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Tip of the Month

Safety for You and your Pet
  • Trouble Areas in the Home – Dangerous Places for Pets - September 2008
    Trouble Areas in the Home – Dangerous Places for Pets

    Both dogs and cats can get into a lot of trouble in many areas of a house or yard. Keep all areas safe for your pets and watch them closely. For guidance regarding safety for your pets, consult those in animal jobs, such as your dog trainer, veterinary assistant, or animal behaviorist.

    • Swimming Pools – A pet can fall into a pool and drown. Keep the area around a pool fenced. Provide a ramp in case a pet falls into the water.

    • Gardens, Garden Sheds, and Garages – Pesticides, antifreeze, fertilizers, gasoline, and oil all contain chemicals that may cause serious illness or death. Keep containers tightly closed and out of harm’s way in locked cabinets or placed high on shelves. If your pet is suspected to have ingested harmful chemicals, take him/her immediately to the veterinarian to be assessed by the vet and his/her veterinary assistant.

    • Balconies – Pets can either fall from balconies or slip through railings that are spaced too far apart. Make a barrier to either keep pets away from balconies or to block railings.

    • Doors and Windows – An open door or window is an invitation for a pet to run away and explore if left open. Doors should be kept closed and all windows should contain screens.

    • Electrical cords – Electrocution can occur if pets chew on electrical cords that are plugged into a wall. Keep cords for computers and all electrical systems hidden under carpets or behind appliances.

    • Washer and Dryer – Cats are known for jumping into washers and/or dryers. Keep lids closed when these appliances are not in use or when you need to leave them unattended for even a few moments. Spilled bleach can cause chemical burns if walked through or illness if ingested. Again, if your pet is suspected to have ingested harmful chemicals, take him/her immediately to the veterinarian to be assessed by the vet and his/her veterinary assistant.

    • Fireplaces – Eating fireplace ashes can cause a pet to get sick. Keep a screen in place and ashes out of pets’ reach. If your pet ingests fireplace ashes, contact your veterinarian or bring your pet to the animal hospital to be examined and treated by the veterinarian and his/her veterinary assistant.

    • Trash Areas – Spoiled food can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Fruit pits may cause blockage in the pet’s intestines as can aluminum foil and plastic wrap. Empty tin cans could cause cuts on the mouth and/or tongue if chewed on. Pets may get their heads stuck in discarded containers. Again, it’s crucial to take your pet to the veterinarian immediately to be assessed by the vet and his/her veterinary assistant if your dog is suspected of having ingested harmful substances (such as onions from the trash can).

    • Bathrooms and Kitchens – Cleaning products, either ingested or picked up on the pads of the feet and licked off, can cause vomiting and diarrhea. An owner’s prescription medication may cause serious side effects or death if left out and ingested by a pet. Take your pet immediately to emergency veterinary care to be assessed and treated by the veterinarian and veterinary assistant if he/she ingests cleaning products or prescription medications.

    Reference: ASPCA Pet Insurance

  • An Owner’s Responsibility in Preventing Dog Bites - November 2008
    Although most interactions between dogs and people are positive and harmonious, there are still an estimated 4.5 million dog bites reported each year in America. These bites range from minor nips to major attacks. There is no way to guarantee that your dog would never bite someone, because all animals have the potential to become aggressive in certain situations. Fortunately, there are many things that an owner can do to reduce the chances of their dog inflicting an injury on someone. Dog owners should make themselves aware of the steps they can take to reduce the risk of their dog biting someone. (Professionals working in animal jobs must also learn the same skills because of the likelihood of a groomer, veterinarian, veterinary assistant or technician, dog trainer, etc. being bitten by a client’s dog.) Learning your dog’s body language and knowing what situations your dog is comfortable in and what situations make your dog nervous or scared is crucial to your safety.

    Socialize your dog at an early age. Speak with your veterinarian, veterinary assistant, and/or dog trainer regarding their recommendation on a safe age for a puppy to meet other dogs. Introducing your dog to different situations and people greatly reduces the dog’s chances of becoming nervous and/or fractious in social situations. For instance, taking your new puppy to the veterinarian early on in life and often gives him exposure to your veterinarian, veterinary assistant and technician, receptionists, other clients, etc. and gets him used to a situation that may otherwise be viewed as frightening.

    Train your dog. Taking your dog to training/obedience classes is not only an excellent way to socialize your dog, but your dog will also learn how to sit, stay, lie down, and most importantly, trust you. Training is a family matter, and anyone who lives in the same house as the dog should be familiar with the training techniques used and actively participate in the dog’s education. Never hit a dog as a punishment as this can cause a dog to exhibit dangerous behavior as a defense and is very hard to correct with training. Training should always be a fun activity for your dog. Just ask professionals in the various animal jobs out there – training is a life-long commitment, and you should try to work with your dog as much as possible. This will not only reinforce behaviors already learned, but will strengthen the bond between you and your dog as well.

    Teach your dog appropriate behavior. Do not teach your dog to chase after or attack people or animals for fun – dogs do not always understand the difference between play and serious situations. The first time your dog exhibits signs of potentially dangerous behavior toward a person or another animal you should seek the advice of those in animal jobs, such as a vet (input from his/her vet assistant is valuable, too, but should be reinforced by the opinion of the vet), animal behaviorist, or qualified dog trainer.

    Be a responsible dog owner. Follow all laws related to owning a dog. Again, those in animal jobs can point you in the right direction. License your dog, and provide him with proper veterinary care, including keeping rabies vaccines up-to-date. When you go on outings with your dog, keep him on a leash at all times, and never let your dog roam off-leash or unsupervised. Dogs are social animals and want to be part of a family. Isolating your dog in the backyard or on a chain by himself increases the risk of your dog displaying dangerous behavior.

