The holidays are a time to spend with your family, including four-legged family members, but they are always hectic. Including your pet in the festivities can make the season more special and enjoyable, so our Ambleside Animal Hospital team is helping with tips on how you can celebrate the holidays with your pet.
#1: Include your pet in a holiday-inspired family portrait
Your family holiday photograph wouldn’t be complete without your pet. Tips to get the best picture include:
- Choose a festive spot — Find a spot that comfortably fits your family, such as beside the fireplace, next to the Christmas tree, or cuddled on the couch.
- Select your wardrobe — Many people like wearing matching outfits for a family holiday picture. Ensure your pet is amenable to being dressed up before decking them in an ugly Christmas sweater. If they become stressed when you attempt to dress them, consider a less constraining accessory, such as a bow tie or festive collar.
- Decide on your positioning — Pets get bored quickly, so determine everyone’s position before bringing in your pet. Have a family member hold your cat or small-breed dog to prevent them from leaving the scene.
- Make the session fun — Call attention to the camera with a squeaky toy so your pet looks in the right direction when the picture is taken, and give them liberal treats to ensure they enjoy the session.
#2: Holiday gift shop for your pet
Everyone likes having a gift to unwrap on Christmas morning, including your pet, so don’t leave them out, and find them a special pet gift, such as:
- Comfortable pet bed — Every pet enjoys a special resting place, and orthopedic pet beds are a great option, especially for older pets who may suffer with muscle aches and joint pain.
- Food puzzle toy — Eating kibble from a bowl can bore your pet. Find an exciting food puzzle toy to make mealtimes more fun.
- Water fountain — Many pets, especially cats, are drawn to moving water, and will be encouraged to drink more water from a water fountain.
- Interactive toys — Find a toy you can enjoy with your pet. Durable fetch toys and tug-of-war ropes are great for dogs, while cats tend to enjoy laser pointers and wand-style toys.
#3: Provide a pet friendly holiday feast
Decadent food is integral to any holiday celebration, but several common seasonal ingredients are dangerous for pets. Search for pet-friendly treat recipes so your pet can also enjoy a special feast. Food items to avoid include:
- Greasy or fatty foods — Foods with a high-fat content can trigger a dangerous, potentially life-threatening condition called pancreatitis.
- Bones — Cooked bones are extremely brittle and can easily splinter, injuring your pet’s mouth or gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
- Chocolate — Chocolate in any form, especially dark chocolate, is toxic to pets, and causes signs that include vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, increased heart and respiratory rate, and seizures.
- Grapes — Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in pets.
- Xylitol — If your pet ingests this sugar substitute, they can experience severe hypoglycemia or liver failure.
#4: Take your pet on a holiday adventure
The weather may be a little cool, but your pet still needs exercise. Many pets love frolicking in the snow, and the extra activity is good for them. Let your pet explore and sniff to their heart’s content and be mentally and physically stimulated. If you live in an especially chilly area, consider investing in pet booties to protect their feet from icy conditions. The footwear also helps prevent de-icer crystals, which can be toxic to pets, from accumulating on their paws.
#5: Let your pet “help” decorate your Christmas tree
Pets are extremely curious creatures, and placing a large tree in your living room is sure to catch your pet’s attention. Ensure you safely secure the Christmas tree in a sturdy tree stand and anchor the tree to the ceiling or an adjacent wall. Include your pet in the tree decorating fun, but ensure the ornaments and decorations are pet friendly—breakable ornaments, small objects that can be swallowed, and tinsel are dangerous to pets. If your pet refuses to leave the decorations alone, consider leaving the last few tree branches bare to prevent temptation.
#6: Contribute to your local pet shelter
Your pet may have everything they need, but not all pets are so lucky. Many pet rescues and shelters rely on monetary donations and gifts, such as food, litter, beds, and cleaning supplies, to help them provide the necessities for pets in their care. Contact your local pet shelter to see how you can help.
#7: Watch a holiday movie with your pet
What your pet really wants for the holidays is extra time with you. Cuddle up on the couch with your four-legged friend and watch your favorite holiday movie. Your pet may not care much about the movie plot, but they will enjoy the quality snuggle time.
