Can you believe that it’s already time for Easter? It officially arrives on Sunday, April 1, but many people start decorating and celebrating much earlier than that. When you have a pet, it’s important to keep some basic safety tips in mind to ensure that your Easter celebration doesn’t end with a trip to the emergency veterinarian.

Tip #1: Keep Lilies and Other Easter Plants Out of the Reach of Pets

Lilies are especially popular decorations this time of year. They’re also highly toxic, especially for cats. It takes just a nibble of a lily plant for your cat to become seriously ill with liver failure while ingesting only one or two leaves can be fatal. 

We recommend not bringing lilies into your home at all this year if you have a cat, but if you must, be sure to place the plant in a closed room where your cat can’t get at it. Between a cat’s ability to jump several feet and their natural curiosity, your favorite feline could still get at the plant even when you place it up high. Lilies can also make dogs ill, although the consequences are typically not as severe.

Tip #2: Don’t Share Candy or Human Food with Your Pet

Your dog or cat sees the family enjoying Easter treats and naturally wants one for herself. Chocolate, an especially popular ingredient in Easter candy, contains an ingredient called theobromine that can cause seizures. The artificial sweeter Xylitol can also cause seizures and both ingredients can increase heart rate and lead to hyperactivity.

It’s also important to avoid sharing table scraps with your pet. Some have small bones that he can choke on while others contain spices, too much fat, or other ingredients your pet shouldn’t have. If you don’t think your guests can avoid giving into your dog or cat, be sure to keep him in another room until they leave.

Tip #3: Easter Grass is a Choking Hazard

Plastic grass is a staple of many kids’ Easter baskets. If your curious pet gets a hold of it, she could easily choke or develop a severely upset stomach. That’s why giving your kids a basket without the grass is a good idea. If you do decide to use artificial grass, make sure your pet is in another room when your kids receive their basket and let them know they should keep the basket in their rooms with the door closed.

Tip #4: Beware of Plastic Eggs

Artificial egg shells made of hard plastic are a curiosity to your pet. She may try to bite into one and get a fragment of plastic stuck in her throat, windpipe, or stomach. Your pet shouldn’t be around hard-boiled eggs either. If you plan to hide either for your kids or grandkids, make sure nothing is out in plain sight for your pet to stumble upon once the egg hunt is finished.

Emergency Contact Information

We wish you a happy and incident-free Easter. If you do need immediate help when Battletown Animal Hospital is closed, please call The Life Centre at 703-777-5755 or Valley Veterinary Emergency Service at 540-662-7811. We look forward to seeing you at your pet’s next regular check-up.

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Although fleas and ticks can survive in any kind of weather, their numbers become much more prevalent in the spring. If you don’t already practice year-round flea and tick prevention, now is the time to start. As the parasites become more abundant with the higher temperatures, it’s important to know the symptoms of flea and tick infestation so you can seek immediate treatment for your pet.

What Are Fleas?
The wingless flea can live anywhere from two weeks to 12 months. They are so tiny that people typically can’t see them. Even so, they can jump up to two feet and they require a living host such as your pet to survive and to reproduce. Your dog or cat may have fleas if you notice any of the following:
  • Allergies
  • Biting, scratching, or licking more than usual
  • Droppings that look like tiny white eggs or grains of sand embedded in your pet’s fur
  • Hot spots and scabs
  • Loss of fur
  • Pale gums
  • Tapeworm present in the feces
Unfortunately, pets are not the only carriers of fleas. They can enter your home on a person when they attach to his or her body, clothes, or shoes. After jumping off the person, fleas search for warm places to burrow in your furniture, bedding, and carpet. If you suspect fleas in your home, wash your pet’s bedding and any other surface they might have touched in hot water to kill them. You should also vacuum your carpets and furniture. 

Fleas reproduce almost continually once they find a living host. Since they can consume blood volume that’s up to 15 times their own body weight, your pet could develop anemia due to the blood loss. Pets who already have allergies could develop a serious complication known as allergic flea dermatitis as well. 

Ticks Can Be Deadly
A tick is a blood-sucking parasite that most often attaches itself to the ears, feet, head, or neck of an animal host. Because they live in grass, on trees, and in tall bushes, it’s easy for them to jump and land on your pet’s body without you being aware of it. Even pets who don’t normally go outside aren’t completely safe from ticks since they can get into the house on another pet or on a person’s body.

A dog or cat who has received a tick bite often doesn’t show signs of it for quite some time. Additionally, you can’t usually see the tick until it has become fully engorged with blood from your pet. During this incubation period, your pet could develop Lyme disease, tick paralysis, or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. We strongly recommend that you check your pet’s body daily by running your hands from head to tail as well as the underside every day.
 
Preventing Fleas and Ticks
It's a good idea to mow your lawn frequently, pick up yard waste, and keep bushes trimmed short. You can check for fleas with a special comb and complete the tick check that we recommended above as well. If you want to take a proactive approach, wash your pet’s toys and beddings in hot water weekly even if you’re not sure that fleas or ticks have gotten into the house.
 
