This time of year is an exciting one, and a time to get caught up in holiday festivities and the spirit of gift giving. Even turning on the TV at this time of year offers viewers programming of nostalgia-inducing Christmas celebrations, often focused around gift-giving moments at the tree. Of course, in these shows, when a puppy or kitten pops out of the present, there is a happy ending and smiles all around. However, reality is often not quite as blissful. The weeks following the holiday season tend to be the weeks of the highest pet relinquishment. Here are 4 reasons to reconsider gifting someone a pet.

1. Bringing a pet Into a home requires planning, education and preparation

Getting a pet should never be done on a “whim”. One must consider family dynamics, lifestyle, time available to devote to creating an enriching and mentally stimulating environment for a pet, and best type of pet to have the most successful integration into the family. This can take weeks or even months of research and planning. There are other questions, too, such as:

  • Who will take care of the pet while the owner is working?
  • Who will be primarily responsible for attending to the pet’s needs?
  • Are children at an appropriate age to safely and responsibly interact with the pet?

2. Financial impact

The costs of caring for a pet exist beyond just the cost of the pet or the adoption fee. Consider the first year of the pet’s life when all of the primary vaccinations, spaying or neutering,  and wellness checks are necessary to get his start in his new home off to a healthy one. Add in food, toys, and obedience classes, and the expenditures quickly add up to a significant number. What if an accident or sudden illness should occur to the new furry family member? These expenses may quickly reach into numbers exceeding $1000 or more. This “gift” suddenly becomes an unexpected, and potentially insurmountable, burden.

3. Allergies

Allergies to a pet are one of the top 10 reasons that pets (specifically cats) are relinquished to shelters, according to Petfinder. If one is unaware of the gift recipient’s allergy to a pet, not only does receiving an animal unexpectedly have the danger of causing health issues to the human, but the pet would likely be turned in to a shelter, only to be required to wait for a new home.

4.  Stress, stress, and more stress.

The holidays already have a high level of activity and energy. Consider what this would be like for a pet entering a “strange” new home. Not only is the charged environment a stressor, but the extra bustle, noise, strange faces, smells and sights create highly unpredictable surroundings. The potential for bites, aggression, or behaviors due to stress increases. Pets are much more content in calming and predictable settings, which potential pet owners would have more control outside of the busy holiday season.

At Battletown Animal Clinic, we’re excited to partner with pet owners on the journey to their pet’s health and well-being. Although a pet is truly a gift to a family, avoiding giving them as a present just makes sense. By allowing a potential pet owner to carefully research the best type of pet for their home and lifestyle, make financial plans for care, and attend to preparation to make the pet’s joining of the household a smooth, welcome and stress-free one! With education and planning, acquiring a new pet is a happy and informed experience, which will set the stage for 10-20 years of devoted companionship.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

The holiday season is here! As we embrace the excitement and spirit of these next few weeks, it’s important to keep in mind what the impact may be on the furry members of your family. Let’s imagine yourself as your pet, and let’s consider these potential hazards, from their eyes!

1. Tasty foods and non-food items

The season is filled with new smells of tantalizing treats. And with my busy pet owner preparing for guests, it’s the perfect time to snatch food off of the counter or snoop in an unattended handbag! So many new things to see and decorations to sniff and play with!

2. People, open doors, noise, OH MY!

With extra guests around, the door is opening and closing far more than usual! Plus, sometimes it just gets left open entirely! It’s a lot more noisy and chaotic than usual, so no one will notice for a while if I slip out! (Good thing I got that microchip a few weeks ago!) With all of these people around there’s plenty of extra petting and kids playing chase with me, which is a little stressful. Some of these kiddos must not be around pets very often because they pull my tail or fur - I might have to give a warning growl or bite. Whoops, I just knocked a candle over with my wagging tail!

3.  Tree water!

No need to walk all the way over to my food and water area…..there’s water right here in the tree! Too bad this can cause me to have an upset stomach or illness because of the tree additives and sap that go into the water throughout the season.

4.  Fireworks

What was that loud sound? There is goes again! My humans seem to be enjoying them, but I don’t like this one bit…..the loud sounds are unpredictable and make me anxious. I can’t tell where they are coming from! I might have to go hide in a closet or under a bed, or worse, try to escape this altogether by running out the door.

5.  Alcohol

With all of the extra people around, there are unattended glasses full of liquids.  I don’t think they know that alcohol is really a potential poison for me that could cause vomiting, diarrhea and even damage to my body which could be fatal.

As pet owners, we want our pets to be safe and healthy. By considering what the world looks like through their eyes, especially at this time of year, we can help avoid an emergency which turns a celebration into a stressful situation. Should your pet ingest something hazardous,  please contact Battletown Animal Clinic right away at (540) 955-2171. After hours, you may contact The Life Centre in Loudoun County at 703-777-5755 or Valley Veterinary Emergency in Shenandoah Valley at 540-662-7811.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and joyous New Year!

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Veteran’s Day is just around the corner on Sunday, November 11. This holiday honors living services members of all armed forces of the United States. While that obviously includes men and women, did you know that it includes animals as well? The military itself owes a debt of gratitude to these brave four-legged official and unofficial members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.

Cats in the Military

Cats have many wonderful qualities, but they are typically not known as service animals. However, it was common during World War I and World War II to have cats aboard on war ships to protect food supplies from mice and other critters. Here are just two cats who served members of the military at their time of need:

  •  Crimean Tom: Way back in 1854, this brave cat led French and British troops in Russia to hidden food supplies underneath the city’s rubble. The troops would have starved otherwise.
  • Hammer: A much more recent military cat story features Hammer, a cat who hung out with Army troops in Iraq in 2004. He chased away and killed mice that would have eaten the troops’ rations of food. They were so grateful that Staff Sargent Rick Bousfield brought Hammer home with him to Colorado when his time in the military ended.

