Blood work and your pet

Understanding Your Pet’s Diagnostic Testing

Understanding your pet’s test results Blood testing can frequently detect illness in your pet before we see any outward signs of disease. Testing gives us immediate insights that we might not otherwise discover. And, treating your pet early can lead to a better outcome and possibly lower treatment costs.

Pets can’t say how they’re feeling—it’s usually how they look or act that tells you something is wrong. You play a key role in helping your pet combat illness and stay as healthy as possible. Awareness of the warning signs and regular preventive health screens, including a physical exam and blood work, are the best ways to ensure that your pet lives a long, healthy and happy life.

When is blood work necessary?
Sick and emergency situations- Blood work provides you with a valuable picture of your pet’s health and is often the first step
when pets are brought in to a clinic because they are sick or in an emergency situation. It helps the veterinary staff make immediate
decisions, so they can quickly help your pet.
Preanesthetic testing- Blood work is routinely done prior to your pet’s surgery, dentistry or other procedures that require anesthesia.
It lets the veterinary staff know if anesthesia is safe for your pet and allows them to make adjustments if they see anything abnormal.
This blood work is often performed the same day as anesthesia is scheduled, making it easy for you and your pet because it eliminates
the need to have your pet fast more than once and reduces the number of trips you need to make to the hospital.
Preventive care screening- Because the signs that your pet is sick are not always obvious, preventive care testing is often recommended
as part of your pet’s annual exam. Preventive care screening not only uncovers disease before it’s too late, but can also help you avoid
significant medical expenses and risks to your pet’s health.
Medication monitoring- Some medications have side effects.
Periodic blood work while your pet is being treated can find these
problems early and allow your veterinarian to make necessary
changes. With other medications, blood tests are needed to ensure
that the dosage is appropriate.

What tests might my veterinarian run?
There are tests that are routinely performed when blood work is recommended.
They include:
A complete blood count (CBC) tells you if your pet has an infection,
if inflammation is present or if your pet is anemic.
A complete blood chemistry panel including electrolytes provides
information about your pet’s liver, kidneys and pancreas; as well as
other functions of the body, such as blood sugar and hydration.
A urinalysis identifies an infection or inflammation in the urinary tract.
A thyroid function test detects whether or not your pet’s thyroid
gland is functioning properly. Thyroid disease is very common in
older cats and dogs.

When can I expect results?
Many of the tests routinely recommended can be performed in-clinic, providing results quickly and allowing for immediate treatment of your pet. In-clinic blood testing also lets you be more involved in your pet’s care, since you can discuss test results with your veterinarian while you’re still at the clinic. Normal results can rule out certain diseases immediately, so you can worry less. If results are abnormal, your veterinarian can make fast decisions about next steps, including treatment and additional tests. This saves you time as well as trips back and forth to your veterinarian, and gives you answers that will help your pet right away.

Understanding your pet’s test results
Blood testing can frequently detect illness in your pet before we see any outward signs of disease. Testing gives us immediate insights that
we might not otherwise discover. And, treating your pet early can lead to a better outcome and possibly lower treatment costs.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)
Red blood cells (RBCs) are the most numerous and longest-living of the different types of blood cells; they typically make
up almost half of the blood’s volume. RBCs contain a special protein called hemoglobin (HGB) that binds to the oxygen in the lungs and
enables the RBCs to transport oxygen as it travels through the rest of the body.
CBC is used to screen for:
• Anemia (low red blood cell count)
• Inflammation
• Infection
• Stress
• Leukemia
• Bleeding problem
• Inability to fight infection
• Hydration status

Reticulocytes: These are immature RBCs increased during times of increased red cell production, such as blood loss or immune-mediated
White blood cells: White blood cells are primarily responsible for fighting infections. There are five different types of white blood
cells and each one performs specific functions to keep the body healthy.
Platelets: Platelets play a critical role in preventing bleeding.