Our veterinarians would be happy to recommend a specific parasite control product if you’re not sure which one is best for your pet. For your convenience, we also carry several flea and tick prevention products in our online store
 
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At Battletown Animal Clinic, we know that you take great care of your pet already. You bring him in for routine check-ups, feed him nutritious food, groom him, and make sure that he gets plenty of exercise. Despite this, you could be overlooking caring for his teeth and gums. Oral health is just as important for our pets as it is for us.

Dogs and cats need require regular toothbrushing at home and a professional cleaning under anesthesia at least once a year for optimal oral health. When they don’t receive these things, it significantly increases the likelihood of developing periodontal disease. This can lead to infection, bone loss, and tooth loss in addition to increasing the chances of your pet developing diabetes or heart disease.

A Common Yet Preventable Oral Health Disease
Did you know that approximately 80 percent of dogs and cats have some degree of periodontal disease by the time they turn three? Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease happens when plaque, tartar, and bacteria accumulate on your dog or cat’s teeth and attack her gum tissues. Besides regular brushing, selecting a pet food with a high concentration of protein and meat with little or no artificial fillers can help to slow or prevent the development of gum disease. Pets who already have severe tooth decay may need a dental-specific diet.

Even though regular professional care is important, the oral healthcare routine you follow with you pet at home makes the greatest difference. We recommend attempting to brush your pet’s teeth every day or at least several times during the week. Be sure to start slow if you have never tried to brush your pet’s teeth in the past. Allow her to lick and sniff the toothbrush and toothpaste to get used to it. The next day, place the toothbrush in your pet’s mouth and brush for a few seconds. The goal is to build her tolerance to the process so you can eventually brush for a full two minutes. 

For resistant or fearful pets, plan to wear a pair of rubber gloves and use a small finger brush when you first start with toothbrushing. We have found that pet owners who remain consistent with the routine and give their dog or cat a lot of praise eventually gain their cooperation. If you find that you’re still struggling after several weeks, don’t hesitate to ask a veterinarian or technician at Battletown Animal Hospital for additional advice.

Indications Your Dog or Cat Could Have Periodontal Disease
These symptoms are common to periodontal disease in pets:
  • Excessive drooling
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Reluctance to eat and/or difficulty chewing food
  • Staining on the teeth
Please contact us for an immediate oral health evaluation if you notice one or more of these symptoms. If your pet does have periodontal disease, we will let you know how to care for her teeth and gums going forward. We also check the condition of your pet’s teeth and gums at her preventive care exam.

Our staff uses anesthesia during your pet’s cleaning session and oral exam to ensure that he remains comfortable and cooperative. We also take a dental radiograph during this appointment, which provides us with a clear image of your dog or cat’s teeth, mouth, and jaw. This gives us with a baseline as well makes it easier to plan treatment. 

Happy Pet Dental Health Month! We hope to see you and your smiling pet soon.

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Antifreeze is a wonderful invention. After all, it helps your car start on the coldest days of a Virginia winter. It also helps ice to melt on the windshield of your car and is an important part of hydraulic brake fluid. It’s easy for you to tell the difference between antifreeze and water, but that isn’t the case for your dog or cat. Not only does it look like water to pets, it also attracts them due to its sweet smell.

If you spill antifreeze on your driveway or your pet gets into it in the garage, he could suffer sudden and severe symptoms that could cause long-term damage to his health. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, a toxic ingredient for dogs and cats. In fact, a cat only needs to swallow an amount equivalent to a teaspoon to go into kidney failure. For dogs, the amount is approximately one tablespoon.

A thirsty pet who can’t tell the difference between water and antifreeze might lap up the fluid faster than you can clean it. That’s why keeping antifreeze well out of your pet’s reach is so important. If you do notice a spill, wipe it up immediately even if your pet isn’t near you. When you’re not using the antifreeze, be sure to store it on a high shelf in the garage where your pet can’t get it at.

Common Symptoms of Antifreeze Poisoning
The most frequent symptoms that occur within 30 minutes to 12 hours after consuming antifreeze include vomiting, excessive thirst, drooling, urinating more than usual, and sometimes seizures. Your pet’s symptoms will typically become worse around the 24-hour mark, although you might not be able to tell from outward behavior and appearance.

A cat can develop severe symptoms within 12 to 24 hours while it can take 24 to 72 hours for a dog. In addition to the early symptoms, a pet at this stage might also appear lethargic and depressed, show no interest and eating, or slip into a comatose state.

Contact Us if There’s Any Possibility Your Pet Consumed Antifreeze
You might not have seen your pet drink antifreeze but feel concerned with her symptoms and behavior nonetheless. We encourage you to contact Battletown Animal Hospital during regular business hours at 540-955-2171 to request an immediate evaluation. 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. Even if your pet doesn’t appear to need emergency services right now, she will likely develop them if she has indeed ingested antifreeze.

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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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