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Christmas Holiday Hazards

Keep your pets healthy this Christmas with these tips!

The holiday season is almost upon us! As you gear up for the holidays, it is important to try to keep your pet’s eating and exercise habits as close to their normal routine as possible. Also, during the holiday season be sure to avoid the following unhealthy treats, toxic plants and dangerous decorations.

Christmas Trees

Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, avoiding possible injury to your pet and preventing the tree water from spilling. It is important that your pet isn’t able to get to the tree water and drink it as it could result in illness. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea. Make sure the tree has plenty of water to prevent the tree drying out & losing needles. Christmas tree pine needles can puncture internal organs if eaten; they are also toxic and can produce oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, trembling and weakness. Pine trees can also be a cause of skin irritation in pets with skin allergies.

Holiday Plants and Bouquets

Contrary to popular belief, poinsettia plants are not deadly but only mildly toxic, however, they can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and sometimes vomiting if a large quantity is consumed. Far more worrisome are holiday bouquets containing lilies, holly or mistletoe. Many varieties of lilies are extremely toxic to cats; the ingestion of only one to two leaves or flower petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure in cats. Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause significant vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, collapse, erratic behavior, hallucinations and death when ingested. Opt instead for artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.

Holiday Ornaments and Decorations

If you own a cat, forego the tinsel, what looks like a shiny, lively toy to your cat can prove deadly if ingested. A playful nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting and dehydration. Treatment for this often involves expensive abdominal surgery to remove the tinsel and if not caught in time, this foreign body ingestion could actually be fatal as it twists and bunches inside your pet’s intestines.

Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out! Pets may burn themselves on the flame or hot wax or even cause a fire if they knock candles over. Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth and digestive tract. Check your holiday lights for signs of fraying or chewing and use a grounded three-prong extension cord as a safety precaution.

Holiday decorations such as snow globes or bubble lights may contain poisonous chemicals and if your pet chews on them the liquid inside could cause illness. Methylene chloride, the chemical in bubble lights, can result in depression, aspiration pneumonia and irritation to the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract. Imported snow globes have been found to contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol). As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze when ingested by a cat or a tablespoon or two for a dog (depending on their size), can be fatal. Signs of early poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy. While signs may seem to improve after eight to twelve hours, internal damage is actually worsening, and crystals develop in the kidneys resulting in acute kidney failure. Immediate treatment with an antidote is vital when dealing with antifreeze.

Gift wrap and ribbon can also pose a threat to pets, it’s best to quickly discard ribbons and bows wrapped around holiday gifts so that your curious companions won’t be enticed to chew or swallow them. Ingested ribbon can cause a choking hazard and ultimately twist throughout the intestines, leading to emergency surgery.

Holiday Food and Drink Hazards

With the holiday season comes a delightful variety of baked goods, chocolate confections and other rich, fattening foods. However, in many cases it is quite dangerous to share these treats with your pets. Try to keep your pet on his or her regular diet over the holidays and do not let family and friends sneak in treats. Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.

It is very tempting to give the dog the remains of the Christmas turkey and although it seems natural to give a dog a bone, just remember, bones can kill. Dog can choke on bones or when chewed the bones can splinter and cause life threatening obstruction or lacerations of your dog’s digestive system. A surgical procedure is the only way to remove bones from the intestinal tract. Christmas meals often produce a lot of fatty leftovers and the family pet often ends up being given these. Excessively fatty foods can cause pancreatitis which is inflammation of the pancreas. It is very painful and requires intensive care for the animals’ intestinal system to get back to normal.

Desserts also pose a threat to your pets, most of us are aware now that chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats but other less well known risks in our sweet treats include the artificial sweetener xylitol, grapes/raisins and certain nuts. Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs and cats, ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea but large amounts can cause hyperactivity, tremors, seizures and heart arrhythmias. Many sugarless gums and candies contain xylitol, a sweetener, which is toxic to dogs as it causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure. Foods containing grapes, raisins and currants, such as fruitcakes, can result in kidney failure in dogs. Abundant in many cookies and candies, certain nuts should not be given to pets. Almonds, non-moldy walnuts and pistachios can cause an upset stomach or an obstruction of your dog’s throat and/or intestinal tract. Macadamia nuts and moldy walnuts can be toxic, causing seizures or neurological signs. Lethargy, vomiting and loss of muscle control are among the effects of nut ingestion.

Keep your pets sober this holiday season! If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. Because alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, it affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Severely intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure. Foods such as desserts containing alcohol and unbaked dough that contains yeast should also be kept away from pets as they may result in alcohol toxicity, vomiting, disorientation and stomach bloat.

Pet Anxiety/Stress

Christmas is often a busy time with visitors coming & going. Some pets love the attention of visitors while others find strangers in their house stressful. Be mindful of your pets feelings and give the option of somewhere quiet to escape to should the need arise. This is particularly important if your friends & relatives have young children.

