Pets as Presents: Are you Prepared?

Puppy Wearing Bow

With the holidays right around the corner, once again the question emerges, “Should I give a pet as a gift?”. The truth of the matter is that pets are a wonderful addition to life, yet not everyone has the time, energy, finances, or interest in having a pet. Here are some things to consider:

What happens when the warm fuzzies wear off?”

The reality is that after the Christmas trees are tucked away, the lights come down, and the holiday giddiness subsides, there is a lifelong commitment to pet ownership! Pets undoubtedly enrich our lives and bring joy, but there is also a level of responsibility that comes along with being a pet’s forever home. These new pets will need supplies, training, and veterinary care in the coming years that can add up to a considerable financial contribution on the part of the new pet owner. Are they prepared to provide the care that their pet needs? If the pet is a puppy or kitten, is the recipient prepared for the long nights, messy floors, and chewed up shoes that inevitably occur? Not fully examining the commitment it takes for pet ownership is sadly a major contributing factor to the flood of pets taken to shelters in the months following the Christmas holiday.

Which pet is best?”

Successful gifting of a pet includes matching its lifestyle with the owner’s. Things to consider are living space, exercise requirements, grooming requirements, breed and gender preferences, and accommodating ages of children in the household. While the idea of a magical Christmas surprise is appealing, the decision for pet ownership requires research and careful planning to match the perfect pet to the perfect family.

“Where can I get a pet?”

One way to provide the gift of a pet would be to pre-pay the adoption fee for the recipient at a local animal shelter or rescue. This allows the best opportunity to find a successful match that will last a lifetime. There are many breed specific rescue organizations and shelters that are full of pets, of all ages, breeds, and genders, looking for their forever homes. An online resource for finding adoptable pets is through . There are so many homeless pets that need homes – Don’t shop… ADOPT!

“I’ve done my research and gifted a pet, now what?”

The best recommendation after a new pet has been adopted is to establish a relationship with a veterinarian as soon as possible. The new pet needs to be examined for overall health, tested for any parasites that may pose a health risk (to the pet and to humans!), ensure that the pet is protected against disease, and to discuss ongoing care. A visit to a veterinarian is also a valuable resource to the new pet owner on topics such as behavior, training, nutrition, grooming, and general pet care. Bottom line is, gifting a pet should never be an impulse decision, but if the proper planning and discussion is done, it can result in a joyful experience for owner and pet!  

The 12 Days of Christmas: Pet Hazards

We at Turtle Creek Veterinary Medical Center want you and your pets to have a joyous, safe, and healthy holiday season. Yet we also realize that you likely have shopping, planning, wrapping and cooking still to do-and that’s before the blur that is Christmas Day even arrives! So to  help, we’ve put together a series of 12 common Pet Hazards that may be overlooked during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, to ensure your pets can safely enjoy the most wonderful time of the year!

1st Day of Christmas: Tinsel

Tinsel is often an attractive toy for cats. After all, it’s shiny, it dangles and it’s something new in their environment. Few cats can pass it up, and even fewer can “pass it out.” When cats play with tinsel, they often end up swallowing some or getting some wrapped around their tongue, potentially becoming a linear foreign body which is dangerous. If you have cats, it’s safest not to use any tinsel in your holiday decorating.

2nd Day of Christmas: Fruitcake

Ah, the Christmas fruitcake! Whether you use it as a doorstop or a dessert, be careful around your pets with this staple of Christmas festivities. Most fruitcake recipes call for dried fruits, and this typically includes raisins and/or currants, which can be highly toxic to your dog’s kidneys. From kidney failure to a gas distended stomach leading to cardiovascular collapse and shock, the potential hazard is high. Make sure that all guests are aware of the dangers associated with Fruitcake ingestion.

3rd Day of Christmas: Mistletoe

Before you pucker up to kiss your sweetheart, be sure that bunch of mistletoe is well secured to the door jam. It could potentially land your dog or cat into the hospital if it falls to the ground or they find another way to get their paws on it! Mistletoe can cause excessive drooling and digestive upset, but even bigger problems are in store for your pet if they ingest a larger quantity of this common Christmas decoration. Your pet may experience heart and/or neurologic problems, including abnormal heart rate and rhythm, decreased blood pressure and a staggered walk. If left untreated these signs can progress to collapse, seizure, coma or worse.

4th Day of Christmas: Batteries

Christmas and batteries just seem to go hand-in-hand, don’t they? Whether those batteries are for a new gift or not, you should take necessary precautions to keep them out of your pets mouth. If your dog chews a battery they are at risk of suffering caustic burns and ulceration within their mouth and/or esophagus. These burns can result in pain, refusal of food, increased drooling, bad breath, and they can become infected too.  If your pet has ingested a battery it is very important that you do NOT induce vomiting, and there are 3 reasons why.

