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Toxic Christmas Decor For your Pet

Decorating for Christmas is a staple of the holiday season for many families. Trees, lights, tinsel, ornaments, stockings, mistletoe, poinsettias, and more can be found in Toxic signmost homes – yet many pet owners are unaware of the dangers lurking in their holiday décor.

Studies have found that as many as 70% of homes are decorated with holiday items that are harmful to pets. Even the most responsible pet owners may accidentally bring an unsafe product or plant into their home unknowingly. Likewise, traveling with your pet over the holidays can expose them to a variety of potential dangers in other people’s homes.

Before you deck the halls with boughs of holly (yes, live holly plants are toxic to animals!) take the time to research what decorations may be harmful to your favorite four-legged friend. Owning a pet doesn’t have to turn you into a Scrooge; there are a variety of pet-friendly holiday decorations that will keep your home holiday-ready and your cats and dogs safe.

The following list of toxic décor items – as well as some alternatives to try instead – can help you avoid any holiday decorations that may harm your pet. By keeping these items out of your home, you can ensure you and your four-legged friend have a safe and happy holiday season.

1. Holiday plants

Many live holiday plants are toxic to pets! To avoid your pet becoming ill, opt for artificial versions of Christmas trees, poinsettia plants, and mistletoe. Another option is to keep live greenery out of reach of pets, such as hanging a real pine wreath on the front door.

  • Christmas trees. Dogs and cats alike love to explore Christmas trees. Unfortunately, live trees can be a hazard to pets. Ingesting tree needles can irritate the mouth and stomach; this can lead to excessive drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. Likewise, eating a large number of needles can cause serious digestive issues including GI tract blockages and possible bowel perforation. Trees that are treated with chemicals or other preservatives can further upset a pet’s stomach, particularly if they drink the Christmas tree water.
  • Poinsettia and Peace Lilies. These plants are toxic and should be kept out of reach from pets at all times. Peace Lilies are especially toxic to cats.
  • Mistletoe. Most store-bought mistletoe plants have had their toxic berries replaced with plastic berries. When small amounts of mistletoe are eaten, mild nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can occur. Unfortunately, large ingestions can cause cardiovascular and neurological symptoms.
  • Christmas cactus. Christmas cactus do not have serious toxicity for pets. For pets brave enough to bite into a cactus, however, ingesting them can cause mild GI symptoms – as well as significant mouth irritation!
  • Amaryllis. The bulb of this popular Christmas flower is more toxic than the blooms. While eating amaryllis flowers can cause vomiting and diarrhea, ingesting the bulb can lead to muscle weakness, tremors, and seizures.
  • Holly. All parts of the holly plant can upset the GI tract of pets. Symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy are common after ingesting holly.

2. Breakable or edible ornaments

While glass ornaments themselves are not dangerous, they can become a hazard when broken. Active dogs can bump or jostle a Christmas tree, whereas many cats are happy to find a perch within the branches. Unfortunately, this can cause fragile ornaments to fall – and break. In addition to damaging their paws if pets step on the shattered glass, ingesting it can cause mouth guts and serious GI issues. Consider displaying glass ornaments in a different way, such as on a shelf where they cannot be knocked down.

Edible ornaments such as candy canes, popcorn garlands, or salt dough ornaments should be either avoided altogether or hung high enough on the tree that dogs cannot reach them.

3. Candles

Even in homes without pets, candles should be lit with caution. Keep lit candles high and out of the way of pets, such as towards the back of a kitchen counter. This can prevent burns – as well as your pet knocking over a candle and causing a house fire. For an even safer alternative, consider switching to battery-operated electric candles, which provide the ambiance without the safety risks.

4. Tinsel

Tinsel is unpopular with many homeowners because of the mess it makes. However, it is also toxic to both dogs and cats. While cats are more prone to tinsel poisoning, dogs are at risk too. Ingesting tinsel can cause abdominal pain, dehydration, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. Tinsel and other string-like decorations, such as curling ribbon, can also cause GI blockages or twist around the intestines if ingested.

