He Ate What? Keeping Your Pet Safe During the Holidays

The holiday season is the perfect time to spend with friends and family, but travel and holiday obligations can make the season particularly hectic. Between shopping, wrapping, baking, visiting family and friends, and holiday parties, our days and nights tend to stay chaotic, which means we may have less time for our four-legged family members. 

Your pets won’t mind—in fact, they may prefer to stay out of the fray. They’ll probably make themselves useful as furry vacuum cleaners, picking up any dropped holiday goodies, which leads to the importance of keeping your pet safe from hazards this holiday season. 

The holidays are busy for you, but they can be particularly busy for veterinary and animal emergency clinics. One of the most common problems they see, particularly in dogs, is called “dietary indiscretion,” which goes along with all the holiday feasting and rich foods. 

Dietary indiscretion refers to pets consuming food and non-food items they are not supposed to eat, from heavy holiday foods, to ribbons and bows on packages, to tree ornaments.  Temptations are everywhere, and they all affect pets differently. 

Festive food can spell trouble for pets

Pets typically eat the same meal day in and day out and, hopefully, seldom eat human food; during the holidays, however, we celebrate with heavy, rich foods that are often toxic to pets. Because the holidays are a time for giving, we often want to share these meals with our pets, but your table scraps, Aunt Linda’s table scraps, and your nephews’ unwanted buttery brussels sprouts can cause nothing but trouble for your pet.

Such dietary changes can lead to gastroenteritis (i.e., inflammation of the stomach and intestines) in your pet. The first signs are vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration.

In worst-case scenarios, pets who consume rich or fatty table scraps may develop pancreatitis, a severe medical condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed. The pancreas has two important rolessecreting (1) digestive enzymes so that food can be digested and (2) insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, digestive enzymes are prematurely released internally, and they may digest the pancreatic tissue which, in turn, can lead to further pancreatic inflammation that can affect the adjacent liver tissue. Severe inflammation can affect the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin and result in temporary or permanent diabetes.

Avoid holiday gastroenteritis or pancreatitis in your pet by withholding table scraps altogether, and asking guests to do the same. We know this can be difficult, especially at the holidays, when we want everything to be magical, including for our pets.

So, instead of table scraps, prepare your pet’s own holiday meal beforehand. Focus on the least fatty foods, such as white meat, plain or uncooked green beans or carrots, and boiled potatoes before you load them with butter and cream. Also, avoid foods laden with onions or garlic, which can be toxic to pets in high doses. 

Consider baking a special treat for your pet this holiday season, such as these biscuits from Chow Hounds by Ernie Ward, DVM:

Sweet potato biscuits


  • 1 large cooked sweet potato
  • 1 banana
  • ½  cup quinoa flour
  • ½ tbsp vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium-size bowl, mix the sweet potato and banana until well-blended.
  3. Add the vegetable oil.
  4. Mix in the quinoa flour.
  5. Place teaspoonfuls of the dough on a nonstick baking sheet, lightly flattening each cookie.
  6. Bake 30 minutes. 

Makes about four dozen biscuits.

These biscuits are low in calories, so you can also give them to guests who want to treat your pet.

Holiday decor can spell danger for pets

The holidays are full of temptations for pets, from toys stuffing stockings or under the tree, and shiny  ribbons, bows, and ornaments. Unfortunately, many pets can’t resist these snacks, which puts them at risk of developing life-threatening intestinal obstructions. 

Cats are particularly prone to ingesting yarn, ribbons, and tinsel, which may be thin, but they can still cause  linear foreign-body obstructions when one end of the ribbon or string becomes lodged in the intestinal tract. The intestine attempts to move through the rest of the string, which bunches around the end that is stuck. This can damage the delicate intestinal tissues and lead to a life-threatening intestinal rupture.

We know the last thing you want over the holidays is a pet with gastroenteritis, or worse, whom you have to take to the emergency clinic, so follow our advice and keep festive foods and decorating items away from pets. 

Happy holidays from the Peoria Area Veterinary Group team—we look forward to seeing you and your pet in the New Year.

Cats Aren’t Small Dogs: Avoid Common Medical Pitfalls for Your Feline Companion

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that one quarter of all U.S. households own a pet cat, amounting to almost 60 million cats, compared with 75 million dogs. 

Unfortunately, cats lose not only in popularity, but also in terms of medical care. The AVMA reports that dogs average more veterinary visits per year (i.e., 2.4 to 1.3), and a higher average veterinary expenditure per year (i.e., $253 to $98). Dogs are more likely to cut their paw or tear a nail and require an extra trip to the veterinary office, but they still make more routine veterinary visits, whereas many owners forgo annual wellness visits for their cats, often because they appear to be healthy. However, there are many reasons why regular veterinary visits are important for your cat. 

