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Halloween Dangers

halloween pet dangersAlmost 70% percent of Americans celebrated Halloween in 2015 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Unfortunately, it is also a very busy time at Pet Poison Helpline. During the weeks surrounding Halloween, call volumes increase significantly, making it consistently one of our busiest weeks of the year. While most of the calls involve dogs of various breeds and sizes, other animals such as cats, ferrets, and pocket pets were also represented. Pet Poison Helpline is a 24-hour animal poison control service that assists pet owners, veterinarians and veterinary technicians who are treating potentially poisoned pets.

Chocolate: Of all candies, chocolate poses the biggest Halloween threat, especially to dogs. Many dogs are attracted to the deep, rich smell of chocolate, making it a significant threat for massive ingestion. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more poisonous it is. Methylxanthines, in particular theobromine and caffeine, are the dangerous chemicals in chocolate and they are more concentrated in darker chocolates. A single ounce of Baker’s chocolate can make a 50-pound dog very sick. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are less dangerous, but should still be kept out of the reach of pets. The onset of clinical signs is rapid, generally occurring between 1-4 hours and may include gastrointestinal upset (vomiting and diarrhea), CNS abnormalities (restlessness or agitation, ataxia muscle tremors, or seizures in severe cases), cardiovascular problems (tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmias, or hypertension), and PU/PD or urinary incontinence. Hyperthermia often occurs secondary to hyperactivity and muscle tremors. Death from respiratory failure, untreated cardiac arrhythmias, or prolonged seizure activity may occur with large ingestions.

Candy and sweets: Candy and other sweet foods – especially those containing xylitol, a 5 carbon sugar substitute – can be poisonous to pets. Large ingestions of sugary, high-fat candy and sweets may lead to pancreatitis. Most pet owners are surprised to learn that signs of pancreatitis such as anorexia, abdominal pain vomiting and diarrhea may not present for several days after ingestion. Xylitol, highly toxic to dogs, is found in seemingly every product from candies to gums to toothpaste and more. Ingestion of xylitol containing products results in a rapid onset of hypoglycemia (unless the product is more slowly digestible such as gum or hard candies) and acute hepatic necrosis leading to depression, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, ataxia, coagulopathies, and potentially death. It is important to note that other sugar free products such as aspartame, maltitol, and sorbitol do not result in a massive insulin release like xylitol does.

Raisins: Mini-boxes of raisins can be a healthy treat for trick-or-treaters, but they are extremely poisonous to dogs. Raisins are so dangerous that they deserve the same dog-proofing treatment as chocolate and xylitol – never feed to dogs, store in secure containers, and keep well out of their reach. The toxin associated with poisoning has not been identified and the mechanism of toxicity, including whether toxicity is dose related or idiosyncratic is unknown, making this a very frustrating poisoning to treat. Some dogs show no signs at all after ingestion, and some develop acute kidney injury. Vomiting, often whole or partially digested raisins, is the most consistent sing of poisoning followed by anorexia, lethargy, dehydration and death. Due to the presumed idiosyncratic nature, decontamination and treatment is currently recommended for all dogs ingesting raisins.

Glow sticks and glow jewelry: Most ‘glow sticks’ or glow in the dark jewelry contain dibutyl phthalate, an oily, chemiluminescent substance. Due to their curious nature, cats, in particular, often chew on glow sticks and jewelry. While not usually life-threatening, dibutyl phthalate can cause mouth pain and irritation, as well as profuse hypersalivation and foaming. The signs are selflimiting and oral irrigation followed by a small amount of a palatable liquid such as tuna water is all that is required. Pets ingesting glow sticks or glow jewelry should be evaluated in a dark room for evidence of the product on their hair coat. If present, it should be removed with a mild soap.