Including your pet in your holiday celebrations helps make the season special. However, should your pet have a holiday season mishap, contact our Ambleside Animal Hospitalteam, so we can ensure they get the care they need.
p>According to the National Cancer Institute, every year, approximately 6 million new cancer diagnoses are made in dogs and a similar number in cats. With such a large population of pets being diagnosed with cancer, pet owners should be aware of cancer’s warning signs. Learn how to spot potential cancer in your dog or cat, and the cancer types most likely to affect them.
Common cancers in dogs
While numerous cancers affect dogs, the following are some of the most common:
- Lymphoma — Canine lymphoma commonly affects dogs, typically involving one or more of the external lymph nodes. Many dogs do not appear ill or have only mild signs, such as lethargy or decreased appetite, but some show more severe signs, such as weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst or urination, or difficulty breathing. Often, a pet owner’s first clue is enlarged lymph nodes that have developed under the jaw, behind the knees, or in front of the shoulders. Canine lymphoma is generally responsive to chemotherapy, with up to 95% of dogs who receive the most effective treatment protocols going into remission.
- Osteosarcoma — Osteosarcomas are highly aggressive bone tumors that cause local bone damage and are prone to metastasis. Most commonly, osteosarcoma affects large- and giant-breed dogs’ limbs, but can also develop in the ribs, spine, and pelvis. Affected dogs generally limp, and may have a firm swelling on the bone. Pain medication may initially be effective, but the tumor will eventually cause more damage and sometimes the bone will fracture, and quality of life will plummet.
- Oral melanoma — Melanomas arise from pigment cells and can occur on the skin, on the toes, or in the mouth, mostly appearing as dark, raised masses. They also can cause excessive drooling, a foul odor, oral bleeding, or difficulty eating. The majority of oral melanomas in dogs are malignant, and can invade local tissue, spread to other body parts, or regrow after surgical excision.
- Mast cell tumors — Mast cell tumors are the most common canine skin tumors that can vary in appearance and often bleed easily when manipulated. Once the tumor is removed, staging is needed to determine its degree of malignancy and aggressiveness, which will guide the best treatment course.
Common cancers in cats
While cancer is diagnosed less frequently in cats than dogs, largely because fewer cats visit the veterinarian, millions of cats are still affected each year. Some of the most common cancer types in cats include:
- Lymphoma — In cats, digestive tract lymphoma, which causes vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and a decreased appetite, is most common. However, lymphoma can develop in lymphoid tissue anywhere in the body, and may be spurred by the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Lymphoma responds well to chemotherapy, and approximately 70% of treated cats will go into remission.
- Squamous cell carcinoma — Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common oral tumor in cats and causes a foul mouth odor, oral bleeding, drooling, and difficulty eating. Surgical removal of the tumor, which can also involve removing a large portion of the jaw, is generally recommended, but because complete removal of all cancerous cells from deep mouth tissues is extremely difficult, treatment focuses on providing a good quality of life.
- Mammary tumors — Almost 90% of feline mammary tumors, which usually spread to the lymph nodes and lungs, are malignant. Surgical removal is the most effective treatment and is often curative for this cancer, unless the tumor is large or has spread.
- Fibrosarcoma — Fibrosarcoma is a soft tissue cancer that is slow to spread, but locally aggressive. Typically, you will first notice a non-painful skin mass, but your cat may become lethargic, anorexic, and dehydrated as the disease progresses. Unfortunately, surgery often does not prevent the tumor from returning.
Warning cancer signs in pets
Since so many forms of cancer can affect pets and zero in on a particular body system, determining whether your pet’s signs indicate cancer can be difficult. However, call our team if you notice that your pet has any of the following cancer warning signs:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Lumps or bumps
- Non-healing wounds
- Appetite or weight loss
- Changes in urinary or bowel movements
- Abnormal bleeding or discharge
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Sudden weakness or collapse
- Difficulty breathing
The sooner their cancer is diagnosed, the better your pet’s prognosis, so schedule an appointment with our Ambleside Animal Hospital team whenever you suspect your pet is showing cancer signs.