Easter is quickly approaching on Sunday, April 16. Besides going to church services and enjoying a ham dinner, the holiday is associated with candy, baskets, hard-boiled eggs, and artificial grass. These things may be delightful for the human members of your family but may pose dangers for your pets. Cats and dogs are naturally curious creatures and can’t always resist the urge to investigate by sniffing, licking, and chewing items not meant for them. To avoid an illness or injury, it’s important to take a few simple precautions this Easter season.
 
Keep All Food and Treats in a Safe Location
Chocolate, table scraps, and any type of candy that contains xylitol, a sugar substitute, are especially dangerous for pets. Theobromine, the primary ingredient in chocolate, can cause an elevated heart rate, seizures, and hyperactivity in pets. Artificial sweetener, which is present in certain baked goods, gum, and candy, is linked to liver failure and seizures in pets. 
 
The fat content and spices in table scraps can make your pet seriously ill. He could also choke on bones still present
in meat. Make sure your guests know not to share, no matter how much your pet begs or looks sad. If possible, it’s best to keep your dog or cat in another room until everyone has finished their lunch or dinner. This is also a good idea if your pet tends to get anxious when you have company.
 
Easter Flowers and Artificial Grass
Cats are naturally drawn to chew on grass and plants and Easter lilies are no exception. Unfortunately, this specific plant can cause lethargy and vomiting. If your cat is a jumper and can get to the plant no matter where you place it, avoid bringing it into the house altogether.
 
Many people enjoy decorating Easter baskets with artificial grass, but it’s almost impossible for pets to resist chewing on it. It can get caught in your pet’s windpipe and cause choking or severe gastrointestinal distress if swallowed. If you still want to use artificial grass, avoid bringing it out until Easter morning and keep your pet in another room while your children find their baskets.
 
A Word About Eggs
Both plastic and hard-boiled eggs can pose a danger to your pet. Swallowing parts of a plastic egg can present a choking hazard and cause an upset stomach. It’s also important to make sure that you don’t leave any real hard-boiled eggs behind in the yard during your family’s Easter egg hunt. Because it doesn’t take long for them to spoil, your pet could become extremely ill from eating one.
 
Emergency Contact Information
Since Easter falls on a Sunday, Battletown Animal Clinic will be closed. In case of an emergency with your pet, contact The Life Centre at 703-777-5755 if you’re in Loudoun County or Valley Veterinary Emergency Service at 540-662-7811 if you’re in Shenandoah Valley. For emergencies during our regular office hours, please contact us at 540-955-2171.
 
Happy Easter from the entire staff at Battletown Animal Clinic.

Photo Credit: A Dog's Life Photo / Getty Images

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cases of Lyme disease in Virginia are rapidly escalating in both people and pets, especially in highly elevated areas. With the peak season just around the corner, pet owners need to know how to protect them from Lyme disease as well as recognize the symptoms of a dangerous tick bite. Even indoor pets are at risk of contracting Lyme disease if another pet or a member of your human family carries one in without knowing it.
 
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Cats and Dogs
One thing that makes Lyme disease detection difficult is that your pet may not show any signs of infestation for several months after the original tick bite. Be certain to check your pet for ticks every day, whether he went outside or not. Run your hand down your pet’s entire body, including his underside. Don’t forget to check inside his ears. If you spot a tick, pull it out swiftly and in a straight line with a pair of tweezers. Twisting as you pull could leave part of the tick’s body behind. You then need to drop the tick in rubbing alcohol to kill it. 

The following are common indications of Lyme disease:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Swollen joints or lymph nodes
  • Stiffness and pain when walking
  • Change in mood or behavior
  • Refusal to eat
Please contact Battletown Animal Clinic immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your pet has Lyme disease, but it’s important to rule it out. Testing may include an electrolyte, fecal, thyroid, or urine test, a blood parasite screening, or a chemistry test to determine how well your pet’s internal organs are functioning. The typical course of treatment includes antibiotics, plenty of rest, and loving care at home from you. 
 