Kidneys: Kidneys are responsible for filtering metabolic waste products, excess sodium and water from the blood stream, which are
then transferred to the bladder for excretion.
Blood and urine tests can indicate:
• Early renal disease
• Renal failure
• Infection
• Stones
• Cancer
• Abnormalities resulting from longterm medications

Liver: The liver is a large organ with many different functions.
It processes the blood by removing both bacteria and toxins as well
as further breaking down many of the complex nutrients absorbed
during the digestion of food into much smaller components for use
by the rest of the body.
Biochemistry tests can indicate:
• Liver disease
• Cushing’s syndrome
• Certain cancers
• Dehydration
• Obstruction of the bile ducts
• Abnormalities resulting from long-term medications

Pancreas: The pancreas is a small organ located near the small intestines and is responsible for producing several digestive enzymes
and hormones that help regulate metabolism.
Biochemistry tests can indicate:
• Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
• Diabetes mellitus
• Abnormalities resulting from long-term medications
• Cancer

Glucose: Glucose is the basic nutrient for the body. It is highly regulated in the bloodstream, but does fluctuate for a few hours after
eating. Glucose changes may be seen with a variety of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, and various organ system abnormalities.
Electrolytes: Electrolytes (Na, K, Cl, tCO2, Anion Gap) are critical to body  function and must be maintained in very narrow limits.
Dehydration is a common cause of electrolyte imbalance, despite how effective the body is at regulating the concentration levels.

Urinalysis: Although not a blood test, a urinalysis is essential for a
comprehensive evaluation of kidney function. A urinalysis includes
physical, chemical and microscopic evaluation of urine. This evaluation
provides additional information about the kidney and liver, as well as
the general well-being of your pet.

Thyroid: Thyroxine (T4), a hormone produced by the thyroid gland,
is essential for growth and metabolism. As your pet ages, thyroid
function can become abnormal and cause signs of illness.
Endocrine tests can indicate:
• Hypothyroidism
• Hyperthyroidism

Understanding Your Pet’s Diagnostic Testing

Blood Chemistries
These common blood tests allow veterinarians to assess your pet’s overall health. Blood tests are often recommended in healthy pets, in pets about to undergo anesthesia and in sick pets. Interpretation of multiple tests in conjunction with one another (profiling) allows quick and noninvasive assessment of the major organ systems of the body.

Understanding your pet’s test results Blood testing can frequently detect illness in your pet before we see any outward signs of disease. Testing gives us immediate insights that we might not otherwise discover. And, treating your pet early can lead to a better outcome and possibly lower treatment costs.


  • BUN (blood urea nitrogen)— increases may be seen with decreased kidney function,
    dehydration, heart disease, shock or urinary obstruction as well as following a high protein diet;
    decreases may be seen with overhydration
  • CREA (creatinine)—increases may be seen with decreased kidney function and other conditions
    as noted with BUN, but is not affected by a recent high protein diet; decreases may be seen with
  • PHOS (phosphorus)—elevations are seen with decreased kidney loss through conditions like
    kidney disease, increased intake through the gastrointestinal tract and increased release from
    injured tissues; increases in growing puppies and kittens can be normal; decreases may be seen
    with increased loss or decreased intake
  • Ca+ (calcium)—increases may be seen as a result of a variety of diseases including kidney
    disease, certain cancer types, certain toxicities and parathyroid disease; decreases may be seen with certain parathyroid diseases and with low albumin


  • ALT (alanine aminotransferase)—increases are a sensitive indicator of liver cell damage
  • ALKP (alkaline phosphatase)—increases may indicate a liver abnormality (cholestasis),
    Cushing’s disease, active bone growth in young pets, active bone remodeling after bone injury;
    may be induced by multiple drugs and nonspecific conditions
  • GGT (gamma glutamyl transferase)—increases may indicate a certain type of liver abnormality
  • ALB (albumin)—increases may indicate dehydration; decreases may be seen with decreased
    liver function, blood loss, gastrointestinal disease or kidney disease
  • TBIL (total bilirubin)— increases may be seen with liver disease (cholestasis and insufficiency)
    and certain types of anemia
  • Bile acids—increases in this blood component may be an indication of decreased liver function,
    abnormalities in blood flow to the liver or possible bile duct obstruction