No matter how you celebrate the holidays, taking a few precautions can help keep you – and your pets – safe throughout the season. For more information on pet safety during the holidays contact the experts at 5 Points Animal Hospital today!

Fun Ways to Exercise Your Pet

Regular physical activity can help our animals stay healthy. However, many homeowners find it difficult to get their pets the exercise they need – particularly in the winter months. If the weather outside is too cold for a long walk or to let your pet outside, try these tips to exercise your dog or cat this winter!

Exercise tips for your cat

catCats may spend the majority of their day snoozing – up to 15 hours per day for the average housecat – but they still need regular physical activity to stay healthy. Unfortunately, many house cats are not getting the exercise they need.

Fortunately for cat owners, there are a number of easy – and fun! – ways to help your cat exercise. In addition to the extra physical activity, it also provides an opportunity to bond with your favorite feline. The following are four exercise tips that can help your cat get active.

1. Put their bowl on an elevated surface
One fast and easy way to encourage your cat to move more is by putting their food and water dishes on an elevated surface. This encourages them to work their muscles by jumping every time they want something to eat. Placing dishes on a counter, at the top of a cat tree, or even putting them on a different floor of the house encourages them to move more.

2. Play hide and seek with treats
If your cat is food motivated, create a game out of finding treats! Try putting treats in areas they frequent around the house, such as next to a toy basket, under the couch, or on top of their favorite perch. Hiding treats can improve both mental and physical health as they move around the house and try to remember places you’ve hidden treats in the past. One caveat to this game: make sure not to overdo it on the treats! Treats should make up no more than 10% of your cat’s daily caloric intake.

3. Introduce unique toys
Cats are naturally curious and love to explore; create new and interesting toys with materials you already have around the house to encourage them to move more. Cut one to two holes in a cardboard box and enjoy watching them squeeze in and out or invest in a laser pointer for hours of entertainment watching them chase the elusive point of light. Wadded up tissue paper, an old rabbit’s foot keychain, or ping pong balls can all make unique toys that get your kitty up and exercising.

4. Find your cat a playmate
Despite their reputation as solitary animals, most cats actually enjoy being social with other cats. Adding another cat to your household will encourage both cats to be more active through daily play and interaction. Not ready to add a new pet to the family? Set up kitty play dates with friends or neighbors.

Fun ways to keep your dog active

dog running with ballDogs need daily exercise. In the winter, unfortunately, cold temperatures, snow, and short days can limit dog owners’ ability to take their four-legged friends on the long walks they need. While daily walks are an extremely important part of keeping a dog healthy, there are a variety of fun ways to keep your dog active – even when stuck indoors.

1. Run up and down the stairs
If your house or apartment has stairs, use them as a training tool for your dog! Stairs are great exercise for even the most active pet because they use different muscle groups than running or walking. Stand at the top of the stairs and throw a toy down for your dog; when they retrieve it, call their name and have them bring it to you at the top of the stairs. A few rounds of up and down will help tire even a high-energy dog out!

2. Create an indoor obstacle course
Repurpose things you have around the house to create an obstacle course for your dog. Teach them to jump through hula hoops, run through a tunnel of couch cushions, circle pillars, or jump over a pillow. This is both mentally and physically stimulating and can keep your dog active and occupied no matter the weather!

3. Go on an outing together
Don’t feel like you have to stay at home with your dog! There are lots of dog-friendly stores and restaurants – the most notable being pet stores. Load your dog up in the car and head to your favorite pet store; whether you need to stock up on pet essentials or simply want to walk the aisles, taking your dog on an outing is a great way to provide some enrichment – and exercise – to their day.

4. Try walking on the treadmill
Have a dog that needs additional exercise? Consider training them to walk on the treadmill! With proper training, dogs can walk – or run – on treadmills as a great alternative to outdoor exercise. Begin by introducing your dog to the sights and sounds of the treadmill; next, reward him for standing on the treadmill while it is stationary. Gradually turn on the treadmill to the lowest speed. Make sure to take it slow, never tie or hook a dog onto the treadmill, and even try standing in front of the treadmill with treats for motivation.