    As a socialized and happy member of your family, your dog will be much less likely to bite. If you don’t know how your dog will react to a new situation, use caution and work with professionals in animal jobs––such as your dog trainer, veterinarian, or veterinary assistant ––to help your dog become comfortable and accustomed to new situations. Working with your dog, building relationships with professionals in animal jobs for guidance, and educating yourself about dog behavior and training is the best way to keep both yourself and others protected from dog bites.

    Source: Humane Society of the United States
  • Disaster Preparedness - January 2009
    A recent international poll found that 61 of pet owners will not evacuate during a disaster if they cannot bring their pets with them. In 2006, Congress addressed this issue by passing the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, which requires state and local emergency management agencies to make plans that take into account the needs of individuals with pets and service animals in the event of a major disaster or emergency.

    Disasters may happen anywhere at any time. Natural disasters like hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes may occur with little to no warning. Unexpected emergencies such as fires often leave families – and pets – separated without means of communication with each other. The Humane Society of the United States advocates all pet owners plan ahead to care for their animals when disaster strikes. For additional advice, owners may consult their veterinarians or others in animal jobs (i.e., veterinary assistants).

    What can you do right now to prepare for a disaster?
    • Put a collar on each of your pets which clearly identifies your pet with his or her name and your contact information. Indoor-only pets should have collars also.
    • Take three pictures of you with each of your pets in a well-lit area. You should be able to see your pet’s entire body clearly. The three pictures should be two side-view shots and at least one clear picture of the pet’s face.
    • Talk to your neighbors, family, and friends about what they can do for your pets – and what you can do for their pet – if a disaster strikes. All parties should agree upon a location to meet in the event of an emergency. Those in animal jobs can usually provide advice on animal-friendly places to meet.
    • Create a list of hotels (or friends’ homes) that would allow your pet(s) to stay with you in the event of an emergency.
    • Create an Emergency Preparedness Kit (you should have one kit per pet – see below). Again, professionals in animal jobs, such as a vet assistant, can help you create your kit.

    An Emergency Kit for your pet should contain:
    • A three-or-more-day supply of food and water stored in airtight containers
    • A sturdy leash or harness – or a suitable carrier if you have a small dog
    • Extra feeding and watering bowls
    • Current photos and a physical description of your pets, including identifying markings and microchip or tattoo numbers
    • Any medications that your pet may be taking, vaccine records, and basic first-aid supplies (ask your veterinary assistant for advice regarding basic first-aid needs)
    • “Comfort” items such as a special toy or blanket, and suitable bedding
    • Waste disposal bags (i.e. “Pooch Pick-up Bags”)
    • Cats should have a litter box with litter and a carrier large enough for one cat to use as a temporary “apartment” for several days. Professionals in animal jobs, such as a certified veterinary assistant, can guide you to the appropriate size.

    Each kit should be kept in a place where, if you are evacuated or need to leave your home for any emergency or disaster situation, it can be easily accessed. Do not leave pets unattended at any time while traveling in an evacuation situation as they may be experiencing fear and anxiety for which you – the owner – may be the only comfort for them.

    What if a disaster requiring the evacuation of your pet occurs while you aren’t home? Make arrangements well in advance for a trusted neighbor, friend, or veterinary assistant to collect your animals. This person should be familiar and comfortable with your pets, know where they are likely to be in your home, and know where the pet’s emergency kit is located. Discuss with your friend a specific location to meet after an evacuation.

    If you own horses or other farm animals, you should contact your local humane organization, agricultural extension agent, or local emergency management agency to provide you with information about your community's large-animal disaster response plans.

    Source: Humane Society of the United States
  • Pet First-Aid - February 2009
    First-aid should always be followed up by a visit to the vet. Although first aid may prevent an injury from worsening, help to alleviate pain, or even save your pet’s life, you should always seek the advice of a veterinarian if your pet becomes injured. A certified graduate from one of the many accredited veterinary assistant schools can also be a reliable reference for first-aid tips, though keep in mind that an assistant may not diagnose and is limited in what he or she is allowed to do.

    We have outlined some basic dos and don’ts of pet first aid, but you should speak with your veterinarian about specific recommendations for first-aid care. All recommendations should be used with good judgment and in conjunction with advice from your veterinarian or veterinary assistant. You should remain calm and always use caution when handling an injured animal. Even the most trusted and loving animal may become fractious when frightened or in pain. All families who share their home with a pet should have a first-aid kit in an easily accessible location. Also, learning some simple animal restraint techniques is recommended.

    A basic first-aid kit should contain:

    Canine First-Aid Kit
    - A good pet first-aid book
    - Phone numbers: veterinarian, nearest emergency clinic, poison-control center/hotline
    - Paperwork: proof of rabies vaccination, and copies of other important medical records
    - Rectal thermometer (normal temperature for a dog: 100 – 102.5 F)
    - Gauze rolls, pads, and adhesive tape (white porous and self-adhesive tape)
    - Hydrogen peroxide
    - Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl)
    - Over-the-counter antibiotic ointment
    - Tweezers
    - Petroleum jelly
    - Antiseptic lotion, powder, or spray
    - A nylon leash
    - A carrier for small dogs
    - Cotton balls or swabs
    - Splints and tongue depressors
    - A muzzle or strips of cotton to prevent biting
    - Penlight or flashlight
    - Bandage scissors
    - Needle-nosed pliers
    - Plastic eyedropper or syringe
    - Sterile saline solution
    - Glucose paste or corn syrup
    - Styptic powder or pencil
    - Latex gloves
    - Ear-cleaning solution
    - Nail clippers

