Pet Therapy Dogs Are Our Heroes

I should put out a ’tissue alert’ for this story before I begin. Years ago when I started doing pet therapy work, I never realized that I would meet some of my best friends this way. Not just the pets – the people who work with them. These are some of the most selfless people I have ever met. They give their time, their gas and generously…

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Safe Halloween Tips for Pet Families

Halloween can be a fun family event, but can be a dangerous holiday for your pet. Here are a few safety tips to help you through the holiday.

Keep your pet inside

Some dogs can be overwhelmed by all the little visitors coming to your door and ringing the door bell. Also the costumes can be scary for your pet. It is their natural instinct to protect their “pack” from strangers and you do not want any of your little trick-or-treaters to get hurt.

Contain your dog

Some dogs will need to be confined to a separate room to limit excitement or injury. If taking your dog outside, be sure he is on a leash at all times.

Act normally

If your dog does seem anxious, continue to act as normal as possible. By giving your dog extra attention to try and reassure them, it will actually re-enforce the behavior and communicate to the pet that there is something to worry about and will result with increasing the anxiety rather than calming them.

Wear ID Tags or Microchip your pet

Just in case your dog does get loose, you will want to make sure he is wearing a current ID tag or is micro-chipped so he will more likely to be returned to you. We now have an ID tag engraver and a large selection of ID tags in stock at the clinic. We can custom engrave a tag for your pet in minutes.

Help your dog get used to costumes

Expose your dog to the costumes your kids will wear before the big day. Allow them to sniff them and let your kids model them so they will get used to them with out  all the excitement. Avoid wearing masks around your dog because that can scare them even more.

Costumes on your dog

While some dogs are used to being dressed in sweaters or dresses, a lot of dogs do not like it. Do not wait until the big night to try your pet’s costume on. Start several days to weeks early and put the costume on when there is not a lot of excitement and watch them closely.  If your dog is still not used to wearing his costume, a colorful bandana or his birthday suit will have to do. We have a great selection of dog costumes in stock at the clinic and a larger selection at our website

Keep the treats away from your pet

Candy – especially chocolate or the artificial sweetener, xylitol – can make your dog very sick resulting in a trip to the Doggie ER. Some dogs have been known to devour the candy haul, sticks, wrappers and all. Keep all candy well out of reach of your pet in a pet proof container.

Fire Safety

Keep candles and lighted pumpkins away from your pet and never leave a burning candle and your pet home alone. A swishing tail is all it takes to knock over a candle and set your house ablaze or injure your pet.

With a just a little preparations and keeping the the actions of your pet in mind, your Halloween will be a fun night rather than a nightmare.

Canine Influenza

fluDid you know that dogs also have a flu virus, Canine Influenza (H3N8). Like the Swine flu, a vaccination for Canine influenza has been developed.


In January 2004, there was a sudden outbreak of respiratory disease among 22 racing greyhounds at a Florida racetrack. Most of the dogs developed a mild fever followed by a cough that lasted about 14 days, and then recovered. But slightly more than one third of the dogs died after developing hemorrhaging in the lungs. Within six months, the virus turned up in other racing greyhounds at tracks in six other states- then at 20 tracks in 11 states, and now the virus has affected pet dogs in over 30 states. However, it is most prevalent in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Colorado.

The canine flu virus actually mutated from a virus that has affected horses for over forty years. And since there has never been a case of the equine virus affecting humans, experts are fairly certain that the canine influenza virus will not infect humans either. But with the recent news and hype about the human swine flu, the canine influenza virus will continue to be monitored closely.

Canine influenza should be considered in dogs presenting with a cough and a recent history of exposure to other dogs. The biggest predisposing factor would be the pet’s lifestyle. If within the last 10 to 14 days, the dog was at a shelter, rescue facility, pet store, boarding facility, groomer, or doggie day care, canine influenza is a possible diagnosis. This new virus is easily transmitted between dogs in much the same way that flu spreads among humans, but not all dogs get sick and not all dogs who get sick will die. However, because this is still considered a new virus, all dogs are considered susceptible to
infection because they have no naturally acquired or vaccine induced immunity. Another problem is that the canine flu virus may initially be misdiagnosed as another respiratory disease in dogs known as “kennel cough” which could further cause the rapid spread of the disease.

Dr. Cynda Crawford, University of Florida Veterinary School veterinarian and researcher, in a scientific paper when the virus was first identified said, “Canine influenza is really the new kid on the block for vets to consider in the differential diagnosis for kennel cough.” She further cautions veterinarians that while 80 percent of flu-stricken dogs will have a mild form of the disease, even dogs who are not overtly sick could be contagious. When asked why we haven’t heard much about this disease in recent years, she states, “I think when it was first reported in 2004 it was a very newsworthy item. I think the virus has now become commonplace in many communities throughout the United States and so it has lost its newsworthy glamor.” This may
change with the release of the new vaccination and the hype of the Swine flu vaccine about to be released.

