While your kids are busy counting down the days to Halloween, this holiday can be a stressful one for your pets. Your dog or cat might start exhibiting signs of stress and anxiety well before the calendar turns to October 31. Cats and dogs naturally feel curious about the decorations that suddenly appear at this time of year. If you choose to decorate for Halloween, we recommend keeping everything out of your pet’s reach and avoid lighting candles with an open flame. This is a good compromise between keeping your pet safe and enjoying the festive nature of the season.
 
Candy and Pets Don’t Mix
You and your kids should not share any Halloween candy with your pet, no matter how much she begs or looks up at you with sad eyes. That is because even a small nibble of candy could cause immediate and unpleasant symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. Any candy containing chocolate or artificial sweetener is especially harmful.

Keep Your Pet Away from the Front Door
The constant sound of the doorbell ringing and shrieks of excited young children can cause even the most docile pet to feel agitated. The stress may build to the point that your dog or cat tries to run out the door or even tries to bite the visitors standing on your steps. It’s best to avoid this scenario altogether by setting up a quiet room for him before trick-or-treating gets underway. He will feel more comfortable in a secluded room with his own food, toys, and pillow that out amongst the commotion. 
We also recommend isolating your pet if you decide to have a Halloween party. However, be sure to peek in occasionally so she knows that she hasn’t been abandoned. Keeping your pet in another part of the house on Halloween also protects her from those who might try to steal her or play a cruel prank. Black cats are especially at risk of falling prey to this type of behavior.
 
Costume or No Costume?
The adorable Halloween costumes made just for pets are hard to resist. As long as you pay attention to safety and your pet’s comfort, putting him in a costume will be fun and memorable. Before selecting a costume, be certain that it won’t cover your dog or cat’s mouth, nose, or eyes and that it fits well. You should plan to supervise your pet while he’s wearing the costume to make sure that he doesn’t try to chew off any piece of it.
You may contact us during regular business hours on Halloween if you do experience an emergency with your pet. After hours, please contact The Life Centre at 703-777-5755 in Loudoun County or Valley Veterinary Emergency at 540-662-7811 in Shenandoah Valley.

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

Many people believe that the feline leukemia virus, also known as FeLV, only causes the type of blood cancer called leukemia. While it can lead to leukemia and other types of cancers, FeLV can also cause low body weight, problems with reproduction, eye diseases, blood platelet disorders, immune deficiency, gastrointestinal problems, and several other serious health concerns. Kittens and unvaccinated adult cats acquire the virus through contact with another cat who already has it. It’s not possible for humans, dogs, or other animals to become infected with FeLV.

How to Recognize FeLV
Kittens, who are most at risk of acquiring this virus, can pick it up from an infected mother while still developing in the womb or by nursing from her. When adult cats develop FeLV, it’s typically from sharing bedding, litter boxes, or food dishes with an infected cat. Additionally, an adult cat could engage in mutual grooming with an infected cat, receive a bite from one, or have contact with infected waste products. Besides being born to an infected mother, the greatest risk of cats developing FeLV comes from spending a lot of time outdoors unsupervised or living with several other cats.
 
The initial symptoms of FeLV are often vague, making it difficult to diagnose at first. Your cat could display unexplained lethargy, appetite loss, weight loss, and fever that could make you suspect several other health problems before FeLV. We encourage you to contact Battletown Animal Hospital right away if your cat displays any of these symptoms. She might not have FeLV, but it’s important to determine what she does have.
 
Approximately one-third of cats exposed to the virus have a strong enough immunity not to develop any symptoms. Another third develop a latent infection, which means that they eventually develop some of the symptoms. The remaining percentage of infected cats develop a persistent infection. They typically become seriously ill within a few years.
 
Diagnosis, Prevention, and Treatment of FeLV
If your cat is at high risk of FeLV or you’re concerned he could have been exposed to it, speak to us about a preventive vaccine. We also encourage you to get a FeLV test when your cat becomes ill or before bringing another cat home. If you have multiple cats, all should receive an FeLV blood test if one cat has received a positive diagnosis.
 
Once your cat does receive a positive diagnosis, she should not go outdoors. It would be too easy for her to spread the virus to other cats and she could pick up additional illnesses as well. Make sure that any veterinarian you see knows your cat is FeLV-positive so she can receive the proper treatment. Lastly, we recommend keeping up with all preventive care exams and providing a safe, enriching, and stress-free indoor environment for your cat. 
 
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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. 
 
Photo Credit: A Dog's Life Photo / Getty Images
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.
 
Photo credit: indavostrovska / Getty Images