    Feline First-Aid Kit
    - A good pet first-aid book
    - Phone Numbers: veterinarian, the nearest emergency veterinary clinic, a poison-control center/hotline
    - Paperwork: proof of rabies vaccination status, and copies of other important medical records
    - Rectal thermometer (normal temperature for a cat: 100 – 102.5 F)
    - Sterile gauze rolls, pads and adhesive tape (white porous and self-adhesive type tape)
    - Hydrogen peroxide
    - Tweezers
    - Petroleum jelly
    - Antiseptic lotion, powder, or spray
    - A pillowcase to confine your cat for treatment
    - A carrier
    - Cotton balls or swabs
    - Splints and tongue depressors
    - Towels
    - A cat muzzle or strips of cotton to prevent biting
    - Penlight or flashlight
    - Scissors
    - Needle-nosed pliers
    - Ice pack
    - Plastic eyedropper or syringe
    - Sterile saline solution
    - Latex gloves
    - Ear-cleaning solution
    - Nail clippers

    If Your Pet Is Bleeding
    Locate the area actively bleeding. Apply a pressure bandage using gauze pads and self-adhesive tape. Make the bandage snug but not tight enough to cut off circulation. Do not apply a tourniquet as this may cause more problems than it prevents. Use extreme care if bandaging around the face and/or neck. Do not attempt to clean an open wound. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately so that he/she (with the help of a technician or a veterinary assistant school graduate) can evaluate your pet’s condition.

    Fractured or Dislocated Limb
    Do not attempt to manipulate or place a splint on an injured limb. These injuries are very painful and any manipulation will likely cause greater pain. If possible, transport your pet in a carrier to avoid excessive movement, and take your pet to the veterinarian as quickly as possible. The clinic workers will assist you in safely removing your pet from your car without causing further injury. Use extreme caution when handling an animal with this type of injury.

    If You Suspect Heatstroke
    A pet that has had a heatstroke will have rapid, shallow breathing; excessive drooling; bright red gums; weakness (often they are recumbent, or refuse to move); and a very high body temperature. Some pets may show signs of agitation with or without vocalization. Do not attempt to bring the body temperature down by pouring rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol on your pet as this may cause the temperature to drop too drastically and may cause your pet to go into shock. Wrap your pet in cool (not cold) damp towels, and get your pet to the vet immediately. Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency. The hospital’s veterinary assistant or technician will evaluate your pet’s condition prior to the veterinarian’s diagnosis.

    Preventing heatstroke is actually very easy. Make sure your pet always has fresh, clean water readily available. Since cats and dogs don’t sweat and have a naturally higher body temperature than humans, they can overheat very easily. Never leave your pet in a hot car – even if the windows are down and you will only be gone for a few minutes. Do not leave your pet outside on a hot day and always make sure your pet has a cool, comfortable place to escape the heat. For more tips on keeping your pet cool and preventing heatstroke, speak with professionals such as a vet assistant, technician, or veterinarian.

    If You Suspect Your Pet Has Been Poisoned
    If your pet has been poisoned, you should seek veterinary attention immediately. Do not feed your pet or attempt to make it vomit. Some poisons can do more damage to your pet coming up than going down. Your veterinarian (with assistance from a veterinary assistant and/or technician) will detoxify your pet once it has been admitted to the clinic. If detected early, most poisons can be eliminated from your pet’s body without extensive treatments. Keep cleaners and pesticides out of your pet’s reach. If you have houseplants, find out if they are poisonous to animals and keep them out of your pet’s living area. If you know what poisoned your animal, make sure you take the label – or something else that identifies the poison – with you to the vet.

    In the event of any emergency or injury involving your pet, always be sure to stay calm, act responsibly, and call your vet as soon as possible. Your veterinarian and his or her staff will guide you and your pet to safety. Remember, your pet is counting on you.

  • What You Need Before Traveling With Your Pet.  - April 2009
    Set up an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian to ensure they are healthy prior to any travel. An examination is needed to obtain a health certificate for many forms of travel. Many times, these questions are answered by veterinary assistants in the facility they work in.

    The veterinarian may update your pet’s vaccines and test for heartworm and internal parasites. If needed, appropriate medication will be prescribed. A sedative or tranquilizer may also be prescribed and it is recommended that a trial run be conducted in order to observe the effects on your pet. While traveling, keep the health certificate, rabies certificate and medical records in an easily accessible place.

    Pets may travel throughout the United States with the proper documentation. However, Hawaii has a 30 or 120 day quarantine for all dogs and cats although the regulations may vary by species.

    If traveling to Canada, a certificate issued by your veterinarian that identifies the pet and certifies that they have been vaccinated against rabies during the preceding 36 month period is needed.

    Heading to Mexico? A health certificate signed by your veterinarian within two weeks of the day you enter Mexico is needed. It must include a description of the pet, lot number of the rabies vaccine, a note that the distemper vaccine has been given and a statement by the veterinarian that your pet is free from infectious or contagious diseases. This certificate must be stamped by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and averages around $16.50 for the stamp.

    Be sure to learn the quarantine policies before you even pack your bags. You should be able to obtain a country’s legal requirement through your veterinarian, the internet, or by contacting the embassy of the country you wish to visit. It’s worth the research to ensure an uneventful trip for you and your pet with no last minute surprises.

    Attending a veterinary assistant school can give you the tools you need to handle situations like this and improve the health and general well being of pets everywhere.

  • Safe Air Travel for Pets - May 2009
    According to the Humane Society of the United States, transporting your pet by air subjects them to very hot or very cold temperatures, low oxygen and air circulation plus the possibility of rough handling in the cargo hold of a plane.