1. Punctured batteries leak caustic material which causes ulcers within the digestive tract. If you cause your pet to vomit up and ingested battery, you double the exposure of their esophageal mucosa to the leaking caustic material. This, of course, increases the chances that your pet will suffer from ulcers.

2. When a pet vomits there is always a risk the vomited material gaining access to their respiratory tract and lungs. In all situations this can be problematic, but in the case of corrosive alkaline materials, this will be even more dangerous. The damage that can occur within the lungs can easily be proven fatal.

3.  The most common “at-home” remedy used to induce vomiting in pets is hydrogen peroxide. If your pet has just ingested a battery, they have already sustained a significant amount of irritation to their stomach and esophageal lining. By using hydrogen peroxide, you add insult to injury and increase the likelihood of gastrointestinal bleeding and/or perforation.

If your pet ingests a battery, the best first step you can take is to bring them to a veterinarian for evaluation as soon as possible.

5th Day of Christmas: Lilies:

While Lilie’s don’t exactly ‘scream’ Christmas- flowers do- and lilies are amongst the most common type of flowers found in bouquets at all times of the year, including Christmas. Stargazer Lilies, Rubrum Lilies, Tiger Lilies and the other members of the Lilum genus, the ‘true lilies’ as they are known, are highly toxic to cats. A nibble on one or two petals, a lap of spilled vase water, or the ingestion of a small amount of pollen can be enough to put  a cat into debilitating and potentially fatal acute kidney failure.

6th Day of Christmas: Ornaments

From cuts on paws from those that break, to gastrointestinal obstruction from those that get ingested, ornaments and other Christmas tree decorations pose a wide array of hazards to your pets. Cats are probably most at risk of sustaining injuries from these festive decorations, what with their propensity to bat down and play with things that dangle in front of them. This isn’t to say that dogs aren’t at risk of injury or illness from that which adorns your Christmas tree.  After all, once a dog’s tail get wagging, nothing in it’s path is safe, and dogs being dogs, they’re also probably the ones more likely to try to eat an ornament once it’s been knocked off a branch.

7th Day of Christmas: Light Strands

Though strands of Christmas lights can really add a beautiful holiday glow to your tree or house decorations, its important to also appreciate that they can cause a curious pet quite a shock and some pretty significant resulting health problems, too. And if chewed on, these tree adornments can even lead to a house fire. Pets that chew on electric cords can sustain burns on their tongues and elsewhere in their mouth. These pets may also develop a buildup of fluid within their lungs, as a result of the electrical shock. This fluid buildup within the lungs that results from a cause other than heart failure, is known as non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema, it can lead to breathing problems, and it can be fatal, too.

8th Day of Christmas: Chocolate

Hopefully you’re already aware that chocolate is bad for dogs, but do you know why? The primary concern with chocolate is due to a chemical compound called methylxanthines. The methylxanthine that we primarily worry about with chocolate toxicity is called Theobromine can have a wide range of effects in your pet’s body. In the case of chocolate toxicity, the biggest concern is hyper-stimulation of both the central nervous system (including the brain) and the heart. This excessive stimulation can lead to significant and potentially fatal problems in pets. The amount of theobromine in chocolate varies significantly with the cocoa content of the chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the higher the cocoa content, and the greater the theobromine concentration. In other words, the darker the chocolate, the greater the risk to your pets. The amount of chocolate your pet eats, and their size and weight, are also factors in their risk of toxicity. The amount of chocolate your pet eats, and their size and weight, are also factors in their risk of toxicity. Check out this cool interactive chart from National Geographic Magazine. It very nicely illustrates the estimates of how much chocolate your pet can eat, based on its weight, before suffering toxicity.

9th Day of Christmas: Ribbons & Bows

You’d be forgiven for thinking that curly ribbon and gift bows are good toys for your cats- but we in the veterinary profession also want pet owners to be aware that another place we commonly see kittens and cats playing with Christmas ribbons- or at least the debilitating and expensive results of such activities- is in the veterinary clinics and Animal ER’s across the country.  Just like tinsel, the ribbons and bows that adorn wrapped gifts and lay around with your wrapping supplies are typically quite enticing for cats. Something about these wrapping accessories just seem to trigger a cat’s inner hunter. Unfortunately, a common result of this ‘hunt’ is an intestinal obstruction that can sicken or kill your cat.  The long, strand-like nature of ribbons and bows makes them very common “linear foreign bodies” in cats around this time of year. Linear foreign bodies cause a particular type of digestive tract blockage in pets that are curious, mischievous, and unfortunate enough to eat them.

