Serious Thanksgiving Food Risks For Your Pets

Dog eyeing turkey leg

Dog eyeing turkey leg


We all look forward to the holiday season as a time of family, friends, food, and fun. Unfortunately, though, Thanksgiving is also a time where we see a dramatic increase in the number of pet emergencies.

Be sure to be aware of potential Thanksgiving food risks and keep your pet safe this holiday season.

Pancreatitis in Pets

Just as for people, overindulgence in rich, fatty foods can upset the digestive system, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, or both. Sometimes, though, when pets indulge too much the result is something more serious than just a tummy ache. Continue…

Cataracts and Your Pet


A cataract is the disruption in the normal structure of the lens of the eye, causing an opacity and partially or completely blocking a pet’s vision. Cataracts are one of the most common eye problems in pets, and they can affect pets of all breeds and ages.   Continue…

How Do I Know When My Pet Needs Emergency Care?

veterinary emergenciesWe have all been there.  It is midnight on a Saturday and something is not quite right with yourself/your child/your pet.  But is it urgent enough to warrant emergency services or can it wait until Monday morning?  Pet emergency centers have staff on hand that can help you decide whether you need to bring your pet in and are happy to talk through the symptoms with you. If you are debating whether to phone your regular veterinarian or wait, here are handy guidelines:

  • Vomiting/diarrhea:  If these things occur more than once or are accompanied by blood or any signs of illness such as fever, lethargy, or anorexia, it is better to have your pet checked out.  Dehydration can occur quickly, especially in small or young animals.
  • Wounds:  Anything that is bleeding, has a discharge, or is deeper than a superficial scrape should be checked out immediately.  This includes punctures and burns.
  • Urine troubles:  Blood in the urine or difficulty/straining to urinate is an emergency that should be addressed as soon as possible.
  • Fever:  A rectal temperature that is greater than 103oF warrants investigation.
  • Not eating:  Anorexia that persists for greater than 24 hours should not be ignored.
  • Breathing problems:  A pet that is panting, coughing, or otherwise seems short of breath should be looked at immediately.
  • Eye troubles:  Any sign of an eye problem such as squinting, tearing, or redness should not wait, as eye issues can turn serious at the drop of a hat.
  • Sudden lameness:  Not putting weight on a limb or a new lameness can indicate a serious problem.
  • Trauma:  Don’t wait after a pet is hit by a car or falls.  Even if it seems fine, there may be internal injuries that don’t show up until it is too late.
  • Ingestion of a foreign body or toxin:  If you are not sure if it might be a problem, don’t hesitate to call and ask.
  • Seizures:  If it is your pet’s first seizure, it is having back-to-back seizures or seizures are lasting longer than 3 minutes, your pet should be seen.
  • Trouble delivering puppies/kittens:  If your pet has been in active labor for longer than an hour without progress or if it has been greater than 3 hours since the last baby was delivered, your pet may need help.
  • “Just not right”:  When in doubt, call.  Signs of a problem can include (but are not limited to) a bloated abdomen, collapsing, weakness or lethargy, pale gums, pain, or a change in behavior.

Long story short, if your pet is experiencing a symptom on this list or you’re very concerned, don’t hesitate to call us!  We are here to help you when you need it most, and are happy to answer your questions and take care of your pet whenever needed.  If there is no need for immediate treatment and you can monitor the problem at home or you can wait to see your regular veterinarian, we’ll let you know that. Sometimes, though, seemingly minor problems can become serious quickly, so please contact us if you are concerned about your pet’s health. We’re here for you 24 hours a day.

Have a Happy, Safe Holiday Season!

Oakland Veterinary Referral Service wishes you and your furry family a very happy, and above all safe, holiday season this year!  Don’t forget the following during your festivities this year:

  • Dangerous objects

Christmas trees, holiday decorations, and wrapped gifts can all be dangerous items that your pet is not used to having around.  Keep decorations and candles out of the reach of playful paws and wagging tails.  Decorative ribbons, string, and tinsel should also be kept away from pets.  Electrical cords can pose a danger as pets may chew on them or become tangled in them.  Before bringing any plants into your home, be sure to check the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants to avoid problems.

  • Hazardous treats

Food and goodies of all kinds abound this time of year!  Beware of treats containing chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, and the artificial sweetener xylitol.  Table scraps, particularly those that are fatty or rich, can cause stomach upset ranging from mild vomiting or diarrhea to severe pancreatitis.  Don’t forget about alcohol, either.  That punch or eggnog might be irresistible to your pet, but can cause serious problems upon ingestion.

