Westfield Animal Hospital Newsletter The veterinarians and staff at the Westfield Animal Hospital are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

How To Keep Your Pet Safe This Holiday Season

Holiday season adornments are attractive to all creatures. The ornaments, foods, gifts, wrappings, ribbons, lights and plants are all curiosities for pets. Pets investigate new items by sniffing, tossing, chasing and finally by tasting. A few precautions are necessary to avoid the holiday crowds at the veterinary hospital.

Behold! Everything Looks Delicious

The most common problems this time of year are stomach or intestinal disturbances caused by pets eating the holiday feast or other novelties. Scraps from the table can cause gastrointestinal upset and even predispose pets to life-threatening pancreatitis. Bones can get stuck in the mouth or perforate the intestines and should be avoided. Chocolate is poisonous to cats, dogs and birds. Plastic wrap and aluminum foil (coated with good-tasting juices) are enticing but can cause intestinal damage and even blockage if eaten by your pet.

Other sweet treats like gum and hard candies can also make your pet ill. Sugar-free candies and gum are made with xylitol, a sugar substitute that can cause a drop in blood sugar, depression, loss of coordination and seizures in your pet. Xylitol is also linked to liver failure in dogs. Be sure to keep all candies, chocolate and other sweets out of your pet's reach. If you believe your pet may have ingested chocolate or candy, call your veterinarian immediately.

Be sure to properly dispose of leftovers and wrappers. Feed pets their usual diet. Treats formulated similarly to the pet's regular diet are generally healthy and safe. Also keep in mind while cooking that pets may not know about hot stoves or to stay out from underfoot. Keep pets away from the stove so they don't get burned or have hot foods spilled on them.

Holiday Plants and Decorations

Several decorative plants are poisonous. Mistletoe and holly can cause stomach upset with vomiting and diarrhea. The berries of these plants are attractive, easily swallowed and potentially fatal if consumed. Poinsettias, like the leaves of most any plant, can also cause stomach upset. Use artificial mistletoe and holly, and keep other plants out of your pet's reach.

Make sure Christmas trees are secured so pets can't pull them over. Omit preservatives from the tree-stand water and cover the tree well so pets don't drink from it. Don't spray fake snow on the tree unless it is labeled safe for pet consumption. Angel hair is spun glass and is irritating to both the inside and outside of your pet. Even glass ornaments and ornament hooks have been chewed and swallowed. These objects can cause problems from stomach upset to damaged intestines. Low-hanging ornaments are a real temptation, as are tinsel and electric lights. Decorative lights and electrical wiring can cause shock or burns when chewed, so remember to unplug holiday lights when pets are left unattended.

The Hustle and Bustle of Goings-On

Holidays have lots of activity. Be sure doors are not left open as guests come and go. Indoor pets inadvertently left outside could be injured by frostbite, cars or other animals. Ice-melting chemicals and salt on sidewalks and roads can severely burn foot pads and should be washed off right away. Also, watch that guests don't leave interesting objects such as chocolate, ribbons, stocking stuffers or other illicit treats, within your pet's reach.

If your pet does get sick, consult your veterinarian before giving any medications. Many of the over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, Excedrin and ibuprofin), Advil and Motrin, are toxic for animals even though they are safe for us. Don't wait to see if your pet gets better. If your pet is acting sick, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Adopting the Right Dog for You and Your Family

Man's best friend comes in all shapes, sizes, and of course, personalities. Choosing the right one can be overwhelming! The good news is that almost any dog can make a wonderful, lifelong companion for you and your family. The bad news is that most dogs are returned to the shelter or breeder because the original owner did not take certain key elements into consideration.

Choosing the right dog generally means identifying the type of animal who matches your lifestyle and needs. If you live alone in a small apartment, adopting a large, active retriever might not be the best choice. Conversely, if you have a family of four and are looking for a companion to match your active lifestyle, such a dog may be perfect. A dog's size, exercise requirements, friendliness, assertiveness and compatibility with children should all figure into your decision.

Start by learning about different breeds and mixes. Talking to breeders, visiting with animals at the shelter, speaking with adoption counselors and asking questions to an owner of a specific breed are good ways to learn about what kind of dog might be right for you. Dogs fall into one of two categories: purebreds and mixed breeds. Most animal shelters have plenty of both. The only significant difference between the two is that purebreds, because their parents and other ancestors are all members of the same breed, are similar to a specific "breed standard." This means that if you adopt a purebred puppy, you have a good chance of knowing approximately how big he or she will get, as well as their general physical and behavior characteristics.

Of course, the size, appearance and temperament of most mixed breed dogs can often be predicted as well. After all, mixed breeds are simply combinations of different breeds. So if you happen to know the ancestry of a particular mixed breed puppy or can identify what type of dog he is (e.g., terrier mix), you have a good chance of knowing how he'll turn out.

Once you decide what kind of dog you'd like for your and your family, there are a couple of questions to ask yourself when faced with a number of different dogs that fit into the category you have chosen.

How old is the dog?

You may want to select a puppy as your new companion. However, young dogs usually require much more training and supervision than more mature dogs. If you lack time or patience to house train your pup or to correct problems like chewing and jumping, an adult dog may be a better choice.

How shy or assertive is the dog?

Although an active, bouncy dog might catch your eye, a quieter or more reserved dog might be a better match if you don't have a particularly active lifestyle.

How good is the animal with children?

Learning about a dog's past through a history sheet or from an adoption counselor can be helpful, but past information isn't always available or reliable. In general, an active dog who likes to be touched and is not sensitive to handling and noise is a dog that can probably thrive in a house full of kids. Also, keep in mind that puppies younger than 4 months often do not go well with families with young children because of their fragility and special needs.