Candy wrappers and sticks: When curious pets get into candy, they are in danger of a life threatening bowel obstruction from lodged foil and cellophane wrappers, sticks, and other Halloween packaging pieces. X-rays are often helpful in the diagnosis, although sometimes an ultrasound may be necessary. Watch for vomiting, decreased appetite, not defecating, straining to defecate, or lethargy.

Costumes: Many people dress their pets in a costume for parties and other special events. Ingestion of metallic beads, snaps or other small pieces, especially those that contain zinc or lead, can result in serious poisoning. If a pet has chewed or eaten part of the costume, radiographs may be helpful in determining whether metallic bodies are present in the stomach or intestines. Dying or coloring an animal’s hair coat is not recommended as some of these products can be very harmful to pets, even if it’s labeled non-toxic to humans.

Batteries: Halloween seems to be the time of year when there is an increase in the number of pets chewing on or swallowing batteries. Both dry cell batteries (acid or alkaline) and lithium disc batteries are toxic, but for different reasons. When dry cell batteries are chewed and the casing ruptured, acidic or alkaline material can leak from the battery and ulcerate exposed mucosal tissues. Lithium disc batteries contain no corrosive material, but are considered to be more harmful than dry cell batteries. Smaller lithium disk batteries are especially problematic, as they tend to stick in the esophagus and generate an electric current between mucosal tissues resulting in severe tissue damage and potential perforation. One small 3-volt lithium disc battery lodged in the esophagus can cause necrosis in as little as 15 minutes. Metals such as lead, mercury, zinc, and cobalt may be present in the casings and heavy metal toxicity may occur if batteries or pieces remain in the gastrointestinal tract for longer then a few days. Radiographs of the entire GIT (including the mouth pharynx, esophagus as well as the stomach and intestines) are very helpful in determining the battery location. Serial radiographs taken just a few hours apart may be needed to assess battery movement. Endoscopy or surgery may be required if the battery has not moved and appears to be lodged or stuck in the esophagus.

This Halloween, please help keep pets safe. The veterinary toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline suggest that it’s always easier, less expensive, and safer for a pet to be treated earlier, versus when it’s showing severe signs. Pet Poison Helpline is the most cost-effective animal poison control center in North America at only $49 per call, including unlimited follow-up consultations and a large staff of experts always available to assist you.

Resources: Pet Poison Helpline (PPH) is an Animal Poison Control that provides treatment advice and recommendations relating to exposures to potential dangerous plants, products, medications, and substances, to veterinarians, veterinary staff and pet owners 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please be aware there is a $49.00/per case consultation fee. Pet Poison Helpline is located in Bloomington, Minnesota. The Helpline number is 800-213-6680. For further information regarding services, visit the PPH website at

Pet Poison Helpline has an iPhone application with an extensive database of plants, chemicals, foods and drugs that are poisonous to pets. A powerful indexing feature allows users to search for toxins and includes full-color photos for identifying poisonous plants and substances. With a direct dial feature to Pet Poison Helpline, the app is called “Pet Poison Help,” and is available on iTunes.

Posted in: Blog, Dogs, halloween

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First Aid Kits for Dogs: Supplies You Should Pack


You know you need a dog first aid kit for hikes or camping trips you take with your canine, but do you know what should be in it? In this short video, Dr. Sarah Wooten covers basic first aid supplies — like butterfly bandages, tweezers and a muzzle — and how best to store them.

Before you go out with your pet on such an adventure, read up on basic first aid procedures, including when to induce vomiting and when not to. And, of course, if your dog has special needs, consult with your veterinarian for recommendations about additional supplies.

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Posted in: Blog, Dog Health, Dogs, Westminster Veterinary Group

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FAQ PNA Prevention “Is feeding dry food the best way to prevent dental disease in dogs and cats?” – Pet Nutrition Alliance

FAQ PNA Prevention “Is feeding dry food the best way to prevent dental disease in dogs and cats?”