Christmas is a time of year to celebrate and be with family, the last thing anyone would want is to be stuck in a veterinary clinic on Christmas day. Taking precautions with pets during these festive times can help ensure that you and your family will enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season! If you have any questions or concerns please contact us here at Companion Animal Hospital at (902) 434-3111 or after hours contact Metro Animal Emergency Clinic at (902) 468-0674.



How do I become a veterinary technician?

This is the end to RVT week, a time to celebrate our technicians and what they do to help our clinics! In honor of this we will be talking about how to become a veterinary technician. To answer this question we must first look at what are veterinary technicians. "A veterinarian’s assistant, trained to provide medical care for animals, as performing diagnostic tests or administering vaccines and medication." - Now that is just putting it in the most simple terms. If we went in depth a bit more you would get the following. "Veterinary technicians are animal nurses (and much more). In addition to their nursing duties, they act as patient advocates, phlebotomists, radiology technicians, laboratory technicians, anesthesia technicians, and surgery technicians. Except tasks legally restricted to veterinarians, such as diagnosing disease conditions, performing surgery, prescribing medications, and prognosing medical outcomes, veterinary technicians are trained to do everything a veterinary hospital requires to run smoothly." - AAHA Certainly! Veterinary technicians play a crucial role in the healthcare of animals. Their responsibilities encompass a wide range of tasks, making them an integral part of the veterinary team. In fact, you may sometimes hear them referred to as veterinary technologists, as they possess a comprehensive understanding of various medical procedures and techniques. To become a veterinary technician, individuals typically undergo rigorous education and training. They typically enroll in specialized programs that span anywhere from 18 to 36 months. These programs provide them with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in their field. Upon completion, aspiring veterinary technicians may take a national exam known as the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). The VTNE is a comprehensive assessment that evaluates the breadth of the technician’s understanding across multiple species. With a total of 300 multiple-choice questions, covering various topics, this exam ensures that technicians are well-prepared to handle the diverse challenges encountered in their daily work. From animal anatomy and physiology to pharmacology and radiology, the VTNE examines their proficiency in all essential areas. Successfully passing the VTNE paves the way for technicians to become registered veterinary technicians (RVTs). The RVT title signifies their achievement and signifies their commitment to upholding high standards within the profession. As registered technicians, they can further contribute to the well-being and welfare of animals, working alongside veterinarians to provide exemplary care. In summary, veterinary technicians are highly skilled professionals who have invested significant time and effort into their education and training. Their role in the veterinary field is invaluable, as they bring expertise, compassion, and dedication to ensure the health and happiness of our beloved animal companions. So let’s simplify the steps into a list to become a technician! Research and Understand the Role: Take the time to learn about the responsibilities and duties of a veterinary technician. This will give you a clear understanding of what the profession entails. Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent: To pursue a career as an RVT, you will need a high school diploma or an equivalent qualification. Make sure you meet this prerequisite. Research Accredited Veterinary Technology Programs: Look for accredited veterinary technology programs in your area. These programs are designed to provide the necessary education and training to become an RVT. Choose the Right Program: Evaluate different veterinary technology programs based on factors such as curriculum, facilities, faculty, and clinical opportunities. Choose a program that aligns with your interests and career goals. Enroll in a Veterinary Technology Program: Once you’ve selected a program, complete the application process and enroll. Be prepared to meet any admission requirements specific to the program. Attend and Complete the Program: Dedicate yourself to your studies and practical training during the veterinary technology program. Attend lectures, laboratory sessions, and clinical rotations to gain the knowledge and skills required for the profession. Acquire Hands-on Experience: Seek out opportunities to gain practical experience in veterinary clinics or animal hospitals. Many programs offer externships or internships, which provide valuable real-world exposure. Prepare for the VTNE: The Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) is a comprehensive exam that assesses your competency as an aspiring RVT. Study diligently and use preparation resources, such as practice exams and study guides, to enhance your chances of success. Schedule and Take the VTNE: Once you feel prepared, schedule your VTNE. The exam is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) and can typically be taken at designated testing centers. Obtain State Licensure: After passing the VTNE, you will need to apply for state licensure. Each state has its own requirements, so make sure to complete the application process and submit the necessary documentation. Continuing Education and Career Development: As an RVT, it’s vital to stay current with advancements in veterinary medicine. Pursue continuing education opportunities, attend conferences, and consider specialization or advanced certifications to further enhance your knowledge and skills. Remember, the journey to becoming an RVT requires dedication, hard work, and a passion for animal care. Follow these steps to embark on a fulfilling and rewarding career in veterinary technology. Written by: Ashley G, VT Resources AAHA – NAVTA –

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