Exercise is an important part of keeping your pet healthy. It is very important to choose the right exercise for your pet based on your pet’s individual needs. For more information on how to keep your dog or cat healthy this winter contact 5 Points Animal Hospital today!

Cold Weather Tips for Your Furry Friend

Many pet owners wrongfully assume that their furry friend’s fur coat equips them to handle cold temperatures. However, many animals simply aren’t equipped to handle frigid temperatures for prolonged periods of time. These cold-weather tips can help protect your pets when they are playing or pottying outside this winter.

Not all pets can tolerate cold temperatures

Owner holding dog with santa hat onWhile our pet’s fur coats may seem like the perfect protection again winter weather, most pets are not able to withstand freezing temperatures for long periods of time. This is especially true for dogs and cats with short hair – the animal equivalent of wearing a t-shirt in sub-zero temperatures.

In winter, pets need protection from frigid weather and wet, wintry conditions; even animals adapted to cold weather, like huskies, need a warm, draft-free, and dry shelter. In addition, keep in mind that pet’s extremities such as their nose, ears, and paws are more vulnerable to damage during extremely cold weather.

Dressing pets for the weather

When outside temperatures drop, we put coats on; should we put coats on our pets, too?

The answer is yes – to a point. Most cats don’t tolerate clothing; even the most well-mannered cats are unlikely to enjoy wearing a sweater. Instead, save winter weather gear for our canine friends. Coats can help keep dogs warm on walks or when going potty outside. However, don’t leave a dog with clothes on unsupervised; if your pet tries to take them off, it can become a suffocation or strangulation risk.

Protect pup pads

Dog shoes may seem a little ridiculous, but boots are actually an excellent way to protect dog’s sensitive paw pads against snow, ice, and dangerous rock salt. Start by putting baby socks on your dog’s feet at home; this allows them to get used to the sensation of walking with something on their feet. Once they can successfully tolerate the socks, they’re ready to graduate to boots.

Keep outdoor cats safe

While some pet owners transition cats indoors for the winter months, other felines prefer to stay outdoors. In these cases, it is important to provide kitty with a safe, dry space to eat and sleep.

Once nighttime temperatures dip into the high 30s, outdoor pets should have a shelter. Cat shelters can be easy and inexpensive to make and maintain; pre-fabricated pet houses, wooden boxes, or even cardboard boxes can be used as cat shelters. Insulate the sides with plastic, fabric, or foam, then line the bottom with old blankets or bedding. Check the shelter daily to ensure the bedding is dry – and to make sure your cat’s water supply hasn’t frozen.

Putting cat shelters in a garage, on a covered porch, in a shed, or in another protected area can provide another degree of protection from the elements. Likewise, make sure food and water are in a secure area only your cat can access; you want to feed your pet – not the neighborhood raccoon population.

Remember: if it is too cold for you, it is probably too cold for your pet. This winter, follow these safety tips to ensure your pets stay safe and warm – no matter the temperature outside. for more information on winter pet safety tips, contact 5 Points Animal Hospital today!

Keep Your Pets Safe This Halloween

Halloween is a favorite holiday for many families, but it can be a difficult day to be a pet. Whether you are heading to a party, taking your pet trick or treating, or handing out candy at home, there are a number of ways that homeowners can keep their pets safe on Halloween.

Choose pet costumes carefullyKeep Your Pets Safe This Halloween - Nashville TN - 5 Points Animal Hospital

Pet costumes are a cute and fun way to get your animal into the holiday spirit on Halloween. However, it is important to choose a pet costume wisely to avoid overstressing your dog or cat.

– Avoid costumes that are held on by rubber bands. Costumes or costume pieces that are held on by rubber bands can pose a danger to pets; if they chew off the rubber bands, they can choke or cause intestinal injuries. Likewise, they can cut into or irritate skin or fur.
– Ensure the costume does not obstruct your pet’s vision. With lots of new sights and smells on Halloween, having obstructed vision can make even gentle pets snappy.
– Make sure pets are comfortable. Not every pet likes being dressed up! No matter how cute they may look, ensure your pet is comfortable in their costume.

