry Christmas to all!

   Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian and provides hospice and end-of-life care for pets in the Colorado Springs area. He also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes.
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