10th Day of Christmas: Liquid Potpourri

Some of the nicest things about the holidays are the smells, wouldn’t you agree? Whether it’s the smell of a fresh cut Christmas tree, cookies baking in the oven, or a crackling wood fire – the smells make this time of year is so enjoyable.  Liquid potpourri is a substance that can create or help to mimic some of those wonderful holiday smells. And while these oily liquids can fill a house with a sensory overload of wonderful aromas  they also pose a very real, and potentially very significant, hazard to your pets – especially your cats. Liquid potpourris typically contain two substances that can be toxic to your pets – essential oils and cationic detergents. While the essential oil component of the liquid potpourris can cause problems for your pets (depending on the type and concentration of the essential oil), typically it’s the cationic detergents that cause the bigger problems. The cationic detergents present in liquid potpourri can cause severe ulceration and chemical burns to the surfaces within your pet’s mouth and along their digestive tract. They can cause similar problems if they come into contact with their skin or their eyes, too. As you might imagine, burns within your pet’s mouth, or anywhere along their digestive tract, can be extremely painful.  If the concentration of the detergents within the potpourri is high enough, and the burns sustained severe enough, your pet could wind up with a perforated ulcer, or hole, in their esophagus. This carries a very poor prognosis for survival, sometimes even in spite of appropriate and timely treatment.

11th Day of Christmas: Cyclamen

I suspect this is a pet toxicity that many of you were unaware of. In fact, I suspect many of you have never even heard of a cyclamen before – right? However, you’ve likely seen them around and may have even had them on your holiday table – these plants are common in supermarket floral departments and home & garden centers. Although not nearly as popular as the poinsettia around the holidays, the cyclamen is often found this time of year. And not many people know about the dangers of the cyclamen. The toxins of the cyclamen can cause a wide range of problems for the pets that ingest them, ranging from excessive salivation and digestive upset to seizures and heart rhythm abnormalities. In small ingestions, most pets will suffer only mild digestive upset. However, in cases of large ingestion, this toxicity can prove fatal.

12th Day of Christmas: House guests

I know, it seems a bit curmudgeonly to declare “houseguests” as a pet hazard. After all, it’s Christmas! And isn’t this holiday about nothing else if not spending it with friends, family, and loved ones? It is indeed — both for you and your pets. From the perspective of the health and safety of your pets though, it truly is important for you to be aware of all the dangers that your friends, family members, and other loved ones will most certainly (albeit inadvertently) expose your pets to during this year’s Christmas festivities. Every single person that steps into your home will almost certainly bring with them at least one thing that poses a health and safety risk to your pets. Here are some examples of pet hazards that your visitors will likely expose your pets to this holiday season, and how they’ll likely do so…

In their coats:

  • Gums and mints – nicotine, xylitol
  • Batteries – car key and alarm fob, cell phone

In their purses:

  • Medications – prescriptions, over-the-counter pain relievers and sleep aids, diet pills, asthma inhalers, birth control, and many others
  • Dental floss
  • Hand sanitizers – high alcohol content

With the gifts they bring:

  • Foods – chocolates and other candies, fruitcakes, cheeses and charcuterie
  • Bottles of wine and other alcohol
  • Toys
  • The wrapping bows and ribbons
  • Plants and flowers (e.g. lilies, cyclamen, amaryllis, wreaths with holly or mistletoe, etc.)

In their luggage:

  • Dirty laundry
  • Toiletry bag – medications, dental floss, etc.

And keep in mind that these hazards are on top of the stress that the arrival of houseguests is likely to cause your pets, especially your cats.


Have a very Merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year!


Give your pet something to smile about!

Give your pet something to smile about!

Let’s face it; we all want that “million dollar smile”, right? Did you ever think that maybe our pets want one too? Well, I can tell you that they do!


Think about how your mouth feels when you don’t brush your teeth at least 2 times a day. I think everyone would agree that having an unclean mouth is NOT the best feeling! Did you know that your pet’s dental needs are just like ours? The best way to prevent dental disease is to brush your pet’s teeth at least once a day. Now I know what you’re thinking, “I can’t brush my dog/cat’s teeth!” We understand! Here we are few at home treatments to help prevent dental disease from taking over your pet’s mouth.

Now like I said, the best way to prevent dental disease is to brush your pet’s teeth. Keep in mind that you must use toothpaste designed for pets that does not contain fluoride – this can be toxic to pets! Pet toothpaste comes in many tasty flavors such as beef, poultry, malt and vanilla mint. There are also a variety of toothbrushes available for your pet, such as a long tooth brush making it easier for the big dogs. Or, if your dog doesn’t like the tooth brush, you could always try the finger brush.

So, brushing might not be an option, what’s next? Not a problem! We have products such as a food or a water additive, which makes things easier. The food additive adds a tiny amount of product sprinkled over your pet’s food once a day. The main ingredient is blue seaweed, which is a good product for helping to break down tarter build up. The water additive is a very convenient home care dental solution too. It helps to reduce tartar build up and its resultant halitosis. A difference in breath can be noticed in as little as 2 weeks!