Keep pets away from the front door

Move both cats and dogs to a different area of the house before trick or treaters begin to arrive. The constant opening and closing of the front door can be too tempting for many pets, who may see it as an opportunity to escape. Likewise, dogs, in particular, are often stressed by repeated knocking on the door or ringing of the doorbell. If your pet is particularly sensitive to noise, consider sitting outside on the porch to avoid too many people approaching the house and overstressing your pet.

Bring pets inside

Unfortunately, many beloved pets have fallen prey to pranksters on Halloween. Keep pets inside to keep them safe – and to prevent them from being stressed by so many people walking by.

Be careful around lit pumpkins

Pets are often attracted to bright lights – particularly when it is dark in the room. Many curious kitties have gotten burned while trying to play with a lit candle; extinguish candles or leave other lights on in the room to reduce the risk of injury to your pet.

Never give candy to pets

As a general rule, animals should not be fed people food. This is especially true on Halloween when many types of candy are extremely harmful to pets. Safety concerns with Halloween candy include:

  •  Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to pets.
  • Sticks: Lollipops, suckers, candy apples, and other treats often have hard sticks. If swallowed, these can cause choking or damage to the digestive system.
  • Foil wrappers: In addition to causing intestinal blockages, foil wrappers can become as sharp as razors when swallowed. This can lead to serious damage to the digestive system and other internal organs.

Keep your pet safe this Halloween

While it’s possible to include pets in the Halloween festivities, it is important to take steps to keep your pets safe on October 31st. For more Halloween safety tips for pets, contact 5 Points Animal Hospital today!

Can I Keep My Pet in My Car During The Winter?

We love our pets and want them to go to as many places as we do! While there are many stores and businesses that are dog-friendly, there are still many that are not; most dog in carstores where food is prepared or served inside do not allow pets. Because of this, many pet owners consider leaving their dogs in the car – particularly as the weather outside gets colder.

Can I leave my pet in a cold car?

We all know the dangers of leaving animals in the car during the summer. If the temperature is even a mild 70 degrees, it can reach the 90s inside a vehicle within 10 minutes; for pets, this can lead to dangerous overheating, suffering, and even heat stroke. But what about during the winter when temperatures are cool? Is there ever a safe temperature to leave an animal in a vehicle?

The short answer is, unfortunately, no. Dogs and other pets should never be left unattended in a vehicle, no matter the outside temperature. While outside temperatures in the 60s and 70s can lead to overheating and heat exposure, temperatures in the 50s or colder can lead to cold-related issues such as hypothermia.

The dangers of cold cars for pets

When the weather outside is cold, the temperature inside a car can quickly drop. Cracking the window in an effort to improve circulation can often serve to just cool the car down faster. While all pets are at risk of cold-related issues, small animals or those that are ill, thin, or older are at a particular risk of problems such as hypothermia. No matter their size or health, animals should not be left unattended in a vehicle for any length of time – no matter the weather.

What do I do if I see an unattended dog?

Whether it is in the winter or the summer, seeing an unattended dog left in a car can be upsetting. However, this doesn’t mean that taking things into your own hands is the best course of action. In total, 31 states have laws that prohibit leaving an animal in a confined vehicle; 15 states (AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, IN, KS, LA, MA, OH, OR, TN, VT, and WI) have laws that protect those who attempt to rescue trapped animals.

Before resorting to drastic measures, try to find the owner first. Write down the make, model, and license plate number of the car; ask the management of nearby businesses to page customers over the loudspeaker. If the owner does not come forward, contact local law enforcement or animal control to ensure the pet is quickly, safely, and legally removed.

If you aren’t sure you’ll be able to take your dog inside every location you’re visiting this winter, its best to leave them at home. For more information on traveling with your pet or on caring for them during the winter, contact Five Points Animal Hospital today!

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