Canine distemper is such a serious disease that Virginia law requires dog owners to vaccinate against it. While you may have heard plenty about rabies, it’s possible that you have never heard about a dog with distemper. The disease attacks the respiratory, nervous, and gastrointestinal systems of dogs and is highly contagious as well. That’s why getting your dog vaccinated on time is so essential.

Symptoms and Transmission of Canine Distemper
A dog who already has the disease can pass it along through her urine, saliva, or blood. If your unvaccinated dog shares a food dish with a dog infected with distemper, she could pick it up that easily. Inhaling sneeze droplets is another common method of transmission. Unfortunately, the distemper virus travels quickly once your dog has acquired it. Typical symptoms of distemper include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Eye discharge
  • Nose discharge
  • Fever
  • Lack of energy
  • Appetite loss
Your dog could also pick up the virus through contact with a wild animal. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported distemper in the following:
  • Wolves
  • Tigers
  • Skunks
  • Seals
  • Raccoons
  • Minks
  • Leopards
  • Lions
  • Foxes
  • Ferrets
  • Coyotes
You must keep your dog away from all wild animals to ensure that she doesn’t acquire the distemper virus. If a pregnant dog acquires distemper, the virus can travel through her placenta to infect her puppies. A dog or puppy with the virus may continue to shed it for several months after the initial infection. Adults dogs who haven’t received a vaccination and puppies under four months of age make up the two biggest risk categories for canine distemper.

Diagnosing and Treating Distemper in Dogs
We encourage you to contact Battletown Animal Hospital right away if your dog shows signs of any of the symptoms we listed above. Our veterinarians rely on clinical observation and laboratory testing to make a diagnosis. Currently, no cure exists for canine distemper and we can only treat its symptoms. This could include medication to fight nausea and increasing fluids to keep your dog hydrated. If your dog does receive a diagnosis, you must keep him away from other dogs until he no longer displays any symptoms.

What You Should Know About the Distemper Vaccine
If a mother dog has received a distemper vaccination, her puppies benefit from natural immunity for about the first six weeks. You should plan to get your puppy’s first vaccine no later than nine weeks of age. The vaccine for canine distemper is part of a vaccine that also prevents hepatitis, influenza, adenovirus, and parvovirus that dogs typically receive at their preventive care exam. We recommend that you get the second vaccine dose for your puppy at 12 weeks. After that, she won’t need one until age one and then every three years.

The staff at Battletown Animal Hospital is happy to answer any additional questions you have about preventing or recognizing distemper or treating its symptoms. 
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The average winter temperature in Virginia is 32 degrees, which is also the point of freezing. At Battletown Animal Hospital, we urge you to keep this in mind when your pet spends time outside this winter. 

You certainly don’t have to avoid letting your pet outside, but it’s important to take precautions to reduce the risk of a winter illness or injury. For example, invest in an insulated dog house if your dog spends several hours outdoors every day. Although she might not like wearing them, you might also want to buy clothing and booties for your pet to ensure extra warmth while the weather is cold. 

Know the Signs of Cold Weather Trouble
Your pet could potentially develop hypothermia or frostbite if exposed to temperatures below 32 degrees for a long period. You may notice that he shivers uncontrollably, seems weak or lethargic, or bodily tissues appear black or bright red. Frostbite typically occurs on the paw pads, tips of the ears, and the tail. It can lead to hypothermia if not treated, which is the more serious condition. You should contact us right away if the affected areas of your pet’s body become dark instead of reddening as they thaw.

Other Winter Safety Hazards for Pets
Using anti-freeze gives you extra assurance that your car will start on a cold day. The problem is that it looks like water to your pet and has a sweet smell that can entice him to drink it. Make sure that you keep unused anti-freeze on a high shelf in your garage and wipe up any spills right away. Your pet might have consumed anti-freeze if he appears confused, vomits, or drools more than usual.

Keep in mind that cats, small dogs, and even some wild animals might hide under the hood of your car, in the exhaust system, or the wheel well when the weather gets cold. Before starting your car, be certain that an animal hasn’t taken up residence. Even if a pet survives a car ride, she is likely to experience long-term carbon monoxide poisoning effects.