Annual physical exams can save cats’ lives

Life with dogs may sometimes seem like a roller-coaster ride, whereas life with cats is often blissfully consistent, making it easy to forget that your cat should visit her vet. But, many illnesses in cats progress slowly with only subtle changes, which means annual physical veterinary exams are vital. For example, your cat may be slowly losing weight, but her weight loss is not noticeable until she’s lost a significant amount. Every veterinary exam includes a weight measurement that is compared to the cat’s weight at her last visit, so our team will immediately note any changes. 

An annual physical also involves checking your cat from her head to the tip of her tail and will include: 

  • Her teeth, to ensure they are in good shape; because cats seldom have bad breath, dental disease may go undetected
  • Her heart, lungs, and abdomen, for any abnormalities or pain
  • Her back and joints, to ensure she has no arthritis or other pain

Chronic illnesses in cats

These serious chronic diseases that affect cats can be managed successfully if they are detected early at a wellness exam:

  • Kidney disease — An estimated 1% to 3% of the feline population will develop chronic kidney disease, which is hard to detect early, because cats show no clinical signs until the disease has progressed into the late stages. However, diagnosis can be made through routine blood work and urinalysis, and your cat may live longer with medication and other treatments.
  • Thyroid disease — Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, is commonly seen in middle-aged and older cats. Signs include weight loss, and increased appetite, excitability, drinking, and urination, and, if left untreated, severe cardiovascular side effects, including heart failure. If found early, hyperthyroidism also can be treated successfully with daily medication.
  • Heart disease — Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or thickening of the heart wall, is the most common heart disease in cats, and is typically seen in middle-aged cats and specific breeds, including:
    • Persians
    • Sphynx
    • Norwegian forest cats
    • Bengals
    • Turkish van cats
    • Maine coon cats
    • Ragdolls
    • American and British shorthairs

Cats typically show no obvious heart disease signs, but the disease can be diagnosed during a regular veterinary checkup. 

Cats can be sneaky when sick

A hungry cat can be hard to ignore, but a sick cat is easy to miss because she can hide it so well. Dogs often seek human help when they are sick or injured, but cats who are not feeling well usually shun human company, and their owners may take days to realize the cat isn’t napping in her normal spots. Cats instinctively know they can become prey, especially when ill, and they tend to hide their illness for as long as possible in small, dark, enclosed spaces where they feel safe. This also makes detecting your cat’s illness difficult, and another reason why routine checkups are critical for early detection and successful outcomes.

Cats make wonderful pets, but understanding their need for regular veterinary attention to help ensure a long, healthy life is important. If your feline friend is overdue for her checkup, call one of our three conveniently located clinics and schedule an appointment. All our veterinarians are crazy about cats.

Fleas, Ticks, and Mosquitoes: A Year-Round Threat

Don’t get sucked into believing that falling temperatures also mean a fall in flea, tick, and mosquito populations. While it’s true that some of these blood-suckers die off over the winter, they’re often highly active during autumn—especially ticks. Here are five ways to help battle fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, even during the fall:

#1: Don’t give up on grooming

As winter approaches, with its frigid temperatures and frosty precipitation, you may cut back on your pet’s grooming. Short summer cuts designed to keep your furry friend cool are a thing of the past until next spring. In addition, thick undercoats shed less as pets gear up for winter, so grooming sessions tend to occur less frequently. But, fleas and ticks may take advantage of fewer comb-throughs and set up shop on your pet, where they are much harder to see than when they are scurrying through your pet’s short fur or latched onto her skin when you are brushing her daily or weekly. 

As the hot season fades into fall and your pet’s fur grows out, detecting fleas and ticks is more challenging. Your pet may seem to require less upkeep, but continue the grooming sessions, because frequent brushing will help you catch fleas, ticks, and any abnormalities. Pay particular attention to your pet’s tail base, ears, groin, armpits, and under the collar, as fleas and ticks like to lurk in these spots. 

#2: Load up leaf litter

Kids and pets love to jump and play in huge leaf piles, but have you ever considered what’s lurking within? If you think it’s cool enough to skip parasite prevention, your pet may be unarmed in her pile of fun. Fleas, ticks, and many other insects make their home in decaying leaf litter, which provides warmth, shelter, and occasionally sustenance, and they may attack your pet’s warm body when disturbed. 

Removing leaf piles from your yard is preferable, but if you can’t resist the sight of your kids and pet frolicking in autumn leaves, ensure you administer parasite prevention year-round and check thoroughly for fleas and ticks after their outdoor fun. 

#3: Learn about the life cycle

Many people think insects die off over the winter. While some insects thankfully perish with falling temperatures, many more use their strong survival skills to make it through the winter. Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can slip into your warm home or heated garage and ride out the cooler weather. Fleas are exceptionally hardy and can survive inhospitable climates easily. A flea in its pupal form can hang out for months—or as long as a year—inside its protective cocoon, and burst forth as an adult when temperatures rise, ready to make a meal out of your pet. Knowing how your enemy lives can help prevent any parasites from gaining a foothold in your home and on your pet. 

