Christmas & New Year’s Hazards

The silly season is an exciting time of year, with Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations giving us plenty of reasons to let loose and celebrate. With an increase of visitors, noises, tasty treats, shiny new toys, and interesting smells, this time of year can be overwhelming for our pets.

Here are some recommendations to make sure your furry friends are safe and happy during this festive time.

  • Make sure your pet has access to a quiet, calm, and secluded spot to hide away if needed
  • Exercise your pets before any guests arrive or before any particularly noisy events (i.e., fireworks displays) if you can – a pet with pent up energy can easily become anxious
  • Keep Christmas decorations and wrapping items (paper, tape, ribbon, discarded plastic, etc.) out of your pet’s reach. If ingested, these items can cause serious health problems, including intestinal blockages that may require surgical removal
  • Many plants and flowers used for Christmas decorations are toxic to pets – be sure to keep these out of reach
  • Many foods we see at celebrations are toxic to pets and can even be fatal. Make sure your pet does not have access to:
    o Chocolate
    o Christmas pudding
    o Salty foods (chips, pretzels, crackers, etc.)
    o Lollies & artificial sweeteners
    o Grapes, sultanas, raisins, and currants
    o Alcohol
    o Cherry pits (and other stone fruit pits)
    o Macadamias
    o Corn cobs
    o Avocado
    o Cooked bones

Fireworks can be terrifying for pets. Here is a list of tips for preparing your pet for fireworks displays:

  • Keep pets indoors when possible. The walls and roof will help to soften the noise and will also contain them safely.
  • Prepare your pet for loud noises during the day by putting on the TV or radio. Turn the volume up progressively throughout the day, so when the fireworks display commences, the existing noise will create a distraction
  • Avoid fussing over your pet. Carry on as normal, as this will reassure your pet nothing is wrong. You can use treats and games to distract them and encourage calm behaviour.
  • Ensure your pet’s microchip and identification tag details are up to date. Unfortunately, many pets escape during fireworks displays and can be found very far from home.
  • Pheromone diffusers could help to calm your pet. Talk to our team about Feliway for cats or Adaptil for dogs.
  • Some pet owners choose to use medications to assist in keeping particularly anxious pets calm. This is not something our team can organise for you without prior consultation, so please book in advance.

Our appointments during the festive season fill up very quickly, so be sure to organise an appointment as soon as possible.

If you suspect your pet has ingested something they shouldn’t, has injured themselves, or you would like more advice on keeping them safe over the Christmas and New Year’s period, please give your vet clinic a call.


Skin allergies in dogs and cats

By Dr Danielle Page BVSc Hill’s Pet Nutrition

What are the most common skin allergies in pets?

The most common skin allergies in dogs and cats are to things in their environment such as dust mites, pollens and grasses. These skin allergies manifest as itching and scratching, causing red, inflamed and damaged skin, a condition which is called atopy, or atopic dermatitis. Another common allergy is to fleas, which, predictably enough, is called flea allergy dermatitis. These are the big two skin allergies seen in dogs and cats throughout Australia and New Zealand and we typically see them seasonally - but some (such as dust mites) can be seen all year round. Allergies to food, while also a possibility for causing skin reactions, are actually much less common than atopic dermatitis and flea allergy dermatitis, making up only 10-15% of all skin allergies¹ and typically occur all year round.

This may surprise many pet owners, given all the focus food allergies are given in the media! It may also come as a surprise that, despite common belief, grains are rarely the cause of food allergies and most often the allergy is to an animal protein with beef, dairy and chicken being the most common allergens in dogs and beef, dairy and fish for cats.

What are environmental allergies?

The reason some animals suffer from environmental allergies is that they have a defective skin barrier which is an inherited disorder. Allergens, such as pollens pass through the skin (unlike in us where we inhale the allergens and typically get hayfever) which causes an allergic reaction. Moisture can also be lost through this defective barrier, causing the skin to be dry. This in turn makes the pet feel itchy and they scratch and lick their skin, causing further damage. An analogy you may want to think about is treated/oiled wood on a deck vs an untreated, undressed deck which represents a defective skin barrier.

While any breed can suffer from environmental allergies, there are some breeds which are more likely to have skin problems such as Golden and Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, English bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, Boston terriers, Shih tzus, Miniature Schnauzers, and my first dog (which suffered badly from environmental allergies): West Highland white terriers².