  • AMYL (amylase)—increases may be seen with pancreatitis, kidney disease, gastrointestinal
    disease or certain drug treatments; degree of change and other laboratory data may help identify
    pancreatitis specifically
  • LIPA (lipase)—increases may be seen with pancreatitis, kidney disease, gastrointestinal disease
    and certain drug treatments; degree of change and other laboratory data may help identify pancreatitis specifically

Protein Profile

  • TP (total protein)— increases may indicate dehydration or an inflammatory condition; decreases
    may be seen in decreased liver function, blood loss, gastrointestinal loss and kidney loss
  • ALB (albumin)— increases may indicate dehydration; decreases may be seen with decreased
    liver function, blood loss, gastrointestinal disease and kidney disease
  • GLOB(globulin)—increases may be seen with inflammation and potential chronic infection;
    decreases may be seen with blood loss, gastrointestinal loss and immune deficiencies


  • Na+ (sodium)—increases may indicate dehydration; decreases may be seen with loss during
    diarrhea and vomiting or with Addison’s and kidney disease
  • K+ (potassium)—increases may indicate kidney disease due to decreased excretion, with
    Addison’s disease, dehydration and kidney obstruction; decreases may be seen with loss during diarrhea or vomiting
  • Cl(chloride)—increases may indicate dehydration; decreases may be seen with loss during
    diarrhea or vomiting

Miscellaneous Chemistries

  • GLU (glucose)—increases may indicate diabetes mellitus; decreases may be due to liver
    disease, pancreatic disease and other conditions and could lead to collapse, seizure or coma
  • AST (aspartate aminotransferase)— increases are associated with liver or muscle damage
  • CK (creatine kinase)—increases are associated with muscle damage
  • CHOL (cholesterol)— increases may be seen with a variety of metabolic disturbances including
    diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, pancreatitis and some types of kidney
    disease; decreases may be seen with liver insufficiency and intestinal disease
  • TRIG (triglycerides)— increases may be seen in a variety of conditions including non-fasted
    samples, in miniature schnauzers, and in patient’s with pancreatitis, diabetes, Cushing’s disease
    or hypothyroidism
  • Cortisol—increases may be seen with Cushing’s disease (measured in different protocols
    including ACTH stimulation and Dexamethasone suppression tests); decreases may be seen with Addison’s disease
  • T4 (thyroxine)—increases may indicate hyperthyroidism (primarily cats); decreases may indicate hypothyroidism (primarily dogs)
  • LACTATE—increases indicate either local or general decreased blood perfusion and can
    potentially serve as a prognostic indicator for the critical patient

Complete Blood Count (CBC)This is a common test performed on pets to provide objective information about the general health
status of an animal. The objective data obtained from a CBC can be helpful in monitoring ill patients
undergoing therapy; therefore, serial CBC requests are common.

Red Blood Cell (RBC) Parameters

  • RBC (red blood cell count), HCT (hematocrit) and HGB (hemoglobin)—increases in these
    parameters may support dehydration or a disease of increased production of RBCs; decreases
    indicate anemia and decreased oxygen-carrying capability of the blood
  • MCV (mean cell volume)—increases indicate the presence of larger than normal cells, which
    may be related to young cells during response to an anemia; decreases indicate the presence of
    smaller than normal cells, which may be associated with chronic blood loss/iron deficiency
  • MCH (mean cell hemoglobin) and MCHC (mean cell hemoglobin concentration)—increases
    suggest the presence of hemolysis or an interference in hemoglobin measurement; decreases
    suggest decreased hemoglobin concentration, which can be seen during response to anemia
    and chronic blood loss/iron deficiency
  • RDW (red cell distribution width)—increases in this objective measure of variability of RBC size
    indicates increased variability in size that can aid the veterinarian in identifying the cause of an RBC problem
  • RETIC (reticulocytes)—increases indicate growing numbers of immature RBCs, indicating a
    response to a peripheral demand for RBCs; decreases indicate few or no immature RBCs,
    indicating the body is unable to respond to a demand for RBCs (nonregenerative anemia)