#4: Search for defective screens 

Opening the windows to allow a burst of fresh fall air into your home is wonderful, but first, check your screens carefully. Are they still in the correct place with no visible holes, tears, or gashes? If your open windows are letting in more than the smells of bonfires and falling leaves, you may need to keep them shut tight. Insects can easily slip through tiny tears in your screens, seeking the warmth of your home and your pet. 

#5: Don’t fall for falling temperatures

Winters, and even fall conditions, can turn downright frigid in Illinois, but that’s no reason to stop giving your pet her flea, tick, and heartworm preventive. Our weather can turn 180 degrees with little warning, turning from summer to winter over several hours. The opposite can also happen, and if the temperature rises above 35 degrees, fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes will be on the prowl for a meal. Since our weather patterns are so unpredictable, why gamble on your pet remaining parasite-free throughout the cooler months?

Stick to your normal schedule of flea-, tick-, and heartworm-preventive administration to ensure your pet is protected year-round. It’s easy to fall off track when you skip a month or two, thinking it will be chilly enough to prevent insect movement, but then you may forget to start back up again when the weather is nicer. Stay safe with our recommended prevention products, and stock up by stopping in at one of our locations.

Top 7 Painful Conditions in Dogs and Cats

Could your pet be experiencing pain? Here are seven medical conditions that could be causing pain in your furry friend.

1: Degenerative joint disease

Otherwise known as arthritis, degenerative joint disease can strike dogs and cats of any age. Congenital problems, such as hip dysplasia, can predispose pets to developing arthritis, as can trauma. Senior pets are also prone to developing painful arthritic changes in their joints as they age. Arthritis is common, affecting 25% of the total dog population and more than 90% of cats over the age of 12 years. 

2: Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease occurs when gingivitis and tartar buildup are left unchecked. Severe dental disease is accompanied by inflammation and infection under the gumline. Tooth root abscesses and tooth loss are common side effects, and although your pet may not act as if he is in pain, if periodontal disease is present, you can count on the presence of pain.

3: Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas, is associated with a range of clinical signs that vary in severity, often overlapping with signs of acute gastroenteritis, inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal obstruction, peritonitis, or acute renal failure. Abdominal pain occurs in 58% of dogs with pancreatitis and 25% of cats.

4: Bone cancer

Osteosarcoma (OSA), the most common bone tumor, most commonly strikes dogs and cats between the ages of 6 and 8 years, although a small group of dogs has been recognized who can develop OSA at ages 18 to 24 months. OSA is incredibly painful, and amputation of the affected limb to alleviate the severe pain associated with this neoplasia is the most common treatment.

5: Cystitis

Dogs and cats can develop bladder infections, also known as cystitis. Cats are prone to feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), a painful, cyclic inflammation of the bladder that results in bloody urine and inappropriate elimination. FIC is not caused by an infection, and cannot be resolved with antibiotics. 

6: Intervertebral disk disease

Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) describes herniation or protrusion of intervertebral disk material into the spinal canal. Compression of the spinal cord results in pain and possible paralysis.

7: Ear infections

Dogs and cats tend to get ear infections in their external ear canal, as opposed to humans, whose ear infections affect the part of the ear located behind the eardrum. Akin to human swimmer’s ear, canine and feline ear infections are caused by fungal and/or bacterial overgrowths, and patients presenting with ear infections are significantly uncomfortable. 

How to recognize pain in your pets

Obviously, you can tell your pet is in pain if he limps, will not bear weight  on a limb, or cries out when bearing weight. However, pets are masters at hiding pain and illness. From an evolutionary standpoint, they mask their pain so they do not appear weak and become the first to be picked off by a predator. 

Because your pet will be trying to hide his pain or illness, you must closely watch his demeanor. According to the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management, the subtle, less-recognized signs of pain in dogs include: 

  • Decreased interaction with family and housemates
  • Anxious facial expression, with or without panting
  • Submissive behavior
  • Reluctance or refusal to move
  • Whimpering and whining
  • Growling
  • Aggression, including biting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Self-mutilation from chewing on painful areas
  • Changes in sitting or standing posture

Subtle signs of pain in cats include:

  • Reduced activity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of curiosity
  • Changes in elimination habits, such as going outside the litter box
  • Hiding
  • Hissing or spitting
  • Lack of agility
  • Decreased jumping
  • Excessive licking and grooming
  • No longer grooming, with matted fur
  • Stiff posture or gait
  • Tail flicking
  • Weight loss

Pain management options

If infection is causing your pet’s pain, antibiotics or antifungals will be in order, and the pain should dissipate once the infection is cleared. For chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis or FIC, long-term medications should be considered. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and opioids have been used successfully, as have alternative treatment modalities, such as laser therapy, acupuncture, and massage. 

If you suspect your pet is in pain, don’t wait around for obvious signs before seeking veterinary care. Give us a call so we can examine your four-legged family member and develop a treatment plan that is best for you and your pet.