    Due to problems associated with pets and air travel, Congress passed the Safe Air Travel Act in April 2000 which the Department of Transportation adopted in 2005. What this means is that all airlines that are based in America must report incidents in the cargo holds of their planes which includes losses, injuries and / or deaths. If you wish to view a month to month list of these incidents, go to Air Travel Consumer Report which is on the Department of Transportation website.

    While researching for safe travel options for your pet, always consider what is best for your pet and convenient for you. For an additional fee, if your pet is a cat or small dog, many airlines will allow you to take the animal on board with you. When you contact an airline, remember to ask:

    - Can you take your small dog or cat on board with you?
    - Is there a restriction on transporting the pet as cargo?
    - What type of carrier does the airline require? Although soft –sided carriers are more comfortable for your pet, many airlines require a hard-sided carrier.
    - Are there any pet health or vaccination requirements?

    To increase the chances of a safe flight for your pet:

    - Carry a photograph of your pet and examine them once you are in a safe area after the flight. If something appears wrong, take the pet to a veterinarian right away.
    - Try not to fly during holidays or the summer as it will increase the chance of rough handling.
    - Do “trial runs” with your pet in the carrier about one month prior to trip so they will become comfortable and reduce stress.
    - Place a label on the carrier with your name, permanent address and telephone number along with an emergency contact person. Put this information on the collar but be sure the collar isn’t too tight.
    - Pug-nosed breeds should not be shipped as their short noses make it harder for them to breath.

    If you have any questions, the veterinary assistant at your pet’s veterinary hospital should be able to answer any problems or concerns you may have.
  • Micro Chipping Your Pet - July 2010

    Micro Chipping Saves Lives

    Micro Chipped Dog Being Scanned

    Microchips very small transponders which are about the size of a grain of rice. A micro sized coil along with a memory circuit is enclosed within a biocompatible glass which is small enough to fit into a hypodermic syringe. A unique number is registered to your pet that is contained in the chips memory circuit and it can be read by special scanners.

    Microchip Pros and Cons

    The chip cannot be moved, once implanted, and can last up to 75 years.

  • The veterinarian or technician implants the device in less than a minute.

  • Pet does not have to be put under anesthesia to place micro chip.

  • Pets are not bothered by micro chip once placed.

  • Does not disfigure like a tattoo and they are tamper-proof.
  • Cons:
    More expensive than tags or tattoos.
  • If pet is found, many people would not know to take the pet to a shelter or veterinary hospital to scan.

  • Most chips are standardized; however there are still several brands that have to be registered.
  • Micro Chip and Collar Combo

    Due to the fact that people who do find lost pets may still be clueless regarding micro chipping, a combination of both the micro chip and collar with identification tags would increase the chance of your pet being returned. Your local veterinary assistant can help you scan a lost pet that you may have found for a microchip.
  • Don’t Dump Your Pets, Part 1 - August 2010
    There are many reasons why someone can no longer keep their pet. When you work with animals, you hear many reasons from pet owners why “Fluffy” has to go. However, dumping them in the ‘wild” is the worst option. Many people feel that your dog or cat will “be free” and can survive on their own. However, hundreds of years of domestication have taken the survival instinct out of our family pets. Those animals that are dumped will more than likely get hit by a car and left to die by the side of the road, starve to death, be attacked by truly wild animals such as coyotes, or become infested with fleas, ticks or lice that will debilitate their host. Those that do survive will more than likely breed, adding to over population and homelessness.

    If you are moving and cannot take your pet to your new place try to working something out with the landlord, even if you have to pay an up front fee or have a small pet charge added to your monthly rent. If your move is temporary, check with friends, co-workers or family to see if some one can take your pets until another place can be found.

    Some people feel that, once they have a child, they won’t have time for their pets. If you make sure your pet is properly introduced to children, kids and pets work well together and keep each other company. Just be sure to lavish as much attention to the four-legged member of your family as you do to the new one with two legs. Proper planning will give wonderful results for both you and your pets.

    If you are sick, have a serious illness, or health issue, pets can provide a lot of comfort. There may be volunteers in your area that will not only care for you, but the pet as well. Check with your local rescue groups and see if they have any suggestions.

    Some owners have taken their pets to animal shelters or to veterinary hospitals to be put to sleep because the pet became pregnant. Spaying or neutering your pet is your responsibility especially since there are many inexpensive low cost and free spay and neuter clinics in every state. Check with your local shelter for the names and phone numbers for places that offer those services through veterinary hospitals, mobile clinics, rescue groups or perhaps the shelter itself.

    www.dogs /
  • Don’t Dump your Pets – Part 11 - September 2010
    With the economy the way it is, some pet owners can no longer afford their pets. In these hard times, include your pets into your family budget including food and non-emergency visits to the veterinary hospital since the best way to cut costs down is to keep them healthy. For their vaccines, contact your local Humane Society or animal shelter for places that offer low cost vaccine clinics. As cute as they are, resist purchasing the sparkly collars, pet clothes or even the pet ortho bed to keep the costs down. It is important, however, to keep them on their prescribed medication such as heartworm or other veterinary recommended medicine. Resist the temptation to switch them to a cheaper but lower quality food as this can create poor health in the long run. A good, homemade diet could also help cut costs.

    If you find yourself in a position where you simply cannot keep your pets, remember that dumping them is simply not an option. You can contact your local veterinary hospital and ask if you can post a home needed sign in their waiting area. There are also many animal rescue sites for most breeds of dogs and cats that may be able to either accept your pet or foster them until arrangements can be made if you are between homes.

    You can also research no-kill shelters in your area. Find out what types of pets they will accept and what vaccines and health history they will need. The advantages of a no-kill shelter over a regular shelter is that the regular shelter is usually run by the county and there is a time limit that your pet will have in which to be adopted. When that time is up, your beloved family member will be euthanized.