Best Practices for Preventing Lyme Disease in Companion Animals
While you can’t remove all risk, controlling your pet’s exposure to infected ticks greatly reduces her chances of developing Lyme disease. We recommend doing the following:
  • Clear tall grass and brush from the edge of your lawn and the outer parameter of your home.
  • Promptly dispose of furniture and mattresses that give ticks a hiding place.
  • If you stack wood outside, place it in neat piles in a dry area to avoid attracting rodents that carry ticks.
  • Place wood chips or a gravel barrier between your lawn and any wooded areas. If you have a patio or playground equipment, it’s a good idea to put some type of barrier there as well.
  • Be sure to mow your lawn weekly and don’t allow leaves to pile up in your yard.
Tick prevention products are also essential. Your pet’s regular veterinarian would be happy to give you a product recommendation.
 
Photo Credit:  Schegelfotos / Getty Images
It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, that holiday known for green beer, corned beef, and cabbage. Many people choose to celebrate on March 17, whether they are Irish or not. With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday this year, it makes it easier to celebrate without having to worry about getting up for work the next day. If you have a pet and choose to celebrate with friends or family at home, it’s important to keep the safety tips outlined below in mind.
 
Keep Food and Drinks Away from Pets
It’s never a good idea to give table scraps to dogs and cats, but it’s especially important to avoid the practice on St. Patrick’s Day. That is because traditional Irish foods, such as sauerkraut, sausage, corned beef, and cabbage all have a high fat content that is hard for animals to digest. Too much of these types of food also increase the likelihood of your pet developing pancreatitis. Place your pet in a separate room away from guests if you don’t think they will be able to resist tossing a few table scraps your pet’s way.
 
Alcohol isn’t good for pets any day of the year. It can cause even greater stomach upset when green food coloring is added to it. If you decide to serve alcohol, keep it and any food dyes out of your pet’s reach. Any amount of alcohol, whether it’s beer or another beverage, can be toxic for dogs and cats. Let your guests know that it’s not a funny prank to give your pet any type of alcoholic beverage.
 
Anxious Pets and Kids at Parties
Some pets don’t want anything to do with visitors and that’s okay. You should never force a pet to interact with guests. If your dog or cat is on the shy side, prepare a room in advance of the party with food, water, bedding, and toys. Your pet will likely have a much more enjoyable evening passing the time alone than with strangers. 
It's also important to assess your pet’s ability to interact with children. Kids can be unpredictable and do things like try to ride a dog or pull a cat’s tail. Since you don’t know what your guests have taught their children about pets, make sure an adult supervises all interactions between the two.
 
Contact Information in Case of Emergency
Battletown Animal Clinic is open until 7 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day. You may reach us at 540-955-2171. After hours, please call Valley Veterinary Emergency and Referral Service at 540-662-7811.
 
Photo Credit: A Dog's Life Photo / Getty Images
Even when pet owners know that a routine check-up when their dog or cat is well can be beneficial, they often get busy and forget to schedule the appointment. At Battletown Animal Clinic, we urge you to leave yourself some type of reminder. We will also send you a postcard if it’s been a while since we have seen your pet. Veterinary studies show that keeping an annual preventive care exam schedule can help your dog or cat enjoy a longer, happier life. Isn’t that what every pet owner really wants?
 
Deciding on the Best Check-Up Schedule for Your Pet
If your adult pet between 12 months and seven years has no pressing health problems, bringing him in once a year should be sufficient. Because dogs and cats are already middle-aged by seven, we recommend bi-annual appointments starting at this age. We do additional screening for common age-related problems at six-month intervals, such as arthritis, diabetes, and kidney disease. If you have a puppy or kitten under one year, schedule the first appointment as soon as possible. Dr. Henke will give you information about the first-year vaccine schedule at that time.
 
Required vaccines for dogs include canine adenovirus, canine parvovirus, distemper, and rabies. Cats need to be vaccinated against feline calicivirus, feline panleukopenia, rabies, and rhinotracheitis. Dr. Henke will also discuss optional vaccines you may wish to consider. Some factors that determine whether your pet needs a non-core vaccine include age, breed, lifestyle, and species. If you don’t plan to breed your dog or cat, we recommend spay or neuter surgery as early as six months.
 
