Holiday Health Hazards

Holiday Health Hazards

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.

If you want to get festive, mix some of your pet’s regular food with water to make a “dough” and roll out and cut into festive shapes, then bake until crunchy.

The holiday season brings excitement and commotion associated with shopping, final exams, travel, and other seasonal preparations. In all the activities of the season our beloved pets may be exposed to hazards less commonly found other times of the year. As homes fill with holiday spirit, pets may be intrigued by the new sites, smells and tastes. The following are some of the most common health concerns for your pet during the holidays. If you have specific questions regarding any pet health concern please contact you veterinarian.

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

National Animal Pain Awareness Month : Pets Feel Pain

Pets Feel Pain: Learn How To Manage It
By the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association
Erin Forbes, DVM
Mountain View Animal Hospital

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month. Pain comes in many forms: arthritis, cancer, post-surgery, acute injuries, and chronic injuries. Acute pain is obvious and distressing and hard to miss. Think a broken leg or an injury from falling down the stairs. Chronic pain can be subtle: some may just think their pet is getting old. However, while old age is not a
disease, pain is and can be treated. There are many options to treat the various causes of pain in animals including pain medications, physical rehabilitation, and integrative medicine options–acupuncture and chiropractic.

Common signs of pain can vary among animals. In dogs these include decreased social interaction, an anxious expression, whimpering, decreased appetite, self-mutilation, and changes in posture. In cats, we see reduced activity, loss of appetite, loss of curiosity, changes in urinary/defecation habits, hiding, excessive grooming (especially over joints), stiff gait, or matted fur. In horses, they might arch their back, shift their weight, stand abnormally, and be very stiff when moving. Continue reading

Lyme: A Serious, But Preventable, Disease in Dogs

shivaLyme: A Serious, But Preventable, Disease in Dogs

By M. Kathleen Shaw, DVM

Vermont Veterinary Medical Association

Lyme disease is a very serious concern for people and pets. It is carried by deer ticks which emerge in the spring, remain pretty active during the summer months, and then go through a burst of activity in the fall. While we think of dogs who spend time in the woods or playing in grasslands becoming exposed to deer ticks, they can be present in your backyard lawn, too. (Cats can become infected and form antibodies to Lyme, but clinical signs -if they occur at all -are extremely rare.) Continue reading

Surviving Summer in a Fur Coat : Heat Dangers for our Pets

irms2Surviving Summer in a Fur Coat : Heat Dangers for our Pets

By the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association

M. Kathleen Shaw, DVM

With temperatures on the rise, many people don’t realize that our pets can have trouble with heat too. If you think it’s hot outside, imagine wearing a fur coat in this heat! In addition, our pets have very limited ways of cooling themselves. Pets pant and that’s about it. Continue reading

Easter Lilies Toxic to Cats!


Spring Holidays Bring Deadly Threat to Cats

By the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association

M. Kathleen Shaw, DVM

With the spring holidays of Easter, Passover, and Mother’s Day, lilies will be present in many homes.  This summer, daylilies will grace many gardens. They are favorite flowers to many of us: their color, fragrance, and beauty are hard to beat. However, what you may not know is lilies are deadly to cats. This is especially pertinent as a recent American Veterinary Medical Association survey shows Vermont tops in the nation for cat ownership with almost 50% of households having at least one cat. 

All parts of the lily, including pollen are toxic to cats and cause sudden severe kidney failure and death, if not treated promptly. Even cats with seemingly minor exposure such as biting a leaf or getting pollen on his or her whiskers or hair coat can be fatally poisoned.  We don’t know why cats are attracted to lilies, but cats of all ages are affected. It is especially tragic when young kittens, who like to chew on everything, are affected. 

Signs of lily toxicity occur within 24-72 hours of exposure and include vomiting, depression, anorexia, and dehydration. Cats treated within 18 hours of exposure generally have a good prognosis.  Even if exposure is not certain, the cat should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.  Animal Poison control reports that the number of cases of feline toxicities by lilies increases each year.   For this reason, a new national media campaign to increase awareness of this issue has been created. For more information, go to

Kathy Finnie, Executive Director
Vermont Veterinary Medical Association

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 or call (802) 878-6888.