    Fostering unwanted pets is another service that may be offered at a no-kill shelter. That means they will be staying in someone’s home instead of cages until they are adopted. Fostering pets will keep them interacting with humans and other animals and, therefore, easier to adopt.

    Despite some owners feelings that their pet will simply languish away without them and decide to euthanize instead, remember that there are many owners who are looking for a new companion to enrich their lives. Pets are very capable of adjustments in a new home, a new area, and or new owners. Give your pet a chance for a new happy, healthy life.

    If you are unsure what choices you have, check with your local veterinary hospital and speak to the veterinary assistant that works there. They are a wealth of information and may have options that you had not thought of.

    www.dogs /
  • Camping with your pet - May 2011
    As the summer season approaches, many Americans are looking forward to long weekends spent outdoors at a campsite. While we enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery of the many state parks and mountain recreation areas, veterinarians and veterinary assistants recommend taking a few extra considerations if you plan on bringing your four-legged friend with you for the adventure.

    Exercise – Is your dog an experienced trail hound? Even big sporting breeds like Labrador retrievers may not be physically fit enough to handle an 8-hour hike over rough or steep terrain. Get your dog used to longer walks and increase physical activity gradually. If your dog isn’t experienced or physically active enough to maneuver through areas which may require jumping or climbing, start working on these skills before your trip to decrease the risk of serious knee or ligament injuries.

    Heat – While you are on the trail, monitor your dog for signs of exhaustion. You do not want to end up carrying your 60+ pound dog back to the campsite! As physical activity increases, water requirements increase as well, so remember to bring plenty of water for both of you and avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day.

    Wildlife – There are many threats to your dog’s health in the great outdoors. Aside from the obvious dangers like snakes, there are many invisible threats. Drinking from streams and rivers is a common cause of Giardiasis in dogs, and in many areas, deer ticks carry Lyme disease. Sharp rocks can cut paw pads. Thorns and foxtails can easily become embedded into the skin, mouth, ears and eyes. It is a good idea to pack a small pet first aid kit along with your own first aid kit when preparing for your trip.

    Work on basic obedience commands (I.e. “sit”, “stay”, and “come”) and consult your local veterinarian for recommendations about any special vaccines or preventative medications to help protect your dog while camping. Know where the closest veterinary hospital is and keep the phone number of your local veterinary assistant handy, just in case an emergency arises.

  • Pets and Fireworks - June 2011
    Fireworks can cause a great deal of stress to many pets: not only can the loud noise be terrifying but fireworks are poisonous to animals. Fireworks contain dangerous chemicals such as potassium nitrate (one of the components of gunpowder) charcoal or sulfur, and heavy metals. Plus, if your pet is exposed to a spark or flame, their fur can catch fire, causing severe burns.

    If fireworks are ingested, your pet can have bloody diarrhea, a painful abdomen and vomiting. Trembling and / or seizures may occur along with panting, jaundice (having a yellow cast to the skin), burns to the lips, nose or inside the mouth. The smoke from fireworks can also cause eye irritation.

    Pets have sensitive hearing so loud noises such as fireworks, thunder and / or gunshots can be a very uncomfortable and terrifying time for them. Known as noise phobia the common symptoms can include:

    - Lose of bowel or bladder control
    - Trying to hide or runaway
    - Shaking or trembling
    - Barking and/or howling
    - Drooling and / or refusing to eat

    Always talk to your veterinarian or veterinary assistant if your pet seems to have noise phobia. Sometimes, behavior modification can help but many pets will need some type of tranquilization to help alleviate the symptoms.

    Prevention is always the key. For the safety of your pet, keep them home and do not take them with you to “enjoy” the festivities. Keep them indoors with the windows and curtains closed. Turning on a radio or television may help offer some distraction. Make sure your pet has urinated and/or defecated before locking them in the house to prevent accidents.

    Offer a safe place for them to hide such as a crate or quiet, dark room. Have your pet become familiar with their safe place before you need it. A frightened pet can be very destructive. They can jump over or tear down fences, dig at the floors and carpets, jump through windows, chew and tear at walls and doors and much more. All which result in injuries and sometimes lost pets. It is always a good idea to be sure your pet has proper identification in the event that they do escape from the home or yard.
  • Ensuring Owner Compliance (Medications) - September 2011
    Veterinary Assistant are often called upon to explain medications to pet owners who arrive to pick up their pet following surgery or hospitalization. This is a very important responsibility in the veterinary hospital. The veterinary assistant must convey three important messages to pet owners:

    1. How and when to administer the medication
    2. What the medication is intended to treat
    3. The possible side effects of the medication

    While explaining how to administer any medication to a pet, the Veterinary Assistant should be careful to speak slowly and clearly. It is the protocol of many veterinary hospitals and clinics that the owner is asked to repeat the information back to the Veterinary Assistant. Be careful not to assume that an owner understands. The pet parent should also be informed of side effects that may occur and be instructed to pay careful attention to their pet’s behavior during the course of the prescribed treatment. It may be beneficial to ask the owner if they have any additional questions at least three separate times. This will give a shy or reluctant owner plenty of opportunity to clear up lingering confusion or hesitation.

    Once the owner takes the pet home, it will be their responsibility to administer all prescriptions as directed. Any misunderstanding about a medication can decrease the owner’s compliance with the administration instructions. This can have serious consequences. Many medications can cause severe health problems in a pet if not administered as directed. Furthermore, if the owner does not fully understand why the medication was prescribed, they may decide that the medication isn’t working and therefore discontinue administration against medical advice.