Road salt, made from sodium chloride and chemical additives, helps to melt ice on driveways, sidewalks, and streets to make them safer for people to walk or drive on. However, road salt can be toxic to pets if they ingest it as well as cause pain and inflammation when they step on it. If your pet needs to walk over road salt, consider covering her paws with booties. Additionally, keep the fur between toes cut short so road salt doesn’t stick to it. 

What to Do in an Emergency
If you think your pet has hypothermia, has ingested a toxic substance, or is experiencing another type of emergency, please contact Battletown Animal Hospital during regular business hours at 540-955-2171 to request an immediate appointment. After hours, you may call Life Centre at 703-777-5755 or Valley Veterinary Emergency and Referral Service at 540-662-7811.

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2017 is on its last leg and 2018 will be here before you know it. Whether you plan to host a party, attend a party with your pet in tow, or sit quietly at home, Battletown Animal Hospital encourages you to review a few pet safety tips now so you can avoid ringing in the new year with a veterinary emergency. This starts by keeping your pet indoors on the evening of December 31 and the wee hours of January 1. 
Due to the noise and celebration associated with the holiday, your pet will feel the most secure in an enclosed room. It’s best to place her in a room without windows so she doesn’t become anxious or over-excited about what’s going on outside. Just make sure that you stock the room with your dog or cat’s favorite bedding and toys as well as plenty of food and water. Keeping your pet in another room during New Year’s Eve is an especially good idea if you plan to entertain guests. You may even want to consider temporary boarding for your pet if you expect an extended celebration.
Noisemakers and Fireworks Can Be a Nightmare for Pets
Noisemakers and New Year’s Eve go together like peanut butter and jelly, but that doesn’t mean that your pet will enjoy the sounds they make. Since he doesn’t know where the sound is coming from, it can make him feel extremely anxious. This is another good reason to keep him in a separate room away from the noise and activity. 
Fireworks are even more upsetting to pets, but unfortunately, you can’t control whether someone in your neighborhood sets them off near midnight on December 31. The best you can do is keep your pet in the house to avoid potential injuries and provide a calming environment as well as plenty of reassurance. 
It’s Not Funny to Give Alcohol to a Dog or Cat
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a beer or glass of wine with friends on New Year’s Eve. Just keep in mind that too much alcohol can lower people’s inhibitions and affect their judgment. Someone may even think it’s a good idea to share alcohol with your dog or cat. However, even a small amount of alcohol is toxic to pets and can make them extremely ill. To avoid this, keep alcoholic beverages out of your pet’s reach and instruct your guests never to give alcohol of any kind to your pet.
Make Sure Your Pet Has Microchip Identification
Even when you’re careful, a pet who feels stressed may rush out the door amidst the noise and confusion of your celebration. The good news is that pets with microchips are much more likely to reconnect with their human families than those with only a collar and tag or no identification at all. If your pet doesn’t have a microchip yet, you can schedule this simple procedure at Battletown Animal Hospital or request it during your pet’s next preventive care exam
Our entire staff wishes you and your pet a happy and healthy 2018!

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You may look forward to this season for months, but it can be baffling to your pet. Decorations seem to appear out of nowhere, you’re shopping and busier than ever, and the smells of holiday meals and treats seem to assault his nose at every turn. That means your naturally curious pet will try to investigate and get into situations that could cause him to become sick or injured. By taking a few minutes to review these safety precautions, you can relax and enjoy the season and not worry about your pet.

The Christmas Tree
If you choose a real Christmas tree, don’t feel surprised if your dog or cat tries to lap up the water. The water itself isn’t harmful, but the insecticides from the tree could end up in it and make your pet ill. You may also catch your pet trying to tear open someone’s gift of food. Since a pet’s sense of smell is 10 times stronger than our own, you may want to wait until Christmas to place a food-related gift under the tree.