Dog owners should take heed that if their dogs are coughing, sneezing, or have runny nose, they should not “shrug it off” as just kennel cough, “a little cold” or even allergies. Canine influenza usually starts out with coughing or gagging that may last as long as three weeks. Symptoms typically appear within 7 to 10 days post exposure. Clinical signs in dogs include coughing, runny nose, lethargy, depression, and a fever as high as 103-107 degrees. In the acute and severe form, a viral pneumonia can develop.

While highly contagious, some good news is that the virus is easily killed by soap and water, disinfectants and 10 percent bleach solutions. Transmission can be prevented by isolating all suspected dogs, thorough cleaning of all cages and exposed surfaces such as floors, kennels food dishes and bedding. Animal caretakers should be diligent about wearing disposable gloves or washing hands in between handling dogs and any urine, stool, or saliva, and before entering or leaving any facility that houses dogs.

In September 2008, the AVMA News Update stated, “The AVMA believes there is an urgent need for an effective canine influenza virus vaccine to improve the health and welfare of animals and reduce the financial impacts of the canine influenza.” Intervet Schering-Plough Animal Health has developed a vaccine for the Canine Influenza Vaccine (H3N8).

Intervet Schering-Plough Animal Health developed “this new vaccination (to) aid in the control of the disease associated with
canine influenza virus infection. It has been demonstrated to reduce the incidence and severity of lung lesions as well as duration of coughing and viral shedding.” Pet owners will want to discuss the new vaccination with their veterinarian and decide if it is right for their pet. The initial series is two vaccinations given two (2) to four (4) weeks apart. It can be administered to pet’s six (6) weeks or older. Annual vaccination is recommended.


While veterinarians do want dog owners to be aware and cautious of the canine influenza flu, they do not want people to panic. They warn owners to take their dog to their veterinarian at the first sign of any respiratory illness or problem. The virus has been identified in dogs of all ages. Dogs may be at higher risk if they are young, old, have an immune problem, or are undergoing chemotherapy. Diagnosing the Canine influenza virus is difficult based on the shedding periods and
the onset of clinical symptoms. Depending on the stage of presentation to the veterinarian, there are multiple tests that can be preformed. Blood testing during several phases of the illness may be the most common recommended by your veterinarian.

Dog owners should contact  their veterinarians for more information and to stay current on news about this disease.Helpful websites include University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine –

Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

Chocolate poisoning

Like people, most pet dogs find chocolate highly palatable. Unfortunately, chocolate contains stimulants that are toxic in high doses. Small dogs are at highest risk, since a relatively small amount of chocolate may contain more stimulant than they can handle.

How Chocolate is Harmful
Chocolate contains theobromine, a powerful stimulant related to theophylline (a respiratory medication) and caffeine. Chocolate also contains caffeine, but in much smaller quantities. Dark, unsweetened, and bakers chocolate have the highest concentration of theobromine. Milk chocolate, white chocolate, and confections that contain small amount of cocoa (such as cakes, cookies, and chocolate-coated candies) also contain the stimulant in lower levels.

Theobromine stimulates the central nervous system and the heart, increases blood pressure, and causes digestive upset. Signs of chocolate toxicity include excitement, agitation, or nervousness, thirst, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe poisoning can result in loss of coordination, seizures, coma and death.

Diagnosis of Chocolate Poisoning
If you know that your dog has consumed chocolate, tell your veterinarian the quantity and the type of chocolate. The amount required to be toxic depends on the type of chocolate and the size of the dog. If your dog has consumed a dangerous amount, prompt treatment can reduce the likelihood of serious illness. Unfortunately, dogs sometimes get into chocolate and other poisons without their owners knowing. This can make accurate diagnosis much more difficult.


German Shepherd

If your pet can get to the veterinarian within 4-8 hours of eating the chocolate, it may be possible to prevent absorption of the toxin into the bloodstream. Emetics cause vomiting, which is removing the chocolate from the body when administered within four hours of exposure. A special absorbent medicine containing charcoal can be given up to eight hours after exposure. The charcoal binds to the chocolate in the intestine, preventing it from being absorbed and allowing it to be excreted in the feces. There is no specific antidote for theobromine, but animals that have already absorbed the toxin can benefit from IV fluids, heart medications, and anti-seizure drugs.

Preventing Chocolate Toxicity
Be sure to keep chocolate and all other potential poisons well out of reach of pets. Remember that unsweetened bakers chocolate is the most hazardous. Even though one or two M&Ms are not likely to be deadly, avoid the habit of feeding any amount of chocolate to your dog.

Dr. Debra Garrison

Dr. Debra Garrison