  • No. Unfortunately, there is a lack of long-term research providing evidence that any one method, including a dry dental diet, is “best” for preventing dental disease (i.e. gingivitis, periodontitis).1
  • Dental disease is even more complicated because there isn’t a clear relationship between the amount of plaque and calculus on the teeth and the severity of the gingivitis or periodontitis associated with it.1 Simply, a reduction of plaque and calculus may not result in a significant reduction of gingivitis or periodontitis for dogs and cats.
  • Therefore, mechanical debridement from foods or products that claim to simply reduce plaque or calculus formation cannot guarantee the prevention of dental disease.1
  • Current recommendations:
    • Research shows that tooth brushing is the most effective way to prevent dental disease. It provides mechanical stimulation of the gingiva, which enhances proliferation of fibroblasts and collagen synthesis. Brushing contributes to good dental health by preventing periodontal pocket formation and promoting epithelial attachment.1 Twice-daily brushing shows the greatest benefit in dogs,2 although once-daily brushing in dogs is adequate.3 For cats, there is evidence to suggest that daily tooth brushing reduces gingivitis.4
    • If a pet owner is unable or unwilling to brush their pet’s teeth daily, then it may require a combination of therapeutic strategies to reduce the risk of dental disease.5
      • For dogs: feed diets clinically proven to reduce plaque and calculus development and provide multiple chewing activities.5
      • For cats: feed diets clinically proven to reduce plaque and calculus formation6 and provide chewing activities.1
    • Dental diets may use a number of strategies to reduce dental disease. Mechanisms that might be used  are:
      • Mechanical abrasion
      • Inhibition of calculus formation (i.e. sodium hexametaphosphate-HMP)
      • Antibacterials (sodium ascorbyl phosphate)
      • Plaque retardants
  • Regulation:
    • Foods that claim to cleanse, freshen, or whiten teeth by mechanical action or abrasive action do not need pre-market approval and are permissible by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).7
    • If these types of claims are achieved by any other way (i.e. drugs), they must be approved by the FDA prior to going to market.
  • Options for oral health products:
    • The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) lists pet diets and products which may help in oral health.8 The VOHC provides a current list at


  1. Cave N. Nutritional Management of Gastrointestinal Disease. In: Fascetti AJ, Delaney SJ eds. Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition 1st ed. Ames, IA: Wiley-Blackwell; 2012: 188-192.
  2. Yamamoto T, Tomofuji T, Ekuni D, Sakamoto T, Horiuchi M, Watanabe T. Effects of toothbrushing frequency on proliferation of gingival cells and collagen synthesis. J Clin Periodontol. 2004 Jan;31(1):40-4.
  3. Horiuchi M, Yamamoto T, Tomofuji T, Ishikawa A, Morita M, Watanabe T. Toothbrushing promotes gingival fibroblast proliferation more effectively than removal of dental plaque. J Clin Periodontol. 2002 Sep;29(9):791-5.
  4. Ingham KE, Gorrel C, Blackburn JM, Farnsworth W. The effect of toothbrushing on periodontal disease in cats. J Nutr. 2002 Jun;132(6 Suppl 2):1740S-1S.
  5. Harvey CE, Shofer FS, Laster L. Correlation of diet, other chewing activities and periodontal disease in North American client-owned dogs. J Vet Dent. 1996 Sep; 13(3):101-5.
  6. Vrieling HE, Theyse LF, van Winkelhoff AJ, Dijkshoorn NA, Logan EI, Picavet P. Effectiveness of feeding large kibbles with mechanical cleaning properties in cats with gingivitis. Tijdschr Diergeneeskd. 2005 Mar 1;130(5):136-40.
  7. Association of American Feed Control Officials. 2011 Official Publication. Association of American Feed Control Officials, Inc. 2011: 144-145.
  8. Helping to Control the Most Common Disease in Dogs and Cats: Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease). Veterinary Oral Health Council Web site. Accessed April 26, 2013.

Posted in: Blog, Cat Health, Dental health, Dog Health, News, Pet Health, pet safety

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Safety for your pet, think insurance.