Cats and dogs are attracted to bright, shiny lights and may not be able to resist those hanging on the tree. Your pet could also try to bat at or eat an ornament, the latter of which can be quite dangerous. The best way to prevent a possible choking situation is to place all dangling type of ornaments out of your pet’s reach at the top of the tree and tape down all wires. Tinsel is especially dangerous for pets because it can become lodged in their digestive tract. If you don’t think your dog or cat will be able to leave it alone, it’s best to skip the tinsel.
Hanukkah Candles
Menorah candles are a huge curiosity for pets. Unfortunately, it only takes an enthusiastic tail wag or sniff at a live flame for your pet to sustain a serious injury or start a fire. If you’re concerned about this possibility, consider using Menorah candles powered by batteries instead.
Holiday Food You Should Never Give Your Pet
Even a normally well-trained dog or cat can only take smelling so many amazing foods before she starts begging. While you might feel tempted to share, don’t give in to whines or sad eyes unless you’re certain the treat is safe and you only share a small amount.
Chocolate, yeast, grapes, avocados, seasoned meat, and meat with small bones can be especially hazardous for pets. Your eagle-eyed dog or cat will likely wait patiently for a guest to accidentally drop food or even a wrapper during the holiday meal. He may even get so excited that he eats things like food wrappers. To avoid this, keep your pet in another area of the home until everyone has finished their meal and you have had a chance to clean up. Above all, remain patient with your pet and try to give him as much attention as possible this holiday season.
Battletown Animal Hospital will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. If you have a pet-related emergency, please call Life Centre in Loundon at 703-777-5755 or Valley Veterinary Emergency and Referral Center in Shenandoah Valley at 540-662-7811.

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It's hard to believe that it’s almost time for Thanksgiving, the official start of the 2017 holiday season. This is a special, yet busy, time of year to come together with loved ones to express gratitude for life’s blessings. While you understand what’s going on with Thank­­­­sgiving, your pet does not. To him, it’s just a houseful of people he doesn’t know and smelling delicious food he can’t have. This could cause your dog or cat to misbehave, sustain an injury, or acquire food poisoning. Below are some tips to help you prevent that.
Try to Keep Your Pet’s Routine Consistent
For you, Thanksgiving is a chance to break out of the everyday routine and enjoy the company of your family. We all need that. However, pets thrive on routine. They don’t understand why your work schedule is different, you’re spending time baking, or why you’re traveling or inviting people to your home. This can cause stress and unpredictable behavior.
If you think the stress of the holiday season is getting to your dog or cat, create a quiet place in your home where she can get away from at all. It’s also best to keep your pet’s diet consistent as well as her exercise schedule. This is the best way to ensure that she doesn’t get sick from eating unknown foods or from lack of movement.

Human Foods That Pets Should Not Eat
You might think that a small bite of the Thanksgiving meal or treats won’t hurt your cat or dog. That may be true in some cases, but we urge you to share in moderation and to avoid giving you pet any of the following foods. The digestive system of companion animals is not like ours and they simply can’t handle certain things. These include:
  • Bones: What dog doesn’t love a good bone? Unfortunately, bones from your Thanksgiving turkey could contain tiny parts that cause a choking hazard for your dog. If you want your pet to have his own Thanksgiving treat, consider ordering from our online store instead.
  • Chocolate: The cocoa powder in chocolate can cause your pet severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and other signs of gastric distress. 
  • Food with a high fat content: Human food containing excess fat can lead to pancreatitis or gastroenteritis in your pet. Both conditions are painful and could become life-threatening over time.
  • Onions and powder for onions: These ingredients are common in seasoning and stuffing. They could cause your pet to develop anemia because of red blood cell damage. 
  • Raisins and grapes: These small fruits present a choking hazard for dogs and cats. They also contain toxins that can damage your pet’s kidneys.
Even when you don’t share food with your pet voluntarily, he may be on the lookout for someone to drop a wrapper or food scrap on the floor. The smell may cause him to get so excited that he attempts to eat aluminum foil, wax paper, cardboard, or another type of food wrapping. You also need to keep an eye on your garbage can to ensure your dog or cat doesn’t try to get into it. The best way to avoid these problems is to keep your pet in another room until everyone has enjoyed their Thanksgiving meal.
Who to Call in an Emergency
Sometimes a persistent pet can find trouble regardless of the safeguards you put in place. Since Battletown Animal Clinic is closed on Thanksgiving, you can contact The Life Centre at 703-777-5755 in Loudoun County or Valley Veterinary Emergency at 540-662-7811 in Shenandoah Valley if you need immediate help.
Happy Thanksgiving!

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