  • Scary situations

Pets don’t always take to the holidays like humans do.  A houseful of noisy strangers can be a disturbing event for shyer animals.  Make sure that they have a quiet, safe place to “hide” away from the hub-bub.  It is also a good idea to make sure that all pets are wearing identification and/or are micro-chipped with your current contact information in case they slip out the door with Uncle Bob.

Ceva – Future Leader Dog for the Blind!

What’s better than a snuggly, happy puppy?  A snuggly, happy puppy with a job description that includes helping others!  Oakland Veterinary Referral Service’s very own Dr. Theresa DePorter has had the honor to help train a puppy named Ceva to become a Leader Dog for the blind.  Ceva earned her name from Ceva Animal Health, who has sponsored her care and training.

Dr. DePorter with Ceva at Leader Dog School

Dr. DePorter with Ceva at Leader Dog School

Dr. DePorter, along with an experienced Leader Dog trainer, took on the important task of
training Ceva to be the best guide dog possible.  Tremendous dedication was required as Dr. DePorter spent the first year of Ceva’s life exposing her to all sorts of situations and locations similar to what she will face on duty.  This has helped Ceva to build a foundation that will allow her to be comfortable and confident for her future owner.   Because a guide dog is expected to keep her owner safe in any range of situations, Dr. DePorter took Ceva many places throughout her training including restaurants, veterinary conferences, and even New York City!  This taught Ceva to be very good at ignoring distractions, even tasty ones!

In October, Ceva “graduated” to Leader Dog, where she will continue her training before being placed.  This is the equivalent of her heading off to college!  Dr. DePorter misses Ceva, but is very proud of her.  We are all excited for Ceva to continue on to help someone in need.  Feel free to follow Ceva along with us on her very own Facebook page!

No Bones About It This Holiday Season

Holidays and family gatherings tend to make you want to share the bounty with your pet but leftover turkey bones and other scrap bones can pose a risk for pets. pet emergenciesHere are a few reasons that may not be the best idea:

Physical injury

Sharp fragments can cause injury to the mouth and/or tongue that require a visit to the veterinarian. It is also not uncommon for pets to get a bone looped around the lower jaw, which is frightening and can require sedation to remove.

Broken teeth

Bones are hard! Broken teeth are a serious problem and can require expensive dental procedures to correct or remove.


There are oh-so-many places bones or bone fragments can become lodged on the way down including the esophagus, windpipe, stomach, or intestines. Even pieces of bone that are not stuck can lead to constipation due to their hard, sharp nature.


Pieces of bone can perforate through the digestive tract, leading to leakage of the contents into the body cavities. This can lead to a serious condition called peritonitis. Peritonitis can lead to severe illness and even death.

Food poisoning

Dogs and cats are just as susceptible to threats like E.coli and Salmonella as people. Particularly if your pet helps itself to a treat out of the trash, these organisms can cause problems.

Be safe and happy

Before offering a bone to your pet this holiday season, think about the potential consequences. Also be sure to dispose of your table scraps in a manner not accessible to your animals. Enjoy a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Anaplasmosis: The OTHER Tick Disease

Pretty much everybody has heard of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  But did you know that there was another type of tick-borne disease that affects dogs called Anaplasmosis?  Here is what you need to know:

  • Anaplasmosis is becoming increasingly more common.
  • The disease is sometimes called Ehrlichiosis.
  • The deer tick is responsible for most the Anaplasmosis in the northeast and upper Midwest, which the black-legged tick is the culprit in the western United States.
  • The bacteria transmitted by the tick attacks the white blood cells and spreads throughout the body, often affecting platelets witch interferes with blood clotting.
  • Symptoms of infection can include fever, lethargy, and painful, swollen joints.  Other less consistent signs are swollen lymph nodes, eye problems, or bleeding.
  • Blood testing can confirm the disease.
  • Most dogs can be successfully treated with a specific antibiotic, although they can relapse or become re-infected.

As if you needed another reason to use tick prevention!  Be sure to protect your dog from exposure to Anaplasmosis.

All About Xylitol and the Danger it Poses to Your Pet

The emergency and critical care doctors at OVRS would like to remind pet owners how dangerous Xylitol, an artificial sweetener is for dogs and cats.  The emergency and critical care doctors have reported an increased number of pets being treated for eating xylitol, used as a sugar substitute in foods, including sugar-free gum, sugar-free mints, chewable vitamins, tooth paste and oral-care products. Xylitol is also available in a granulated form at your local grocery store for baking and beverage sweeteners.

Question: Why is xylitol so dangerous for dogs and cats?