More about food allergies

For pets to be allergic to a food they must have eaten it previously in order to become sensitised to it. When the food is eaten repeatedly their immune system mounts an allergic response. A pet may have eaten the same food for months or years and then develop an allergy to it. A pet can develop an allergy to any protein fed commonly.

Food sensitivities or intolerances are quite different to food allergies in that they don’t involve the pet’s immune system. Collectively, food allergies and food intolerances are called adverse food reactions, and may result in gastrointestinal problems or skin problems, or both. Gastrointestinal signs may include loose stools, increased stool frequency, flatulence and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea. Skin signs can mimic many other types of skin disease and can include itchiness around the face and paws, ear infections and can also be generalised over the entire body.

How are adverse reactions to food diagnosed?

Unfortunately there is no blood or skin test to rule food allergy in or out. The only way to make a diagnosis is to do a food elimination trial, which involves feeding a diet made up exclusively of ingredients the pet hasn’t eaten before. In addition to looking at all the ingredients in the regular food, all treats or flavoured medications/wormers, etc. a pet may have consumed (particularly within the previous 6 months) need to be taken into account. Your veterinarian will advise what is the best food for your pet to be on during the diet trial.

Hill’s new diet for managing both environmental and food sensitivities in dogs

Hill’s latest skin care diet, Prescription Diet Derm Complete, is a breakthrough for Hill’s in the management of skin conditions in dogs, because it has been clinically tested to help manage both food and environmental sensitivities.

Derm Complete contains nutrients such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to help strengthen the skin barrier, as well as an optimal blend of vitamins and minerals to help nourish the skin and coat. Derm Complete also contains Hill’s proprietary blend of ingredients and nutrients, including phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables to help support skin function in dogs with environmental sensitivities.

Derm Complete can also help manage food sensitivities because it contains a single source of protein, egg, which rarely causes adverse food reactions in dogs, making it a great long term solution for dogs with food or environmental sensitivities, or both.

Skin conditions can have a wide range of causes and require veterinary expertise for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Be sure to consult your veterinarian about your pet's individual health and treatment options.

 

¹Mueller RS, Olivry T, Prélaud P. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats. BMC Vet Res. 2016;12:9.
²Miller WH, Griffin CE, Campbell KL, eds. Hypersensitivity Disorders. In: Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology 7 th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2013:372


Learn about proper pet nutrition

As obesity in pets continues to be a common problem, the world of pet food is as confusing as ever. From different brands to new and interesting treats, it can be difficult and stressful to make the decision on what the best food is for your fur child.

A balanced diet is key

A balanced formulated diet begins with high-quality meats, that contain the 40 essential nutrients that your pet needs for a wholesome diet. Through having a balanced diet, this will help your pet’s digestion and ensure the nutrients are correct for your pet depending on its life stage and activity levels. Premium pet foods use high-quality ingredients to ensure your pet is getting the best nutrition possible.

Balanced nutrients are vital in ensuring your pet is energised and healthy. A balanced diet should also accompany a regular exercise regime. Just to make sure the calories do not find a happy home around their belly and start to tip the scales!

Nutrients included in high-quality diets are:

  • Carbohydrates: Helping to power the brain and nervous system, carbohydrates can be found in things like rice, oats and corn.
  • Lipids: These are found in fats from meat and plant oils. While providing energy, they also help to keep their skin and coat as healthy and luscious as ever.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: These are a great source of magnesium for muscles, iron for healthy blood, calcium for strong bones and vital vitamins. Vitamins help with blood clotting and keeping healthy vision. The additives to look out for here include vegetables, meat, chicken, fish and grains.
  • Proteins: The benefits of proteins include strong and healthy muscles, skin and coat. Red meat, fish and chicken all contain protein sources.

The best way to plan your pet’s diet

The best option is creating the perfect diet with your vet team. Our vet team can help recommend a diet that meets your pet’s needs. We will consider your pet’s breed, age, weight and lifestyle, while keeping the food delicious so your pet will enjoy eating it! There are also differences in the nutrient requirements between species. It is important to know the ingredients and diet choices that you should familiarise yourself with, especially the correct nutrients needed in a balanced diet.

Speaking to our vet team about your pet’s diet will ensure you are purchasing the correct food and giving your pet an appropriate portion. Nutritional plans are also beneficial and help to manage your pet’s weight. Plus, all of our Best for Pet Members receive 10% off on food and merchandise. Having delicious and nutritious food for your pet is the best way to get their tail wagging for mealtime!