    Many veterinary hospitals create informational hand-outs for some medications as an additional means of ensuring owner compliance. The Veterinary Assistant should always know where these hand-outs are kept, and educate themselves on their hospital’s protocol. A follow-up phone call, about 5 to 7 days after the pet has started a course of prescription medication, is often very helpful to owners, especially if they are having difficulty in administering the pet’s medication.
  • Full Moon Effects on Pets - May 2012

    Animal Behavior Changes with a Full Moon: Myth or Fact?

    Full Moon Effects on Pets

    It is very common for vet assistants to receive inquiries from their clients that are a bit on the odd side. A popular question among many clients is, "Will the full moon affect my pet?" It is then up to the veterinary assistant to advise the client to the best of his abilities, but how do you answer a question like that? Is there any fact behind a full moon having actual health or behavior affects on a pet, or is it all myths and rumors?

    How the Moon Affects the Earth

    The moon and Earth have a very strong magnetic pull on each other. As water is not stationary and able to move about freely, the Earth does not have full control over it. This enables the magnetic pull of the moon to influence large bodies of water on Earth. This magnetic pull is so strong that it creates ocean currents, which in turn cause tides to form.

    Statistics Show Doctor Visits Increase During a Full Moon

    As we have seen the lunar effects on the Earth, many people have begun to believe that this magnetic pull can also influence animals and humans alike. One study done by Dr. Raegan Wells, DVM, suggested that emergency room visits during the three days the moon is full increases by a staggering percentage. Her research shows that there was a 23 percent increase in the number of cats and a 28 percent increase in the number of dogs in the emergency room during a full moon’s three-night peak.

    Full Moon Equals Increased Activity

    The study sited above is just one of many studies hypothesizing on the full moon and its effects on animals’ behaviors and health. The issue still begs the question: Does the full moon affect animals? One must remember that those three days of peak light from the moon often encourage night activities, which could lead to more pet owners having nocturnal outings with their pets. As activities increase outside at night, a greater amount of emergency room visits could feasibly be expected.

    Behavior Change is Scientifically Unproven, But...

    It is the job of the veterinary technician to caution pet owners on the importance of pet safety while out at night. Light reflecting collars or collar flashers should be used so automobiles may see your pet from a distance. Also, owners should be given the contact information to the nearest emergency center so they may plan accordingly. While many workers in the veterinary world like to joke about the weird occurrence that can happen on a full moon, and while many studies have hypothesized about the possible effects the moon may have on your pet, it has not been scientifically proven yet. However, that does not mean you shouldn’t be careful during a nighttime romp with Fido!
  • Is Your Cat Chewing On Odd Items? - May 2013

    Strange Things Cats Chew

    Cats eat strange stuff

    While some chewing can be harmless, such as on paper products or cat toys, if your cat swallows any of the unusual objects she likes to chew on, doing so can cause an intestinal blockage. If your cat has a history of chewing on nonfood items and becomes listless and/or vomits, take her to the veterinarian right away.

    How do you curtail your cat’s strange cravings? First and foremost, you need to speak to your veterinarian to rule out any medical issues. Once a medical issue is ruled out, the best treatment usually involves redirecting the cat’s attention.

    If your cat eats grass on occasion, it should not be a problem. However, some owners think this could lead to eating houseplants, which could be dangerous because many houseplants, such as lilies, tulips and ivy, are toxic to cats. If your cat keeps chewing on houseplants, remove them. If you are not sure which plants are unsafe for your cat, you can go to the ASPCA’s website to find a complete list ( Another option is to provide grass or catnip in a small flower pot for your feline to chew. However, be aware that some cats will also eat the potting soil.

    Boredom can cause chewing problems as can being home alone all day. Give your cat plenty of attention and play time. Playing with something as simple as a feather provides plenty of fun activity. In addition, offer her safe cat toys or catnip items, or get her an outdoor enclosure so she can bird watch whenever she wants.

    You should also remove the things your cat craves: Sometimes, the easiest solution is to simply remove the item she chews on. Whatever it is—your favorite sweater, blankets, houseplants, electrical cords, etc.—it should be hidden or put away.

    Talk to an expert: If your cat has no medical issues and yet continues to munch on your socks or blankets, consult a certified animal behaviorist. You can call your veterinarian’s office for a recommendation.

    Don’t become discouraged: Be patient with your feline family member. Unusual craving behaviors can be very difficult to treat and not every treatment will work with every cat. Just like humans, every cat and her environment is different.
  • Pet First Aid - December 2013

    Emergency First Aid Preparedness

    Veterinary Technician

    During their lifetime, our animal companions can get into trouble that requires our assistance. Some of the problems might be minor, as in small scrapes and cuts, but some of the situations could be life-threatening and require first aid and even CPR. Being prepared could affect the outcome and make a difference between life and death for your pet.

    Learn Pet CPR

    Every pet owner should take a first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) course (which are offered by multiple animal healthcare organizations) to increase the chances of a positive outcome should an emergency arise. During the pet CPR course, you will learn what the animal’s normal condition is in order to recognize problems when they occur. It will also give you correct handling guidance while waiting for veterinary assistance.

    Address Urgent Situations

    What type of situations might need urgent attention? Respiratory issues should be addressed immediately as well as bleeding, seizures, trauma, allergic reactions, bloat and choking, to name a few. Keep in mind that you will have to restrain an animal that is in pain or discomfort so make sure you know how to protect yourself. Have a muzzle ready, even for the sweetest dog who’s in pain. Use blankets and leashes for safe handling. If you get bit, the focus will be on you instead of the pet. For cats, you also need to consider safe transport; you should always have a cat carrier handy.

