Fall is in the air in Virginia. School is back in session, some trees are already turning colors, and there’s even a nip in the air some days. This can be an especially enjoyable season, but it also presents new safety hazards for pets. By taking a few precautions, you and your pet can enjoy the fun of fall together.
 
Tips for Outdoor Safety
You might not think these tips apply to you if you have an indoor pet, but some dogs and cats are determined to get outside no matter what you do. Potential outdoor dangers include:
  • Rodent traps: With the weather getting cooler, it’s common for mice and other rodents to attempt to get inside a home for shelter. Homeowners typically place rodenticide along the exterior of their homes to keep the critters out. However, the poison used to kill rodents can also have a toxic or fatal effect on your dog or cat. We recommend looking for a pet-safe rodenticide and supervising your pet closely while outdoors.
  • This is also the time of year that Virginia residents drain the air conditioning coolant from their cars. If the coolant drips on the ground, your pet may mistake it for drinking water. This substance is highly toxic and can make your dog or cat extremely ill. If you’re unable to keep your pet indoors when removing the coolant from your car, switch to one made from propylene glycol.
  • A small percentage of mushrooms are fatal or toxic to companion animals. Since you don’t always know which ones are safe and which ones are toxic, don’t allow your pet to chew on any mushrooms growing outside. 
Fall Safety Tips for Inside the Home
Your pet may feel stressed or lonely after the kids go back to school. He is also likely to investigate the contents of your child’s backpack that potentially contains toxic items like markers and glue sticks. To avoid an emergency, make sure your child keeps the backpack in another room and closes the door. 
 
Although we still have plenty of time to plan for Halloween, it’s never too early to make sure it’s a safe one. If you’re thinking about getting a costume for your pet this year, be sure that it fits well and doesn’t cover her mouth or eyes. It’s also important to keep your pet inside in another room on Halloween night. The stress of so many people coming to the door can cause her to misbehave or try to escape.
 
Many families have a big cleaning session in the spring and again in the fall. Just make sure that you keep cleaning supplies away from your pet while using them and keep them in a secured area when not in use. 
 
Should you experience an emergency with your pet this fall, please contact us right away at 540-955-2171. If it’s after hours, please click this link for information about emergency care in the area.
 
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With the recent flooding in Texas and Florida  and wildfires in Montana, natural disasters are at the forefront of many people’s minds. Perhaps you have seen the photos of animal rescues and wonder what you would do in the same situation. During National Disaster Preparedness Month, the Centers for Disease Control encourages everyone to create a response plan for natural disasters such as blizzards, floods, fires, and tornadoes. This can be a little more challenging when you have pets.

Create a Separate Disaster Kit for Your Pets
It’s hard to predict how you might act in times of severe stress. That’s why advanced preparation is so important. Here is what the CDC recommends including in your disaster kit for a pet:
  • Pet food in an airtight container and fresh water to last for two weeks
  • Plastic bags to place dog waste and a litter box for cats
  • Cleaning and grooming supplies
  • Enough of each pet’s medication to last for two weeks
  • Secure pet carriers 
  • Pet harness and leash
  • Toys and personal bedding
Written care instructions in case you become separated from your pet. Be sure to include your name and contact details, your pet’s medications and list of vaccines, contact details of Battletown Animal Clinic, and any behavior challenges.
 
Other Tips for Disaster Planning
Your pet’s tag and collar could easily come off amidst the chaos of a natural disaster, so it’s a good idea to have a microchip implanted. This allows anyone who finds your dog or cat to bring him to a shelter or veterinary clinic where the staff can scan him to retrieve your contact information. Be sure to label each carrier with the pet’s name as well as your name and contact details.
 
Another CDC recommendation is to keep a harness or leash close to the exit door in your home. Distressed pets may run away from you, so it’s much easier to control your dog or cat by using a leash or harness.
  
Although no one likes to think a disaster will affect them, decide where you would seek shelter and include the details in your disaster plan. If you’re able to remain in your home, choose one room to place your pet and provide her with food and water. Be sure to check on her often and provide as much comfort as you can.
 