White Blood Cell (WBC) Parameters

  • WBC (white blood cells)—increases may be due to inflammation, stress, excitement and
    leukemia; decreases may be due to overwhelming inflammation and bone marrow failure
  • Leukocyte Differential—Various patterns of change in numbers of NEU (neutrophils), LYM
    (lymphocytes), MONO (monocytes), EOS (eosinophils), and BASO (basophils) may be seen with
    different types of inflammation, stress, excitement and leukemia
  • NEU—inflammatory cell associated with infectious and noninfectious disease processes
  • LYM—immune cell highly responsive to “stress” and potentially increased during chronic
  • MONO—inflammatory cell associated with repair of tissue injury
  • EOS—inflammatory cell associated with parasitic disease, hypersensitivity and allergy
  • BASO—inflammatory cell associated with parasitic disease, hypersensitivity and allergy

Platelet (PLT) Parameters

  • PLT (platelet) and PCT (platelet crit)—increases in these parameters of overall platelet mass
    are potentially associated with hypercoagulable state; decreases may be seen with decreased
    production (bone marrow failure), increased consumption (coagulation, inflammation, etc.) and
    destruction in the blood (infectious, immune-mediated, etc.)
  • MPV (mean platelet volume)—increases indicate presence of larger than normal platelets
    commonly associated with response to need for platelets (not significant in the cat)
  • PDW (platelet distribution width)—increases in this objective measure of variability of platelet
    size indicates increased variability in size which may be an indicator of response to a need
    for platelets (not significant in the cat); decreases may be seen with immune-mediated thrombocytopenia


A urinalysis is performed on a urine sample and provides insight into kidney functions as well as the hydration status of the animal. This valuable test may also be helpful in diagnosing and monitoring various diseases and metabolic disturbances throughout the body.

  • Specific Gravity—determined by the kidney’s ability to concentrate urine in response to the hydration status
    pH—reflect the acid-base status if the animal is well-hydrated
  • PRO (protein)—small amounts of protein may be normally found in urine, but larger amounts
    may indicate kidney disease
  • GLU (glucose)—high levels are usually associated with an elevated blood glucose concentration
  • KET (ketones)—elevated levels may indicate an increase in breakdown of lipids within the body
  • UBG (urobilinogen)—abnormally high levels may indicate liver or hemolytic disease
  • BIL (bilirubin)—abnormally high levels may indicate liver or hemolytic disease; in dogs (especially
    male dogs) bilirubinuria is common even under normal conditions; bilirubinuria in cats is significant
  • RBCs and Hemoglobin—the test may be positive due to hematuria, hemoglobinuria or
    myoglobinuria; blood in the urine is often a sign of inflammation, infection and/or trauma
  • WBCs—excessive numbers of WBC indicate inflammation somewhere in the urinary tract
  • UPC—(urine protein:creatinine ratio)—an important screening test for early kidney disease and
    to help monitor treatment of renal disease; increases may indicate significant protein loss through the kidney

Other Possible Tests

  • Canine/Feline Giardia—test for a protozoan parasite that may inhabit the small intestine of
    dogs, cats, humans and most domesticated animals often causing diarrhea
    Canine/Feline Heartworm—test for deadly parasites that can live in the heart, major blood
    vessels and the lungs
  • Canine Tick-Borne Diseases—tests for commonly seen and serious diseases transmitted by
    ticks including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis
  • Canine Parvovirus—test for one of the most common and severe gastrointestinal diseases in
    young dogs
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Viruses (FeLV)— tests for two of
    the major causes of illness and death in cats
    One IDEXX Drive, Westbrook, Maine 04092 USA •
    © 2007 IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. All rights reserved. • 09-64954-01 (3)

Ward Animal Hospital’s position on online pharmacies

Because of the advertisements for mail order medication pharmacies such as PetMeds. We want to clarify our position on these products.
We have an online pharmacy that has competitive pricing with other online pharmacies.
A very important concern is the quality of the product.
All of our products are shipped directly from the manufacturer and stored appropriately.