Every dog in a shelter or kennel can provide you with boundless love and companionship, and every dog certainly deserves a lifelong home. But some dogs are better for you and your lifestyle than others. That is why you should take the time to make a thoughtful choice. After all, you are choosing a friend likely to be with you for 10-15 years, if not longer. Select the right dog, and you and your new companion can enjoy those years to the fullest.

Holiday Pet Tip: No Sweets For Your Sweet Pet

For many people, overindulging in holiday goodies may result in a few extra pounds; however, the consequences for our animal companions are much greater if they accidentally ingest cookies, candy or baked goods containing chocolate. In any form ranging from one-ounce baking squares to brownies, chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which can cause stimulation of the central nervous system, an increase in heart rate and tremors. Clinical symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity and increased thirst. Urination and heart rate can be seen with the ingestion of as little as 1/4 ounce of baking chocolate by a 10-pound dog.

Veterinary poison and emergency center across the country seem to receive more calls involving chocolate toxicosis during Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter. During one Thanksgiving holiday, an 18-pound cocker spaniel consumed an 18-ounce box of milk chocolate truffles. By the time the owners brought the dog to the veterinary emergency center, she had already vomited several times and was drinking large amounts of water. The emergency clinician worked in conjunction with the dog's veterinarian to provide emergency treatment, which included activated charcoal, intravenous fluids and medication for her elevated heart rate. She'd recovered by the next morning, but spent the day in doggie day care to make sure she didn't have further problems.

Although chocolate toxicosis is more common in dogs who have been known to eat candy and trays of brownies and fudge accidentally left out, it can be a potential problem with any species. Take care this holiday season and keep candy out of your pets' reach - and don't let them in the kitchen unsupervised when you're baking. If you suspect your pet has eaten chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately.

Antibiotics and Your Pet

When bacteria invade the body, a bacterial infection is present. Often, the bacteria are removed by our own immune system before there are any obvious signs of disease. But if bacteria multiply faster than our immune system can destroy them, an infectious disease develops. An infectious disease is treated by drugs that harm the bacteria - either by killing them or by preventing them from multiplying - without harming the host (animals). These drugs are called antibiotics.

Many people simply use the term antibiotics to apply to the broad group of drugs that prevent the spread of or kill microorganisms. Sometimes, though, a finer distinction is made. An antimicrobial is a drug that kills or inhibits the multiplication of microbes or microorganisms. Bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa are all microbes. Antibiotics, however, kill only bacteria. They have no effect on viral or fungal disease.

An antibiotic such as penicillin, is bactericidal and therefore kills bacteria. A bacteriostatic antibiotic, such as tetracycline and erythromycin, stops the bacteria from multiplying. After the invading bacteria stops multiplying, the body's natural defenses usually kills the existing bacteria.

History of Antibiotics

The discovery and development of antibiotic drugs are two of the most important therapeutic advances of the twentieth century. Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1929, and was introduced into clinical use in 1940. Fleming was awarded the Nobel prize in 1945 for this discovery. Since then, antibiotics have dramatically changed the course of many illnesses (both in humans and in animals) from almost certain death to little more than an inconvenience.

The Problem of Resistance to Antibiotics

Very often, an animal is treated successfully with amoxicillin (the most commonly-prescribed small animal veterinary drug in the United States) on three separate occasions for three different infections. Then, amoxicillin doesn't work for the fourth infection. Since different antibiotics have different spectra of activity (only work on certain bacteria), this particular bacteria may not be sensitive to amoxicillin.

Another problem with antibiotic resistance occurs when an animal is treated for the same infection several different times with the same antibiotic. The antibiotic works perfectly during the first two or three episodes, then on the fourth episode, it fails to work. The most likely reason for this is that the organism has become resistant to that particular antibiotic.

Bacteria become resistant to some antibiotics through genetic mutations, which are then passed on to succeeding generations of bacteria. Amoxicillin is ineffective against infections from staphylococci, for example, because those organisms have developed resistance to the entire group of penicillin-type antibiotics (called beta-lactamins), including amoxicillin. These bacteria produce an enzyme, penicillinase, which changes the structure of the drug and makes it inactive. This is an example of bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics by inactivating the drug via specific enzymes. There are other mechanisms by which bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. These include alterations in the bacterial target enzyme as well as changes in the ability of the drugs to accumulate in or on the bacteria.

Important things to remember when your pet is taking antibiotics:

Antibiotics need to be given at specific times - Even though it may be difficult to give a medication every six or eight hours, it is necessary in order for these medications to work properly.

Antibiotics need to be given for a particular duration - During the first few days on the antibiotic, our pet usually feels much better. The antibiotic zaps most of the bacteria; however, there are usually still some bacteria left in their system. At this point, if the medicine is discontinued, the surviving bacteria quickly grow and multiply, and may overwhelm our pet once again. Continuing the medication for the full course usually prevents this from occurring.

Antibiotics need to be stored properly so that they do not lose their effectiveness - Some call for refrigeration; especially those that are liquids. Also, be sure to shake liquid formulas before administering them.

It is crucial that you do not begin to give antibiotics to your pet without first talking to your veterinarian

As a general rule, antibiotics are very safe and have few side effects - Loss of appetite, upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea are the side effects most commonly encountered.

Occasionally, an animal will develop an allergic reaction to an antibiotic - This usually occurs within the first 30 minutes after administration. Severe allergic reactions - panting heavily, difficulty breathing, intense vomiting or diarrhea, seizures or lethargy - are emergencies and should immediately be seen by a veterinarian.

If you have any questions regarding an antibiotic or any medication, please contact your veterinary hospital.