Answer: Ingestion of xylitol primarily affects insulin release throughout the body. Insulin causes an increase of glucose (blood sugar) uptake into the liver, muscle, and fat cells resulting in decreasing blood glucose levels.

Xylitol strongly promotes the release of insulin from the pancreas into circulation leading to a rapid decrease of blood glucose levels. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can occur within 30 to 60 minutes of xylitol ingestion with levels as low as 0.1g xylitol /kg body weight.

Hypoglycemia may compound further into liver toxicity, liver damage, and ultimately liver failure. Ingesting amounts of xylitol greater than 0.5 g xylitol /kg body weight increases the risk for developing liver toxicity.

Sugar-free chewing gum is the most common cause of dogs that present to the emergency room. However, the recent introduction of xylitol as a substitute for sugar in grocery stores has increased the potential for toxicity.

Xylitol is perfectly safe for people, but because of different metabolisms, it can be fatal for dogs and cats. A simple piece of cupcake or cookie could kill an animal if the danger is unknown and not addressed immediately.

Question: What are the signs my dog might have eaten xylitol?

Answer: Immediately after ingestion, vomiting may occur. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) develops within 30 to 60 minutes, resulting in lethargy and weakness. These signs may quickly develop into ataxia (trouble walking), collapse, and seizures. Prolonged blood clotting times as well as skin and intestinal hemorrhaging are clinical signs associated with liver toxicity that may develop within hours and warrant a very poor prognosis.

Question: What do I do if I think my dog has eaten xylitol? What is the treatment and prognosis?

Answer: If xylitol ingestion occurs, consult your veterinarian immediately. Inducing vomiting to remove the xylitol is imperative, but close monitoring of blood sugar levels and intravenous infusions of glucose (sugar) may also be needed depending on the amount ingested and how quickly the problem was recognized.

The prognosis for dogs with hypoglycemia is good with immediate and proper treatment, while the prognosis for dogs that have developed liver toxicity is poor. Large ingestions of xylitol (a relatively small amount of the product) that are not caught immediately can result in fulminant liver failure and death despite aggressive supportive care. This can occur in less than 36 hours in dogs that are otherwise young and healthy.

If your dog or cat is exhibiting any of the signs listed above of having eaten xylitol, please contact your regular vet or OVRS immediately.

Cataract Awareness Month

It’s August, and that means that it is cataract awareness month! Educate yourself on this common pet problem by reading our FAQs:

What is a cataract?

The eye contains a clear lens that helps the eye to focus.  Any opacity that develops in the lens is a cataract.  Very small cataracts may not cause a problem at all, but larger, cloudier opacities can cause blurry or even totally obscured vision.

If my pet’s eyes are cloudy, does that mean it has cataracts?

Most pets will start to have some hardening of the lens as they age.  This results in a grayish-blue haziness to the eye.  This is NOT a cataract and does not usually interfere with vision.

Why did my dog/cat develop cataracts?

Most cataracts are inherited and can occur at any age and develop at any speed in one or both eyes.  Diabetes or other ocular diseases can also cause cataracts to develop.

What can be done about cataracts?

There is nothing that can be done to reverse a cataract once it has developed.  For certain patients, a veterinary ophthalmologist can perform a surgery in which the lens is removed.  This is a delicate and involved procedure, however it can restore vision almost completely.

What if I don’t do surgery?

Most pets do well even if they are blinded by cataracts.  They should be monitored closely, however, as cataracts can lead to painful glaucoma or luxation (displacement) of the lens.

If you have any questions about cataracts please consult with your regular vet, or give us a call.

Hot Dog! (and hamburger, and potato salad, and cheesecake…)

Pets are often a part of our summertime gatherings, and we often feel the need to include them.  This usually means that they partake in the rich meals we associate with these parties.  Besides an upset tummy, potential exposure to toxic foods such as chocolate or grapes, or ingestion of dangerous items such as bones, there is another danger when your pet overeats:  pancreatitis.

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the organ that is responsible for releasing enzymes that aid in the digestion of food.  Pancreatitis can be brought on by many causes, sometimes unknown, however overindulgence does seem to trigger it in some dogs.  Signs of pancreatitis can include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and/or fever.  Flares can range from mild and self-limiting to severe and requiring hospitalization and intensive care.  Very bad cases can cause scarring of the pancreas, resulting in diabetes mellitus.

The safest bet is to limit the amount of “people food” you pet is allowed.  Find other ways to include your four-legged friend this summer!

If you think your dog may have eaten something he shouldn’t have be sure to let your veterinarian know, or give us a call.