The manufacturers do not sell products directly to online pharmacies like PetMeds. Because of this, the products are obtained through unregulated means. Some illegal foreign versions have turned up in the United States. Counterfeit and expired products are being repackaged and sold with fake lot numbers.

Most importantly, the manufacturers guarantee their products only if purchased from a licensed Veterinarian. Since no prevention provides 100% protection, this is very important. The manufacturer will pay for heartworm treatment if the pet has ben getting prevention at the recommended intervals. They will not pay for treatment of the product is not purchased from a  licensed Veterinarian.


A breakdown of the benefits of ordering with an online pharmacy associated with a veterinarian.

  • Products are sent directly from the manufacturer, no 3rd party involvement
  • Unlike with other online pharmacies, product lot numbers are tracked automatically and quality is guaranteed by the manufacturer
  • Purchases are linked to your pets record in our office
  • Manufacturer rebates are applied automatically and deducted from the price
  • Additional discounts (coupons) will be available through the clinic and promotional e-mails
  • Free shipping (3-5 business days) is applied on all products without minimum purchase, flat rate second and next day shipping is available
  • Additional discounts are applied for autoship setup (customizable free delivery schedule)
  • Veterinary recommendations can be emailed to you for easy ordering and re-ordering
  • A wide variety of preventative, therapeutic products and food are available for cats, dogs and horses


Our office will be happy to assist with ordering, or any questions or concerns you might have.



Heartworm Guidelines

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has altered guidelines after evidence of preventive-resistant Diofilaria immitis strains was presented at the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists Conference at the end of July in Chicago.

Researchers have now identified heartworm isolates from the Mississippi Delta region that develop in adult dogs receiving routine monthly heartworm preventives.

  1. This means treatment of heartworm positive dogs should be immediate and aggressive, as noted in the newly revised CAPC guidelines (for details, see
  2. The “slow kill” therapy sometimes prescribed by veterinarians is no longer appropriate, as researchers have demonstrated that using this modality –repeated macrocyclic lactone administration over a period of time — increases the proportion of circulating microfilariae that possess resistance markers.
  3. Dogs should be tested for heartworms once a year. Existing infections should be aggressively treated with an approved adulticide and microfilariae should be eliminated.
  4. CAPC recommendations for year-round prevention with a broad-spectrum parasiticide should be followed.
  5. Pet owners should be encouraged to reduce exposure to mosquitoes as much as possible.

Specialists emphasize that evidence of resistance does not mean abandoning current protocols but that they be followed even more rigorously. The new evidence confirming heartworm resistance underscores the importance of protecting pets year-round without gaps in prevention.

Preventions are still the best protection we have and consistently administering them is key to maintaining pet health.

Protect your pet!

Fleas and ticks– if you have wildlife or stray animals around your home then your pets should be protected.

Heartworm disease– standing water around your home is a breeding ground for those pesky mosquitoes, which can cause heartworms

Canine topical flea prevention

  • Vectra 3D-Provides a 6-way protection: repels and kills fleas, ticks mosquitoes, biting lice, sand flies and mites.

Canine oral flea/ tick prevention

  • Simparica- prevents fleas/ticks for 30 days
  • Bravecto – prevents fleas/ ticks for 12 weeks

Canine oral flea/heartworm disease/ intestinal parasite prevention

  • Trifexis- Kills and prevents fleas, prevents heartworms and controls intestinal parasites (hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms).

Feline topical prevention

  • Revolution- Controls and prevents flea infestations, prevents heartworm disease, controls ear mites and intestinal parasites for 30 days.
  • Catego- prevents flea/ ticks for 30 days.

