Fall Safety Concerns

By M. Kathleen Shaw, DVM
Vermont Veterinary Medical Association
With dazzling colors on the trees and harvest festivals abounding, many people love the autumn season. But, with the holidays and cooling temperatures, the fall brings some potential dangers to our animals-large and small.
As we winterize cars, houses and barns, remember that antifreeze is highly toxic to pets. Just one or two licks of antifreeze can cause kidney failure and death. Look for the newer, safer version of antifreeze which does not contain the sweetener so tempting to pets. Another toxin, rodenticide (rat poison), is formulated to be tasty to rodents, but is also appealing to dogs, cats, and wildlife. Continue reading

Keep Your Dog Away from the Easter Bunny!


Hannah’s Dog, Wilbur

Chocolate is a delicious treat for people, but can be harmful to your dog.

Chocolate is made from the seed pods that grow on the cacao tree. These cacao pods contain caffeine and a chemical called theobromine. It is the theobromine that can be toxic to dogs depending on the amount ingested. Baking chocolate contains the most cacao, followed by semisweet chocolate and dark chocolate. Milk chocolate and chocolate cakes and cookies contain the least amount of cacao, but can still be harmful if eaten. The sugar and fat in all of these sweets can cause vomiting and diarrhea. The high fat content can also cause pancreatitis in some cases. This could occur, for example, if your dog were to eat a bag of chocolate Easter eggs.

Some symptoms of theobromine ingestion include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tremors or even seizures
  • Rapid heart rhythm or sometimes abnormal heart rhythm
  • In severe cases, death

If your pet consumes chocolate, please contact your veterinarian right away! You can refer to the Chocolate Toxicity Table that lists the toxic doses of chocolate by weight and by type of chocolate.

Holiday Dangers for Pets

Pearl me girl HOPEHoliday Dangers for Pets

By M. Kathleen Shaw, DVM

North Bennington, Vermont

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, many pet owners are unsure which plants, foods, and decorations are and are not for their pets.

Most species of lilies are deadly to cats. In some cases, a small amount of pollen or even one leaf can cause sudden kidney failure. Christmas cactus and Christmas (English) holly can cause significant damage to the stomach and intestinal tract of dogs and cats. Death is not usually reported, but it’s best to keep these plants out of reach.  If your pet ingests some of these plants, call your veterinarian immediately. Continue reading

Halloween can be Spooky for Pets

pumpkinsHalloween can be Spooky for Pets

By M. Kathleen Shaw, DVM

North Bennington, Vermont

Many people like to have fun during the Halloween festivities, but our pets can truly be frightened by all of the noises and costumes. Halloween is a holiday with many dangers for our dogs and cats.

Dressing up is fun for humans, but may not be fun for our pets. If your pet tolerates a costume, keep in mind your pet must be comfortable at all times. Avoid any costumes that use rubber bands or anything that might constrict circulation or breathing. Likewise, avoid costumes with toxic paints, dyes, or that are edible.

Costumes on people can be equally scary to pets. Masks, large hats, and other costume accessories can confuse pets and may even trigger territorial instincts. It is not unusual for pets to act protective and fearful of people in costumes, even if they are normally very social with that person. Remember, you are responsible for controlling your pet and insuring that he doesn’t bite any guests.

Constant visitors to the door along with spooky sights and sounds may cause pets to escape and become injured in a variety of ways. Consider letting your dog spend Halloween inside with special treats, safe and secure. Even in a fenced yard, Halloween is not a good night for a dog to be outside. This is doubly true for cats: they may try to bolt out the door and even if they are allowed outside, they are more at risk for being hit by cars due to the high traffic from trick or treaters. Black cats, especially, are at a higher risk from human cruelty on Halloween. Consider keeping your cats in an interior room where they are unable to bolt out the door.

Some Halloween decorations can be unsafe for your pets. Fake cobwebs or anything resembling string can be tempting to cats, leading to an intestinal obstruction. Candles, even inside pumpkins, can be easily knocked over, burning your pet or even lighting them (it has happened before) or your house on fire!

Keep pets away from all Halloween candy. Most people know that chocolate can be toxic to pets, even in small amounts. However lollipop sticks and foil wrappers can cause blockages in the intestinal tract. Candy sweetened with xylitol can cause a life threatening drop in blood sugar if ingested by a pet. Some pets can get an upset stomach just from eating a piece of candy, since it isn’t part of their regular diet.

These simple responsible precautions will help humans and pets alike have a safe holiday. For more information on how to make Halloween less stressful to your pet, contact your veterinarian.

The Vermont Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA), founded in 1898, is a professional organization of 340 veterinarians dedicated to compassionate animal care and quality medicine. For more information, visit www.vtvets.org or call (802) 878-6888.