You may have no choice but to separate from your pet if you need to evacuate your home. In that case, having a list of nearby boarding facilities and shelters can make things a little easier. 
 
Remember That Disease Can Spread Quickly
During a natural disaster, your pet may be exposed to severe weather, standing water, wild animals, other pets, and large numbers of people. Unfortunately, disease spreads more quickly in these situations. Keeping up with your pet’s preventive care exams and vaccines is the best way to ensure his health in the aftermath of a disaster. Please contact Battletown Animal Clinic at 540-955-2171 if you need to schedule an appointment. 
 
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According to the Pet Poison Helpline, 50 percent of the calls it receives are from people whose pet ingested their prescription or over-the-counter medication. It’s even greater than the calls the organization receives for anti-freeze poisoning and holiday accidents. Because of this alarming trend, the Pet Poison Helpline consulted with veterinary experts to provide a list of helpful tips for pet parents. 
 
The first thing to understand is that you should never give a medication prescribed to adults or children to an animal. In fact, you shouldn’t give your pet any medication at all without first speaking to a veterinarian at Battletown Animal Clinic. Your pet requires monitoring while he finishes the course of medication and immediately afterwards.
 
Other Tips to Prevent Your Pet from Eating Your Pills
Although it might be more convenient for you to place your pills in a plastic bag, it’s too much of a risk to your pet’s safety. Plastic bags are much too easy for a dog or cat to scratch and bite to get to what’s inside. Their natural curiosity drives them to investigate anything new, but they have no way of knowing that chewing or swallowing the pills could be dangerous.
 
If you carry a purse, be sure to hang or place it well out of your pet’s reach. With their strong sense of smell, dog and cats may not be able to resist trying to dig into your purse to find the forbidden pills. You should do this even if you don’t carry medication in your purse since ingesting make-up, chewing gum, or other contents of a purse can be harmful for your pet.
 
Keep medications for yourself and your family members away from your pet’s medications. It’s too easy to mix them up and then both you and your pet could become seriously ill. Another thing the Pet Poison Helpline suggests is to keep plastic pill organizers under lock and key or at least a high enough shelf that your pet can’t reach. Pets, especially dogs, may think that the organizer is a new toy to chew.
 
The Top Three Human Medications Ingested by Companion Animals
Companion animals most commonly chew or swallow these types of human medications:
  • Acetaminophen: This drug is especially dangerous for cats because it can damage the red blood cells to the point that it becomes difficult for the cat to transport oxygen. It also causes liver failure and red blood cell damage to dogs in larger doses. You probably know it as Tylenol. 
  • Anti-depressants: An overdose of any human anti-depressant medication can cause incoordination, tremors, seizures, and other serious neurological problems. If the medication has a stimulant effect, it can cause a dangerously high heart rate in pets.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug: These common drugs, including ibuprofen and naproxen, can cause kidney failure, intestinal ulcers, and other serious stomach issues in pets. 
These are just three categories of pills meant for people that can cause an immediate health crisis for a pet. If you suspect your dog, cat, or other animal has gotten into your medication, contact us immediately at 540-955-1151. If the clinic is closed, you can call one of the following:
  • The Life Centre, located in Loundon County, 703-777-5755
  • Valley Veterinary Emergency Service, located in Shenandoah Valley, 540-662-7811
  • Pet Poison Helpline, available 24 hours a day, 855-764-7661
We wish you and your pet well and hope you never experience an emergency like this.
 
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Every August, the Centers for Disease Control hosts a public awareness campaign about the importance of vaccines. Although it’s intended for people, it’s also important for pet owners to know how essential vaccines are for their pet’s long-term health. Staying current on your pet’s required vaccination prevents her from acquiring a serious, disabling, or fatal illness. 
 
Some vaccines, such as rabies, are required by law while others are option depending on your pet’s lifestyle. You may also hear these called core and non-core vaccines. We will let you know more about each type of vaccine at your pet’s annual preventive care exam so you can make an informed decision. Some factors to consider for non-core vaccines include your pet’s species, age, general health, time spent outdoors and around other animals, and activity level.
 