Pets should be protected year round for complete effectiveness.
All oral preventions are given monthly and by prescription only.
Revolution is a feline monthly topical prevention that is by prescription only.

Office: 936-564-4341         E-mail:
3825 NW Stallings, Nacogdoches, Texas 75964
Monday- Friday 8AM-6PM
Saturday 8:30AM- 12:30PM

Summer Tips

Here are a few tips to keep your pet safe during the long hot dog days of summer

Avoiding heatstroke
Limiting and supervising time outdoors during the hottest hours of the day is also important for your pets because when it’s hot for you, it’s probably even hotter for them. Dogs aren’t as efficient at cooling down as we are, since they release most of their body heat only through the pads of their feet and by panting.

Have it in multiple locations for your pet. Water bowls can turn over easily, get dirt in them or grow bacteria and your pet can be left without cool, fresh, clean water. When you travel (or hike), take water with you for your pet.

Parasite prevention
Mosquitoes (heartworm), ticks, and other bugs and parasites are out in full force in the summer, and they can infect your dog or cat and cause potentially serious medical issues. Your pet might also carry these bugs and parasites into your home, so be sure to talk to your veterinarian about a preventative like Bravecto, Simparica and Trifexis.

– Be especially sensitive to older and overweight animals in hot weather. Brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs such as bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, Lhasa apsos and shih tzus, as well as those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

– Good grooming can stave off summer skin problems, especially for dogs with heavy coats. Shaving the hair to a one-inch length never down to the skin, please, which robs Rover of protection from the sun helps prevent overheating. Cats should be brushed often.


Top 5 Holiday Dangers for Pets

Preventive Measures Can Save Pets

The holidays are a festive time for us and our pets. However, due to ongoing activities and constant distractions, we can easily overlook potential dangers to our four-legged family members.

Take preventive measures to protect your pets this holiday season. Being aware of these top five dangers could save you a trip to the veterinary emergency room.

1. Holiday Tinsel and Ornaments

Tinsel, while not toxic, is very attractive to pets, particularly cats. The shiny, dangling decoration reflects light and can move in the slightest draft — appearing to come alive to watchful critters.

The problem with tinsel is that once it’s consumed, it can cause serious injury to your pet. If not caught in time, this foreign body ingestion could actually be fatal as it twists and bunches inside your pet’s intestines. Immediate veterinary care is required.

In addition, bright and colorful tree ornaments can attract your pet’s curiosity. Place glass, aluminum and paper ornaments higher up on the tree. Pets can chew and swallow these fragile objects and not only can broken pieces form sharp edges that may lacerate your pet’s mouth, throat, and intestines, they could also create a choking hazard.

2. Holiday Lighting and Candles

Twinkling, shiny and dangling holiday lights — such as the icicle, netting, garland, curtain, rope and candle varietal — may be another source of danger to your curious pets.

Got a pet that likes to chew? Electrical shock may occur when a pet chomps down on an electrical cord, causing tongue lacerations and possible death. Check your holiday lights for signs of fraying or chewing and use a grounded three-prong extension cord as a safety precaution.

If you have candles on display, place them in a hard-to-reach spot so that your pets can not access them. Not only can pets seriously burn themselves, but knocking over candles creates a fire hazard and may leave a trail of hot wax that will easily burn the pads of paws and more.

3. Gift Wrap Ribbon

You may be tempted to fashion your pet with a decorative ribbon “collar” but beware that this could become a choking hazard.

Also, 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 and even death.

4. Food Hazards

Festive events often mean edible treats — and lots of them. Unfortunately, some of the most popular holiday goodies, such as chocolate, bones and nuts, can be extremely toxic or fatal to pets.