    Have a Pet First Aid Kit

    Having a first aid kit for your pet is a great idea. It can be as simple as some sterile gauze, self-adhesive bandages and a leash that you can use as a muzzle. Other items to consider including are: a thermometer, icepacks if the temperature is too high, an antiseptic, safety gloves, tweezers and scissors. In addition, eye wash and antiseptic ointments are a must for any well-prepared kit along with stabilizing materials. You can find ready-made first aid kits for pets online and in most pet stores.

    Remember that you might not fix the emergency situation, but your quick actions could influence the outcome. With education and preparedness, you are increasing the survival chances of your pets.

    Seek Veterinary Help

    Even though you can properly assist your pet temporarily, you will need to seek veterinary help ASAP. During regular business hours, you can take your pet to the regular veterinarian. During after hours, weekends and holidays, you will need to use an emergency facility. Make sure you know where an emergency hospital is located—have the name, address and directions listed with all your emergency information for easy access. You should also drive to that hospital to familiarize yourself with the route and parking. In stressful situations, even getting to the hospital can be a challenge. If possible and safe, call the hospital and let them know the nature of the emergency so they can prepare to assist your pet as soon as you arrive. Lastly, remember to bring your ID and a method of payment.

    Want to know the difference between veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants? Visit our website to have all your questions answered.
  • Lost Pet Recovery and Prevention Tips - February 2014

    Keeping Your Pet Safe
    Lost Pet Prevention & Recovery Tips

    How to Become a Veterinarian Assistant

    An Ounce of Prevention

    We all know the old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." When it comes to your dog or cat's identification, the old saying rings true.Pet identification is typically very small, but is of enormous importance. Roughly 15 percent of lost dogs, and a mere 2 percent of lost cats, ever make it back home.1 Fortunately, the majority of private shelters are "no kill", but if a lost pet is taken to a city or county shelter, that might not be the case. Most city or county shelters in highly populated areas are heavily overcrowded. Unfortunately, in such facilities unclaimed animals are typically euthanized within a week or two of arriving.

    Reduce Your Pet's Urge to Leave

    There are ways to help reduce the possibility of your pet getting lost. Spaying or neutering your pet is a good start. This will eliminate the urge to wander in search of a mate. Make sure your yard is secure. Some dogs are skilled at jumping or climbing fences, or digging under fences or walls. Cats are expert jumpers and climbers,too, which is why it is recommended you keep them indoors. However, even indoor-only pets need identification on the off chance they escape or an emergency forces you out of your home.

    So Many ID Choices

    There are several inexpensive ways your cat or dog can carry identification at all times. Use as many forms as possible to give your pet the best possible chance of returning home when lost.
    • The classic "dog tag" can be purchased from pet stores, online or mail order vendors and via special offers from pet product companies. Tags come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and materials. There are even vending machines in some discount variety stores and pet supply stores where you can also make your own custom ID tag instantly at “tag kiosks” found in pet and department stores.
    • A pet’s collar itself can be used as identification. They can be embroidered with the pet’s name and your phone number, or a small metal tag can be engraved with this information and riveted to the collar.
    • There are also collars available with GPS units. With this technology, you can use your smart phone or computer to keep track of your pet's activity level and location. In addition, you can receive a text alert if your pet wanders away from a predetermined area.
    • Microchips are a more permanent form of identification. They are implanted just beneath the skin, usually above the shoulders. This procedure is similar to a routine injection such as a vaccination, and can be done at almost any time in a pet’s life and at virtually any veterinary office or animal shelter. Some rescue organizations and low-cost spay/ neuter services offer them free of charge, however, they usually costs around $50. Some shelters implant a microchip into every animal before adoption.
    • At veterinary hospitals, microchips are implanted at the time a pet is spayed or neutered, if not before, and always with the owners approval. These tiny devices do not track the pet’s location. They do, however, provide vital information. The found pet is scanned using a small electronic device that reads the unique identification number from the microchip. The microchip’s manufacturer is then contacted for the owner’s information.
    Unregistered microchips can only offer limited information, such as the name of the facility where it was implanted. Therefore, it is important to register your pet’s microchip as soon as possible so the unique identification number can be linked to your contact information. There are services online that register all brands of microchips. Some services take this one step further and send out alerts to local veterinary offices and animal shelters to let them know your pet has gone missing.Just be aware that a lost pet might be taken to a location that doesn’t work directly with either of these services, and therefore will not link the scanned microchip number to your contact information. It is best to always register your information with your pet’s microchip manufacturer first. Then, if you like, you can also register with outside companies for added security. Most microchip companies charge a low, one-time fee to register your pet for life.

    If the Unthinkable Happens

    As soon as you realize your pet is missing, act quickly. Don't rely on her identification alone to ensure a safe return. Immediately notify all pet-finding services you have accounts with. Make sure you have clear, up-to-date pictures of your pet. Don’t be afraid to go “old school:” Make posters with a photo and a description of your missing pet, along with your contact information. Post them near your home, at local pet-related businesses and near areas where other pet owners congregate, such as dog parks and walking trails. Also, make the people at these locations aware you have lost your pet and are eager to bring her home safely. Go to rescue organizations and shelters in person and often— up to several times per week—to look for your pet. And, of course, use social media. A post of your missing pet's picture along with the last known location and any other helpful information could yield rapid results.If you do locate your lost pet at a shelter or rescue, keep in mind that in order to claim your pet, you might need to prove that your pet is, indeed, your pet. If lost without clear identification, you could have trouble getting your pet released back to you. Save adoption paperwork, veterinary receipts and photos of your pet with you and your family to erase any possible doubt. When you are finally reunited with your furry family member, celebrate. Praise your pet with lots of love, a few treats and, of course, a new collar and ID tag.

