Tag Archives: dogs

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!

The Age of Veterinary Specialization

The Age of Specialization 

It should come as no surprise that, with today’s specialized services being the norm in everything from your hairdresser to your attorney, the profession of veterinary medicine has fundamentally changed as well.  In bygone days, your local veterinarian took care of all of your pets’ needs from birth through old age.  However, the past 10-15 years has witnessed the dawn of a new era – The Age of Specialization.

While your primary veterinarian will always remain the doctor you may lean on most for guidance, with the extraordinarily advanced care now available, it is no longer feasible for that doctor to be able to always provide what’s best for your pet.  It is essential for every pet owner to be aware that there are indeed specialists in virtually every discipline that we have come to expect in human medicine, e.g. surgeons, cardiologists, dermatologists, oncologists, ophthalmologists, etc.  In order to be considered a specialist in veterinary medicine, one must have completed a formal internship and a residency in a specific discipline and pass a certifying exam of clinical proficiency along with any number of other requirements as dictated by the various specialty boards.  The veterinarian would then be considered Board Certified and therefore recognized as a Diplomate in their respective area.  If the doctors are not Board Certified, then he/she may not represent themselves as specialists.

The list of specialty services seems endless, ranging from advanced orthopedic surgeries and arthroscopic surgeries, to laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery, to complex cardiac diagnostics, to cataract surgeries, to chemotherapy and radiation therapy offered by oncologists, etc.  If you’ve heard of it being done in human medicine, it is now likely to be available in veterinarian medicine.

What will distinguish one general practitioner from the next will not only remain the care and compassion they provide to you and your pet, but their ability to recognize their limitations and their willingness to recommend specialists who may be able to provide a needed level of care that they can’t.   If your pet’s veterinarian does not approach the subject when your pet is having serious, more difficult, or lingering problems then it is up to you to be your pet’s advocate.  The same applies to hospitalization for your pet.  You must make sure that if your pet is being hospitalized for medical or surgical care that there is indeed a staff of nurses and doctors taking care of your pet 24 hours a day.   Don’t assume, ask!!!

Specialists will distinguish themselves not only by their abilities and the hospitals they work in, but by giving you and your pet the same tenderness and compassion that your family’s veterinarian and their staff provides.  You have choices and they do not have to be prohibitively expensive either.

At West Hills Animal Hospital & Emergency Center we have doctors and nurses working 24 hours a day, seven days a week for emergencies as well as routine care.  Additionally we have added a board-certified Surgeon offering laparoscopic and other minimally invasive surgery in addition to advanced soft tissue and orthopedic surgeries, and Cardiologists to our staff.  As always, if you ever have any pet questions that I can assist you with, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.


Alan M. Coren, DVM