  • Different types of chocolate contain various levels of fat, caffeine and the substances methylxanthines. In general, the darker and richer the chocolate (i.e., baker’s chocolate), the higher the risk of toxicity. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, dogs might experience vomiting, diarrhea, urination, hyperactivity, heart arrhythmias, tremors and seizures.
  • Fat trimmings and bones are dangerous for dogs. Fat trimmed from meat, both cooked and uncooked, may cause pancreatitis. And, although it seems natural to give a dog a bone, a dog can choke on it. Bones can also splinter and cause an obstruction or lacerations of your dog’s digestive system.
  • 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 pet on her regular diet and caution visitors against giving your pet special treats or table scraps.

5. Toxic Holiday Plants

They may be pretty, but some holiday plants are poisonous—even deadly. As little as a single leaf from any lily variety is lethal to cats. Others to avoid:

  • Christmas tree pine needles can produce oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, trembling and posterior weakness.
  • Holly, commonly found during the Christmas season, can cause intense vomiting, diarrhea and depression.
  • Mistletoe, another Christmas plant, can cause significant vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, collapse, erratic behavior, hallucinations, and death when ingested.
  • Poinsettias can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and sometimes vomiting.

Taking precautions with pets during these festive times can help ensure that you and your family will enjoy a happy — and healthy — holiday season!

Winter pet care

Cold weather can be hard on pets, just like it can be hard on people. Sometimes owners forget that their pets are just as accustomed to the warm shelter of the indoors as they are.

Some owners will leave their animals outside for extended periods of time, thinking that all animals are adapted to live outdoors. This can put their pets in danger of serious illness. There are things you can do to keep your animal warm and safe.

  • Take your animals for a winter check-up before winter kicks in. Your veterinarian can check to make sure they don’t have any medical problems that will make them more vulnerable to the cold.
  • Keep your pets inside as much as you can when the mercury drops. If you have to take them out, stay outside with them. When you’re cold enough to go inside, they probably are too. If you absolutely must leave them outside for a significant length of time, make sure they have a warm, solid shelter against the wind, thick bedding, and plenty of non-frozen water. Try leaving out a hot water bottle, wrapped in a towel so it won’t burn your pet’s skin.
  • Some animals can remain outside safely longer in the winter than others. In some cases, it’s just common sense: long-haired breeds like Huskies will do better in cold weather than short-haired breeds like Dachshunds. Cats and small dogs that have to wade shoulder-deep in the snow will feel the cold sooner than larger animals. Your pet’s health will also affect how long she can stay out. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances can compromise a pet’s ability to regulate her own body heat. Animals that are not generally in good health shouldn’t be exposed to winter weather for a long period of time. Very young and very old animals are vulnerable to the cold as well. Regardless of their health, though, no pets should stay outside for unlimited amounts of time in freezing cold weather.
  • Cats will curl up against almost anything to stay warm–including car engines. Cats caught in moving engine parts can be seriously hurt or killed. Before you turn your engine on, check beneath the car or make a lot of noise by honking the horn or rapping on the hood.
  • If you light a fire or plug in a space heater to keep your home toasty warm, remember that the heat will be as attractive to your pets as to you. As your dog or cat snuggles up to the warmth, keep an eye out to make sure that no tails or paws come in contact with flames, heating coils, or hot surfaces. Pets can either burn themselves or knock a heat source over and put the entire household in danger.
  • It’s a good idea to have your furnace checked for carbon monoxide leakage before you turn it on, both for your pets’ health and your own. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, but it can cause problems ranging from headaches and fatigue to trouble breathing. Pets generally spend more time in the home than owners, particularly in the winter, so they are more vulnerable to monoxide poisoning than the rest of the family.
  • Pets that go outside can pick up rock salt, ice, and chemical ice melts in their foot pads. To keep your pet’s pads from getting chapped and raw, wipe her feet with a washcloth when she comes inside. This will also keep her from licking the salt off her feet, which could cause an inflammation of her digestive tract.
  • If left alone outside, dogs and cats can be very resourceful in their search for warm shelter. They can dig into snow banks or hide under porches or in dumpsters, window wells, or cellars, and they can occasionally get trapped. Watch them closely when they are loose outdoors, and provide them with quality, easily accessible shelter.
  • Keep an eye on your pet’s water. Sometimes owners don’t realize that a water bowl has frozen and their pet can’t get anything to drink. Animals that don’t have access to clean, unfrozen water are more likely to drink out of puddles or gutters, which can be polluted with oil, antifreeze, household cleaners, and other chemicals.
  • Be particularly gentle with elderly and arthritic pets during the winter. The cold can leave their joints extremely stiff and tender, and they may become more awkward than usual. Stay directly below these pets when they are climbing stairs or jumping onto furniture; consider modifying their environment to make it easier for them to get around. Make sure they have a thick, soft bed in a warm room for the chilly nights. Also, watch stiff and arthritic pets if you walk them outside; a bad slip on the ice could be very painful and cause a significant injury.
  • Go ahead and put that sweater on Princess, if she’ll put up with it. It will help a little, but you can’t depend on it entirely to keep her warm. Pets lose most of their body heat from the pads of their feet, their ears, and their respiratory tract. The best way to guard your animals against the cold is keeping a close eye on them to make sure they’re comfortable.