    By Karen Doane, RVT
    Veterinary Assistant Program Manager

    Wondering how to become a vet assistant? Visit our website to learn about our Veterinary Assistant Program.

    1. Source: American Humane Society, Born Free USA, Pet Finder
  • Dog vs Car - May 2014

    If Your Dog Gets Hit by a Car

    How to Become a Veterinarian Assistant

    Worst Nightmare...

    One of the worst scenarios for any dog owner is having your pet get hit by a car. Even if it does not happen to yours, you can be prepared to properly assist the animal in need.

    Safety First

    First, think safety. Make sure you or dog do not get further injured by traffic. Be aware that the animal might bite, so use caution. If you have a towel or a blanket, you can use it as a sling or a gurney if another person is present. Try to move the animal as little as possible so as not to exacerbate possible injuries. Once you’re away from traffic, immediately check for the dog’s vital signs.

    If there is no breathing or heartbeat, be prepared to begin CPR. You can take a pet first-aid and CPR course through the American Red Cross. Keep performing CPR until the staff at the animal hospital can take over. In ideal situation, another person would call the veterinarian and let them know what happened when to expect you.

    Is the Dog Conscious?

    If the dog is conscious, he may react to the pain and try to bite while you are helping him. You can create a makeshift muzzle out of rope, a leash or T-shirt. Apply the muzzle before lifting the dog into the car, but do not leave it on as it could obstruct breathing or vomiting.

    Visit The Veterinarian

    The dog might ignore or hide the pain as a result of instinct and/or adrenalin production, He could even run around and act fine,; however you still need take him to the veterinarian for an exam. Every hit-by-a-car incident should be considered an emergency. Resulting injuries can include skin abrasions, broken bones, which might or might not be clearly visible, and life-threatening internal injuries.

    What To Expect At The Vet

    The veterinarian will perform a physical exam, possibly do blood work and take X-rays and/or do an ultrasound to assess the extent of the injuries. Once the assessment is done, the treatment plan will be discussed with you. In case of a shock, IV fluids and medication will be administered. In case of broken limbs, a splint or a cast might be applied, but more complicated fractures can require orthopedic surgery. If there is an indication of internal damage, the dog will have to have emergency surgery. The cost of the treatment will need to be covered at the time of the visit, so make sure to bring some form of payment.

    Reduce the Risk

    Unfortunately, in spite of everyone’s efforts, the outcome can be fatal. Every situation is not predictable or preventable, but by always having your pet on a leash and proper gates around the house you can reduce the risk tremendously. Most car accidents happen to dogs who managed to get out and run away. Also make sure your dog is microchipped and registered, that way you will be notified as soon as your dog is brought into the hospital.

    Vesna Smedberg, RVT

    Wondering how to become a vet assistant? Visit our website to learn about our Veterinary Assistant Program.
  • Foods Dogs Should Not Eat - December 2014

    Household Awareness

    Veterinary Assistant Schools

    You can prevent dangerous situations for your pets.

    Our dogs and cats share our home, our beds and, sometimes, the food off our plates. As wonderful as it is to give them freedom to enjoy their environment, you need to be aware of inappropriate things they can encounter. While exploring, they could come across things that are harmless to us, but could seriously endanger their lives if not end them.

    Most of you are aware that chocolate is bad for dogs and know you shouldn’t feed them leftovers. However, did you know that dogs shouldn’t chew on a pack of gum? Or that you should never give your dog or cat a Tylenol to ease his aches and pains? And how about the healthful snacks you enjoy, such as raisins or grapes? We take a look at common household items that are dangerous for your pets.


    Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used in sugar-free chewing gum. It is safe for humans, but highly toxic to dogs. It can cause low blood sugar, seizures and liver failure. If you discover your pet has ingested some, rush her to the veterinary hospital. Since different products contain different amounts of xylitol, take the remainder of the package with you to show to the veterinarian. The medical staff can provide supportive IV fluid therapy, dextrose and liver-protecting medication to help minimize the damage. Even one piece of gum with xylitol in the right concentration can endanger a dog’s life. Symptoms can show in less than an hour.


    Acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) is an over-the-counter medication used to treat minor pain in humans. If given without veterinary supervision, it can cause liver and kidney damage. Cats have a much harder time metabolizing acetaminophen than dogs, meaning even a small amount could cause organ damage and death. The symptoms can range from lethargy, depression and blue or pale gums to labored breathing. If you suspect accidental ingestion, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.


    Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. If ingested, your dog might become quiet, experience abdominal pain and/or vomit. As the toxins take effect, urine output will diminish; and once the body stops producing urine, death can follow. If grapes are the suspected cause, the veterinarian might induce vomiting, administer activated charcoal to prevent further absorption in the digestive tract and place your dog on intravenous fluids. Prognosis is guarded. Even a couple of grapes can result in a deadly situation, which is why every family member should be aware of the foods that can cause problems—grapes, onions and chocolate, to name just a few.


    Of course, it’s not just food and medication that can be dangerous to pets. You would use caution when storing rat and snail poison, but not many are aware of how toxic and dangerous antifreeze can be. The fluid can drip from a car’s radiator and gather on the floor. Since it is sweet, dogs and cats tend to like the taste. Even one lick can be sufficient to cause death. The signs are uncoordinated movement, nausea, excessive urination, seizures, fainting and eventually coma. If caught early, the veterinarian can administer an antidote and supportive treatment. Dogs that ingest small amount and survive could develop kidney failure and die within days following the ingestion.

    Be aware of what your pets have access to. Pet-proofing your house is extremely important and is the first step toward a safe, happy and long life for your pets.

    By Vesna Ban-Smedberg

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