Dogs in the Military

Dogs have a much more recognized role in military service and most have received formal training to assist their human colleagues. They perform such duties as detecting explosives, helping to track and capture aggressors, drug and weapon detection, and much more. They also provide important companionship to troops thousands of miles away from home.

It’s a myth that all military dogs are German Shepherds. Instead of breed, handlers look for specific characteristics and a strong sense of physical fitness among the dogs chosen for training. For example, the dog can’t have a physical defect such as hip dysplasia and he or she must be loyal and highly motivated by reward. Here are some military dogs who have done especially great things:

  • Stubby: Officially known as Sergeant Stubby of the 102nd Infantry, this military hero was smuggled into battle by a private named Robert Conway. It’s a good thing Conway did this since Stubby detected enemy gas and warned his comrades about it by barking.
  • Tommy: This dog proudly served in the Coast Guard for nine years as a Chief Explosives Detection Officer. Tommy retired in July 2017 and received applause and awards for his exceptional work.

Caring for the Pets of Veterans and Families

Battletown Animal Clinic is honored to provide veterinary care for active and retired members of the military and their families. Of course, we love all pets and want to help take care of them. Please contact us if your pet is in need of a preventive care exam or if you have more immediate concerns.

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It will soon be time to sit down for a Thanksgiving feast with your loved ones. While you’re enjoying good food and good company, don’t forget to keep an eye on your dog or cat. With so many extra people in the house and a disruption of the daily routine, your pet could easily get lost or get into things that could harm him. To prevent this, it’s best to assign one person to "pet duty" before company arrives or prior to arriving at your host’s home. This person should ensure that the front door remains closed except when new guests arrive. As they do, it’s especially important to supervise the pet closely.

Assess Your Pet’s Ability to Interact with New People

Thanksgiving Day brings several generations together, from the very young to the very old. If your dog or cat isn’t accustomed to small children trying to pet her or pick her up, it could be a disaster waiting to happen. You also don’t want an overly excited 100-pound dog knocking down an elderly relative. If you have any concerns at all, it’s best to place your pet in a kennel or a room with a closed door until everyone has gone home.

A Word About Thanksgiving Treats

It’s never a good idea to feed a pet human food right from the dinner table as this teaches him poor manners and could lead to obesity or even gastrointestinal upset. If you want to share a treat with your dog or cat, make sure it isn’t toxic first. A small amount of boneless turkey without any added seasonings should be fine if it’s not undercooked. However, you should avoid these foods altogether:

  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Avocados
  • Sage
  • Bread dough
  • Cake batter

All of these foods can cause severe abdominal distress for your pet, which may quickly escalate into an emergency. It’s also important to make sure that no one drops any type of food wrapper on the floor, such as aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Your pet could be so enticed by the smell that she ends up eating the wrapper instead. Likewise, make sure the garbage can is in a secure place where your pet can’t reach it.

Post Emergency Phone Numbers in Advance

Despite your best planning, your pet may still get into something harmful amidst the noise and confusion of a major holiday.

You may reach Battletown Animal Hospital at 540-955-2171 during regular business hours. After hours, please call The Life Centre at 703-777-5755 or Valley Veterinary Emergency at 540-662-7811. We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Photo Credit: Bogdan Kurylo / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The month of October is a special one for dogs because it’s both Adopt a Dog Month and Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. The American Humane Society has sponsored both events since 1981 to help the three to four million dogs living in shelters find a permanent and loving home. If you have been considering adding a new four-legged member to your family, Battletown Animal Clinic encourages you to visit your local humane society to meet some of the dogs up for adoption. You will save a life and your new pet will return the love tenfold.

Adopt from Shelters, Not Puppy Mills

According to the American Humane Society, up to 99 percent of puppies sold online or at a pet store come from a puppy mill. Unfortunately, people who run puppy mills often use unethical breeding practices and treat the dogs in their care very poorly. They also tend to use deceptive tactics to attract potential owners.

Finding your next dog at an animal shelter rather than through these means is one way to voice your opposition for puppy mills. You also have the assurance of knowing that your new dog has passed an extensive screening by staff and received necessary vaccines and veterinary care. Dogs that come to the shelter who have not yet been sterilized will be spayed or neutered as well.

Here Are Some Other Advantages to Adopting a Shelter Dog

It’s important to consider your lifestyle before you bring a new dog home to ensure that she will be a good fit with your family. Dogs require daily walks, frequent grooming, and playtime in addition to all the basic care tasks. Do you and other family members have the time and desire to take this on? It’s also important to research dog breeds so you understand its typical size, personality, and health concerns. If you have done all that and you’re ready to adopt, consider these reasons why doing so from an animal shelter is a great choice:

  • If you adopt an adult dog, he’s probably already fully trained. There’s a good chance the dog already lived with a family and has completed house-training.
  • When you consider the added cost of sterilization and vaccines, adopting a shelter dog typically costs less money than other ways of adopting a dog.
  • You have nearly unlimited choices for the breed and age of dog that you would like to adopt.
  • Some shelters offer foster to adopt programs. This gives you the chance to make sure the dog is a good fit for your family and lifestyle before making the commitment to adopt.
  • Many shelter and rescue organizations offer ongoing support once you get your dog home. That means you have someone to call for the questions that will inevitably come up as your dog settles into her new home.

After your new dog has had time to adjust, feel free to schedule an appointment for a preventive care exam at Battletown Animal Clinic. We look forward to meeting your new family member!

Photo Credit: Pixabay