When you’re outside with your pets during the winter, you can watch them for signs of discomfort with the cold. If they whine, shiver, seem anxious, slow down or stop moving, or start to look for warm places to burrow, they’re saying they want to get back someplace warm.

You can also keep an eye out for two serious conditions caused by cold weather. The first and less common of the two is frostbite. Frostbite happens when an animal’s (or a person’s) body gets cold and pulls all the blood from the extremities to the center of the body to stay warm. The animal’s ears, paws, or tail can get cold enough that ice crystals can form in the tissue and damage it. The tricky thing about frostbite is that it’s not immediately obvious. The tissue doesn’t show signs of the damage to it for several days.

If you suspect your pet may have frostbite, bring her into a warm environment right away. You can soak her extremities in warm water for about 20 minutes to melt the ice crystals and restore circulation. It’s important that you don’t rub the frostbitten tissue, however–the ice crystals can do a lot of damage to the tissue. Once your pet is warm, wrap her up in some blankets and take her to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian can assess the damage and treat your pet for pain or infection if necessary.

Hypothermia, or a body temperature that is below normal, is a condition that occurs when an animal is not able to keep her body temperature from falling below normal. It happens when animals spend too much time in cold temperatures, or when animals with poor health or circulation are exposed to cold. In mild cases, animals will shiver and show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition progresses, an animal’s muscles will stiffen, her heart and breathing rates will slow down, and she will stop responding to stimuli.

If you notice these symptoms, you need to get your pet warm and take her to your veterinarian. You can wrap her in blankets, possibly with a hot water bottle or an electric blanket–as always, wrapped in fabric to prevent against burning the skin. In severe cases, your veterinarian can monitor her heart rate and blood pressure and give warm fluids through an IV.

Winter can be a beautiful time of year. It can be a dangerous time as well, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. If you take some precautions, you and your pet can have a fabulous time taking in the icicles, the snow banks, and the warm, glowing fire at the end of the day.

Winter Tips For Your Pets

Winter is on its way and now is the time to start preparing for the cold months ahead.

  • Don’t leave your pet outside for long periods of time.
  • Towel or blow-dry a wet pet.
  • Don’t leave your pet alone in a car for long periods of time. The car can hold in the cold.
  • Antifreeze is poisonous to pets, although they like the smell.
  • Leave your pet’s hair long for the winter months so he doesn’t get too cold. If it is a short-haired pet you should think about getting him a sweater.
  • Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep away from windows or doors and be careful with your pet around the fireplace.
  • Wipe your pet’s feet and stomach before they come inside, in case they pick up any dangerous chemicals on their feet and stomach. He can ingest rock salt or antifreeze when he cleans himself off.

If you have any questions about anything during the winter months that may concern your pet feel free to call us at 936.564.4341.