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Holiday Items that can be Hazardous to your Pets

Happy Holidays


December is full of holiday celebrations and is a wonderful time to spend with family & friends.  We listed some common holiday items that can be hazardous to pets.  We are here 24/7 if you need us.


Chocolate, which stimulates the nervous system and the heart should be kept far away from four-legged friends. Although all chocolate should be avoided, dark chocolate poses a greater risk than sweeter varieties such as milk chocolate.

Grapes & Raisins

Grapes and raisins are other common hazards for pets during the holidays.  Any candied raisins found in fruit cake or grapes found on appetizer platters are potentially poisonous to dogs and cats.

Tinsel & Ribbons

These shiny decorations may look pretty, but they can cause serious problems for cats and dogs.  Never wrap tinsel or ribbon around the neck of a pet no matter how festive it looks, this is a choking hazard.

Sugar-Free Baked Goods 

Holiday cookies might look like a tempting treat for your pet but the artificial sweetener xylitol found in some sugar-free baked goods can cause hypoglycemia and liver issues.

Holiday Plants

Mistletoe and holly are two of the more toxic holiday plants to pets which can cause severe gastrointestinal disorders, breathing difficulty & heart failure in extreme cases if ingested.  The dangers of poinsettias and Christmas cactus are relatively harmless; if ingested these plants may cause an irritating reaction in the mouths of dogs and especially cats.

 Holiday Ornaments

Although not poisonous many ornaments have sharp edges that can cause perforations and lacerations to pets that try to chew on the decorations, safeguard them for the sake of your pet.

 Electrical Cords

Some animals love to chew electrical cords and all the additional lights strung up around the house present a new hazard. To protect pets, turn off lights and unplug them when you aren’t home.

 Turkey Bones

Rich fatty foods can cause illness, and ingested turkey bones can splinter and puncture internal organs.


Keep them away from the punch and egg nog. Pets should never ingest alcoholic beverages because alcohol depresses the nervous system.

 Christmas Trees

Pine needles won’t harm your pet, but there are plenty of dangers surrounding a Christmas tree. The tree should always be properly secured and fragile glass ornaments should be kept off low-lying branches if your pet decides to play. If your cat is prone to climbing, leave ornaments off the tree for a few days to see if he will attempt to climb it.  If you have a real Christmas tree, don’t add fertilizer to the tree water and keep pets away from stagnant water in the reservoir.

Flea, Tick & Heartworm Preventives

Warm weather is here, if you’ve taken a break from flea, tick & heartworm preventives, it’s time to start again!
Ticks are second only to mosquitoes in the number of diseases they transmit & it can take just 4 hours for a tick to transmit disease to your pet.  Signs of tick-borne disease are difficult to recognize in both pets and people.
Heartworms are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. A heartworm infection is difficult to treat in dogs, and there’s no approved treatment for cats.  While we always recommend year round prevention, especially with the other benefits of intestinal parasite prevention the heartworm preventatives have, If you stopped giving heartworm preventative last fall, now is the time to have your dog tested and restarted on the medication.
Tick-borne & heartworm diseases are preventable, simple preventive measures are key.  We anticipate this season to be particularly bad with the mild winter we had.  Remember that there is a very safe and effective vaccination in dogs for lyme disease which should especially be considered in high tick areas. If you have any questions regarding flea and tick preventative, or your options for heartworm preventative, please don’t hesitate to stop in or give us a call!

Surgery Patient of the Month – August – Limb Sparing and Amputation for Osteosarcoma


Scooby is our Surgery Patient for the month of August!

Meet Scooby, the gentle giant! Scooby, a 7-year-old Great Dane, initially was presented to West Hills Animal Hospital in mid-January for right forelimb lameness. Radiographs were obtained, revealing a lesion in his radius, concerning for a primary bone tumor. A week later Scooby was evaluated by the surgery service and a biopsy of the bone was performed to obtain a definitive diagnosis. Results showed osteosarcoma, the most common type of primary bone cancer, seen in dogs.

The recommended therapy following diagnosis of osteosarcoma is amputation of the affected limb followed by chemotherapy. Amputation serves to control the disease locally, as well as relieve the patient from the source of pain. An alternative option is a procedure called a “limb-spare,” where the affected portion of bone is removed and replaced with an implant and a large metal plate. Unfortunately, limb-spare surgery carries the risk of many possible post-operative complications compared to amputation surgery. 

Scooby’s owners elected to pursue the “limb spare” surgery and additional testing confirmed that he was an ideal candidate for this procedure. Surgery was performed by Dr. Hirshenson, our board certified surgeon, who is one of a small number of veterinarians in the world trained in this complicated procedure. He then started chemotherapy as previously recommended.
Unfortunately Scooby experienced some of the more common complications associated with limb-spare surgery including an infection associated with his metallic surgical implants, requiring long-term administration of antibiotics, and ringworm, a fungal infection, along his skin. These setbacks caused several delays in his planned chemotherapy treatments. However, Scooby handled all the vet visits with his typical patience and gentle demeanor.

Unfortunately, in July (5 months after the initial “limb spare” surgery), Scooby‘s lameness returned and radiographs showed tumor growth in the ulna (the bone next to the previously affected radius). Given the discomfort this lesion was causing, an amputation of Scooby’s right forelimb was recommended. He underwent this surgery the following day and in typical “Scooby fashion”, never looked back!

Now, Scooby is hopping around on 3 legs and continues to be admired by all who know him. He is still undergoing chemotherapy, but is taking everything in stride and is comfortable and happy. Scooby holds a special place in our hearts here at West Hills and he continues to impress us all!