A rapidly growing pet concentrated industry is the insurance sector for pets. This occurs for a few reasons; more pets pet households, increased homeownership, revenue increases, and better product introduction to the market. Industry insurance products now include accident and illness, accident only, dog insurance with wellness plans included, cat insurance with wellness plans, and specific dog or cat policies.

There are many good reasons to get pet insurance. First, the insurance does help to curb the cost of care especially if there is an emergency. Some of the new policies come with emergency and wellness care coverage up to 90% reimbursement on veterinary care expenses. Also, insurance products now offer alternative deductible plans annually charging $100 -$250 or incident specific deductible plans. There is now more value in the plans offered and not as many limits of reimbursement.

Things to consider before purchasing

  • How much does the plan cost?
  • Is wellness included?
  • What type of care is included (general, emergency, chronic conditions, and specialists)?
  • How will reimbursements work?

The downside of any insurance is the exclusion of pre-existing conditions and some breed specific conditions. Although, with thorough research of the plans offered by many companies like Nationwide, Trupanion, American Society for the Prevention Cruelty to Animals, VPI, Petplan, and Embrace; an owner can reap the rewards of being prepared to care for their pet in an emergency or healthy life. See our insurance resource page for help in deciding what pet insurance is best for you.


American Pet Products Association (2015) Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics.

Pet Product New International (2015)

Posted in: Blog, News, Pet Health, pet insurance, pet safety, Westminster Veterinary Group

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Client Education Websites and links

Client Education Website

American Veterinary Medical Association

Canine Inherited Disorders Database, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada

Indoor Pet Initiative, The Ohio State University

Partners in Animal health, Cornell University

Pet Health Library, American Animal Hospital Association

Pet Health Network, IDEXX

Pet Poison Helpline

Works and Germs Blog by Scott Weese, DVM, DVSc, DAVCIM

Posted in: Bird, Bird Health, Blog, Dog Health, exotic animal health, Exotic Pet Health, News, Pet Health

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Caring for Your Rabbit

Often we see rabbits and the pet parents on a regular basis. We see some great care of rabbits and then there are days we know there is a lack of knowledge of how to care for a rabbit or senior rabbit. We want to educate clients on best care tips for a rabbit.
The first thing is yearly appointment with a knowledgeable veterinarian. Here are some simple tips for a rabbit care:

  1. Diet review-know the nutritional needs and proper diet habits
  2. Flea control applied
  3. Bloodwork drawn and lab tested
  4. Check the perianal area for cleanliness
  5. Monitor for molar issues by watching for drooling, rubbing the face, and unable to eat
  6. Watch for clogged eye ducts
  7. If you observe any changes in weight, posture, uneven gait while moving, lumps or bumps, coughing and changes in urine output report immediately to your veterinarian.

Examine your pet regularly while grooming your rabbit. If you see any changes in your rabbits health according to the list above, you need an appointment please call 714-899-1100. Waiting too long to resolve an issue can leave your pet in pain. Our goal is to keep a pet parent well informed and a pet rabbit pain free and happy. Our doctors are here to give advice, support, education, and even some rabbit pampering.

Posted in: Blog, Exotic Pet Health, How to properly care for you rabbit, News, Pet Health, Rabbit, Westminster Veterinary Group

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How to tell if your turtle is ill

by Lisa Mori

Both terrestrial and aquatic turtles are commonly kept as pets. Providing proper nutrition and appropriate housing for your shelled friend is important to maintaining their health. However, despite your best efforts, your pet may become ill. While there are a variety of conditions that can affect turtles, here are a few common diseases and clinical signs you may see.

Vitamin A deficiency (hypovitaminosis A) is a disease commonly seen as result of an inadequate diet (iceberg lettuce, poor quality commercial diet). A lack of vitamin A causes changes in the epidermis (outer layer of skin) with signs including puffy eyelids with eyes swollen shut, nasal discharge, or tympanic (ear) abscesses.