The Typical Preventive Care Exam
The annual or bi-annual appointment is a good time to learn if you’re doing all you can to control heartworm, fleas, ticks, and other internal and external parasites. Dr. Henke checks your pet for parasites and may recommend changes to your parasite control program if necessary. Your pet also receives any vaccines or boosters he’s due for at this appointment. Some of the other things that Dr. Henke checks for specifically include:
  • Respiratory problems such as allergies, asthma, coughing, sneezing, or unusual nasal discharge
  • Eye issues such as cloudiness or discharge that could indicate a problem with vision
  • Condition of her teeth, gums, mouth, tongue, and jaws
  • Problems with the coat or skin, including pigmentation changes, anal sac formations, excess shedding, rashes, and hair loss
  • Indications of abdominal distress, such as frequent diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation
  • Condition of the ears, including whether any discharge is present or your pet appears to have difficulty hearing
  • Symptoms that could indicate bone problems, including limping or favoring one limb
Of course, this isn’t an all-inclusive list. We know every pet is unique and tailor our approach to meet his needs. Dr. Henke will order a diagnostic test if he feels that your pet shows any type of abnormality. He will contact you to let you know the results and a follow-up plan as soon as possible.
 
We look forward to seeing you and your pet at the next preventive care exam. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns in the meantime.
 
Photo Credit: gurinaleksandr / Getty Images
 
Alarmed at the general oral health of companion animals, the American Veterinary Medical Association started National Pet Dental Health Month in February several years ago. The number of pets with periodontal disease is just one reason the AMVA started this awareness campaign. By age agree, 70 percent of cats and 80 percent of dogs have this oral health condition. Left untreated, periodontal disease can spread to other areas of a dog or cat’s body and cause an infection. Your pet can also lose teeth to periodontal disease, which makes eating and getting proper nutrients more challenging.
 
Prevention is Easier Than Treatment
Brushing your pet’s teeth daily or at least several times a week is the most important thing you can do for her oral health. Many pet owners feel so intimidated by the thought of their pet biting them during toothbrushing that they never attempt it. It might surprise you to learn that most dogs and cats will come to accept having their teeth brushed when you make it a consistent part of their daily routine. We recommend following these steps:
  • Approach your pet when he’s in a calm mood and begin massaging his cheeks for several seconds
  • Place a small dab of toothpaste on something she can lick off, such as a treat or your finger
  • Once your pet has tasted the toothpaste, put a small amount of it on a species-appropriate toothbrush and put it in his mouth
  • Allow your pet to get comfortable with the toothbrush in her mouth before you start brushing
  • Brush one tooth at a time for as long as your pet tolerates the process
  • Try to concentrate on the outer and upper molars first if your pet will only cooperative for a short time
  • Brush your pet’s teeth around the same time and in the same place each day to get him accustomed to a routine
  • Offer a lot of praise and attention for the behavior you desire and ignore unwanted behavior
  • Make it a goal to go from a few seconds to two full minutes of toothbrushing
 
Good nutrition is another important aspect of caring for your pet’s oral health. Make sure the food you buy contains few, if any, artificial fillers. Limit treats and avoid giving your pet people food, especially snack foods with high sugar content. You can give your dog a dental chew, but it shouldn’t take the place of regular brushing.
 
Symptoms of an Oral Health Problem
The symptoms listed below indicate that your pet could have an oral health issue that requires immediate attention. Please contact Battletown Animal Clinic to schedule an evaluation if you notice any of them.
  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Bad breath despite your toothbrushing efforts
  • Excessive drooling
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Stains on the teeth that appear yellow or brown
 
Our veterinarians check your pet’s teeth, gums, and jaws at every preventive care appointment. We also recommend scheduling an appointment for at least one professional cleaning per year. Just let us know if you think your pet will be highly anxious or agitated and we can provide calming medication during the procedure.
 
Photo Credit: wckiw / Getty Images