Required Vaccinations for Dogs and Cats
In addition to a rabies shot, puppies need a series of vaccines against adenovirus, distemper, and parvovirus starting at six weeks of age and ending at four months old. This involves getting a combination of vaccines and boosters every couple of weeks until the four-month mark. Certain breeds of dogs may need extra immunizations because of their size or other unique factors.
 
Kittens who have certain risk factors should receive an immunization against feline leukemia. Required vaccines for kittens and cats include calicivirus, feline herpes, rabies, and rhinotracheitis. If you adopt a dog or cat after age four months, be sure to request her vaccination records. The veterinarians at Battletown Animal Clinic will get her caught up on any missing vaccines as quickly as possible.
 
Vaccines Are Necessary and Safe
Since it’s rare to hear about new cases of rabies and other vaccine-preventable diseases, some pet owners assume that it’s no longer necessary to get their animals vaccinated. However, these diseases do still exist and can return in epidemic proportion if enough people fail to get their pets vaccinated against them. It’s similar to the herd immunity concept in people. 
 
Another common objection to veterinary vaccines is that they produce uncomfortable side effects. While most shots do include some mild side effects, your pet should feel better within a day. The most common ones include:
 
  • Discomfort where he received the injection
  • Reduced appetite and level of activity
  • Slight fever
  • Coughing, runny nose, sneezing, and other respiratory symptoms
These side effects should go away on their own without further treatment. However, please contact us immediately if your pet has an allergic reaction, difficulty breathing, swelling, diarrhea, or vomiting. These are rare, serious side effects that require prompt attention. You may reach our clinic at 540-955-1151. This is also the number you can use to schedule your pet’s next check-up.
 
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The image many people have of rabies is that of a previously calm animal turning rabid and foaming at the mouth. It’s really no surprise that many people fear the disease because of this image and misinformation that continues to circulate about it. While you don’t want to subject your pet to needless risk, it’s also important to know what is true about rabies and what is a myth.
 
Myths You Might Have Heard About Rabies
Some people believe that an animal doesn’t truly have rabies until the disease affects the brain. However, your pet would have rabies from the first moment that an infected bat, racoon, or another type of wild animal bit him. You wouldn’t know it right away because it can take 10 days to two months for the rabies infection to travel to his nervous system. This is called the incubation period. The more severe the bite, the shorter the time until the infection starts to cause extensive damage.
 
Another common misconception is that a pet won’t contract rabies unless she receives a direct bite from an infected animal. Sadly, it only requires contact with the saliva of the animal with rabies for your pet to acquire it too. An example of how this can happen is when a rabies-positive animal scratches your pet with claws covered in its own saliva.
 
The foaming at the mouth that many people associate with rabies doesn’t happen until the late stages of the disease. Some of the earlier indications that your pet may have been infected with rabies include:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Paralysis of the hind legs
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Unexplained seizures
  • Extreme changes in behavior
It's essential to contact Battletown Animal Clinic right away if your pet displays any of these symptoms. It doesn’t always mean that your pet has been infected with rabies, but we need to perform an examination to rule out or confirm the diagnosis. No cure currently exists for rabies in the advanced stages. The best course of action at this point is to euthanize the pet to prevent suffering since the disease will eventually become fatal.
 
The first stage of rabies, known as the prodromal phase, lasts only a few days. Infected animals may already display changes in their behavior. The next stage, called the furious phase, lasts for approximately one week. Dogs and cats in the furious phase will show unusual irritability and restlessness. The paralytic phase is the final stage of rabies. It affects the animal’s nerves and eventually causes her to die from respiratory failure.
 
How to Prevent Rabies in Companion Animals
A vaccine is the easiest way to prevent rabies and is also required by law. We give rabies vaccinations as part of your pet’s preventive care exam at Battletown Animal Hospital. After receiving the initial vaccination as a puppy or kitten, your pet should get a rabies booster every three years. Not allowing your pet to roam free is another important form of rabies prevention. This is especially important if you live close to a wooded area or know there are wild animals in your area. 
While rabies is frightening and tragic, committing to a routine vaccine schedule and following some basic precautions will keep your pet from getting it. Please contact us today if your pet needs a rabies vaccination.
 
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