Shell fractures are common and are frequently due to trauma. Traumatic fractures can occur from dog attack, being run over by a car, stepped on, or dropped. Additionally, fractures or shell deformities can also occur due to an underlying nutritional deficiency.

Egg binding occurs when a female is unable to pass eggs and needs intervention to clear the obstruction. This can occur due to malnutrition, underlying disease, or large egg size. Signs include straining, restlessness, or a profound decrease in energy.

Respiratory tract disease is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection, but also occurs with vitamin A deficiency. Signs include clear to milky white nasal discharge, increased oral secretions (bubbles in mouth), stretching the neck, noisy breathing, and decreased energy or appetite. Since turtles use limb movement to aid in respiration, you may see increased “pumping” movements with each breath. An aquatic turtle may float off-balanced as buoyancy will be affected.

Remember, you don’t have to wait until your turtle becomes sick to see your veterinarian. Just like cats and dogs, yearly wellness exams for turtles can help address husbandry or other issues before they become serious problems!


Posted in: Blog, exotic animal health, Exotic Pet Health, Pet Health, turtle, Westminster Veterinary Group

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How to tell if your bird is sick

by Ingrid Hernandez

One concern many bird owners have is how to identify when their bird is sick. What should they watch out for?
The tricky thing about birds is that when they are sick they will often hide their clinical signs until they are very ill, to avoid looking weak to their prey. So recognizing and addressing signs of illness early on is essential.
A normal bird’s behavior is active, vocal and interested in its surroundings.
Some of the first signs a bird owner will notice when their bird is “not doing well” are lethargy, not eating, puffed up feathers, sleeping more, and sometimes diarrhea. These signs are very general and can indicate a number of possible illnesses. If you do identify one of more of the following changes contact your exotics veterinarian so they can perform additional testing.

1. Behavior changes
• A sick bird will be fluffed up, sitting in one spot, appear sleepy, be quieter than normal or screaming, want to be handled and petted more or not touched at all. Other changes in behavior or patterns, that as an owner you alone can notice, can also indicate illness.

2. Reduced appetite and weight loss
• A drop in weight can be an early indication of illness. A bird that has lost weight has a pointy/bony chest. Many birds will maintain their normal appetite despite being ill. However some sick birds will become selective with one food type or stop eating all together.

3. Atypical droppings
• Normal bird droppings have a dark solid portion (which can vary in color depending on the diet), a white part (which is the urate) and clear liquid. Any changes in consistency of the solid part, urate color or amount of fluid are cause for concern and should be investigated.

4. Ruffled Feathers
• Sick birds will often have ruffled feathers for long periods of time. Sometimes the ruffled feathers can mask the appearance of weight loss.

5. Changes in eyes or cere
• Check the eyes for any discharge or cloudiness. Pay attention to changes in the cere, such as redness, swelling or discharge.

Posted in: Bird, Bird Health, Blog

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Why I promote vaccinations for pets. Top 5 reasons

Dr Tia Greenberg


Even if your pet stays mostly indoors, many contagious diseases are airborne and could even travel through an open window, says the American Humane Association—so regular vaccinations are crucial regardless of whether your pet goes outside.

If your dog goes to the park, beach, day care, or public area to socialize with other pets there is a higher risk of getting kennel cough.

Kittens and puppy immunity inherited by the mom and is worn off after the 8th week. They need vaccinations to stay healthy. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recommends vaccinating against feline panleukopenia (distemper), feline viral rhinotracheitis, and feline calicivirus every three years.

 If your pet is bitten by a wild animal and isn’t current with a rabies vaccine, it may need to be euthanized

Keeping pets safe with proper veterinary care, wellness appointments and vaccinations current not only protects the pet but protects others pets, children, and the community. For more information

Posted in: Blog, News, Pet Health, Vaccines, Westminster Veterinary Group

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