“My pet likes to chew on things” – GREAT!! A great choice would be Clenz-a-Dent chews which are coated in chlorhexadine, a product that helps to break up that tartar build up. Not only is that GREAT, but while your pets chew on these rawhides, it’s also breaking some of that build up off the tooth! Plus, pets love them and they are safe if ingested. For our feline friends, we carry Greenies, which is a crunchy treat that cats LOVE!

Please keep in mind that if your pet has bad breath, this could also be a sign of infection and your pet may need to be examined or have a professional dental cleaning. Oral issues are very painful for our pets. If your pet acts like he is painful or not wanting to eat, please call your veterinarian.

If your pet needs a professional dental cleaning, we are currently running a promotion for FULL MOUTH dental radiographs as well as a professional dental cleaning for ONLY $299! Once your pet’s teeth have been cleaned, and their mouths are not painful, you could start any of these or all of these steps as a precautionary, preventative-measure to combat dental disease!

Have questions?? Feel free to email us – we would love to help you with your pet’s dental care!

Give Cancer the Paw!

November is National Pet Cancer Awareness Month! As you might know, here at Turtle Creek we view the month of November as an opportunity to spread awareness about the seriousness of pet cancer, as well as sharing many educational opportunities with our clients. In this day and age, pets are living significantly longer, thanks to the research and technology that has evolved in veterinary medicine. So, what better way to enter the blogging world than with a blog about pet cancer?!

In our FIRST EVER blog post, I’m going to give you the cold hard truth about pet cancer. I’m going to try to help you understand which warnings signs could be more serious than you think.


FACT: Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells.
FACT: Cancer is the #1 disease related cause of deaths in pets.
FACT: Some breeds are more susceptible to certain cancers.
FACT: Cancer cells develop because of damage to DNA, which can sometimes be inherited. More often, though, a dog’s DNA becomes damaged by exposure to something in the environment, such as tobacco smoke, pesticides or other carcinogens.


Now that the facts are out, do you find yourself wondering which signs you should be looking for? Let me tell you:

  1. The obvious – what you see – LUMPS AND BUMPS. All lumps and bumps should be examined by a veterinarian, especially if they change in size or color, or do not resolve themselves (as in the case of insect bites). Your veterinarian might recommend a needle biopsy to let you know if this bump or lump has cancerous cells or not. Non-healing sores are also a concern and should be checked by your veterinarian.
  2. Weight loss or loss of appetite. Just like humans, when pets do not feel well, they do not want to eat.
  3. Coughing or difficulty breathing could be caused by a few things, but keep in mind that cancer metastasizing through the lungs present with the same symptoms.
  4. Unusually strong or abnormal odors. Cancer of the mouth, nose or anal regions can cause a very strong foul odor, it could also make chewing or swallowing difficult.
  5. Abnormal discharges. The gross stuff like blood, pus, vomiting, diarrhea or any other abnormal discharge should always be examined by a veterinarian.
  6. Depression, lethargy, the unwillingness to get up and exercise. If your pet isn’t acting like himself, talk to your veterinarian. Your pet is trying to tell you he/she doesn’t feel well without the ability to speak.


Now that you realize your pet can get cancer just like you can, here are a couple easy steps to help keep your pet healthy and reduce the risk of pet cancer.

  1. Most importantly, visit your veterinarian at least twice a year for wellness exams. Your veterinarian is highly trained in examining your pet from nose to tail. He/she might be able to find a problem before it becomes too serious. Don’t forget that your pet ages 7 years to your 1 year. Imagine what would change if you didn’t see a doctor in 7+ years!
  2. Spay and neuter your pet. I know what you’re thinking “that doesn’t make a difference!” but yes it does! Dogs who aren’t spayed before experiencing their 2nd heat cycle are 26% more likely to develop mammary cancer during their lifetime. Cats spayed before 6 months of age are SEVEN times less likely to develop mammary cancer. Neutering male pets significantly reduces their chance of prostate cancer and eliminates their chance of testicular cancer.
  3. Feeding your dog a healthy diet, providing regular exercise and avoiding known carcinogens will help reduce the cancer risk.


Now that you feel informed, do you find yourself wondering “how can I help spread awareness?” – let me tell you how. Each November we design a t-shirt about pet cancer to help raise awareness. All proceeds from sales are donated to Morris Animal Foundation (the leading researcher institute in pet cancer). Additionally, for a more fun and exciting way to help spread awareness, join us in April at our Hot Diggity Dog Jog event where we host a 1 mile fun run and a 5K benefitting Morris Animal Foundation. Lastly, please help us spread the word by sharing this information, and let’s all do our part in trying to prevent this deadly disease from taking the lives of our furry companions.