Holiday Safety

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This kitty is definitely going on the naughty list!

             It’s getting to be that time of year again, with ho-ho-hos and ha-ha-has! During these fun and festive times, it’s important to make sure our furry friends are safe so that they can enjoy the many holidays ahead. There are many fun traditions that we people have that can be dangerous to our four-legged companions, so it’s best to be informed.

             Trees, tinsel, and lights – oh my! During the holidays is a great time to whip out the decorations and go nuts. However, our flashy décor can double as a dangerous playground to our pets.
There are several seasonal plants that can be toxic to pets. Holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias are all poisonous to animals to some degree, even causing death in some cases. Other troublesome plants include amaryllis, lilies, and balsam. Try silk or plastic versions of these plants as a safe alternative. When in doubt about the toxicity of plants, visit the ASPCA’s website for information on cats and dogs.

             It is also around this time that the candles come out. When the menorah or decorative candles are lit, keep the open flames out of reach of curious paws, and never leave them lit unattended. On top of potentially causing burns, knocking over an open flame can cause a fire. Make sure that all open flames are kept out of reach, on stable surfaces, and that they get put out before leaving the room!

             Everyone who has celebrated Christmas with a cat knows the qualms of having a tree. It’s best to secure a tree to prevent it from getting knocked over – potentially harming your pet and home. This can be done by securing the tree to the ceiling or even a doorframe with fishing line and bolts. You can also try hanging lemon- or orange-scented air fresheners to deter any pesky felines. Other options also include placing the tree in a corner, or putting undesirable textures (such as aluminum, pine cones, double-sided tape) around the tree’s base.

             With live trees, do not put additives in the water – this can include aspirin, sugar, fertilizers, or anything else that might be harmful. Ingestion of such additives (along with the bacteria that can grow in stagnant water) can lead to nausea, diarrhea, or other undesirable effects. Another option is to cover the water with a tree skirt. Live trees can also shed pine needles, which can cause stomach upset or even puncture your pet’s intestines. Be sure to keep the area around the tree clear of pine needles if you have a live tree!

             It’s especially vital to be cautious with tree decorations. Broken ornaments and tinsel can cause a variety of problems; including toxicity, choking hazard, or blockage – if not worse. No one wants to take their pet to get emergency surgery, especially not during the holidays, so it’s better to be safe than sorry! Try placing these decorations higher up so that they are out of reach. If possible, it might be best not to use tinsel at all. String lights, while nice to look at, may look like a chew toy to our pets. String lights can cause burns if an animal becomes entangled in them, and they can cause shock or burn if chewed through. Like with ornaments, it might be best to put the lights out of reach.

             Delicious desserts are one of the many great things to look forward to in the holiday season. However, they should only be delicious for us humans, not our companion animals. Anything that contains chocolate or has been sweetened with xylitol can be toxic, along with any fatty, spicy, or anything containing bones. Pork products are also known to cause pancreatitis in animals, so no sharing that holiday ham!

             Holiday drinks are great to indulge in, but are something that can be very dangerous for our pets. Ingesting even a small amount of alcohol can lead to weakness, respiratory problems, and possibly even coma or death. So, be sure to keep Fido away from the eggnog!

             Finally, holiday parties and gatherings are fun social events, but it’s important to remember that it’s a pet’s home too. To reduce any potential anxiety for your pet, make a safe space for it in a separate room with some of your pet’s favorite toys and furniture. You can allow guests to interact with your pet through play or petting, while not overwhelming the animal by crowds of people. If your pet must be separate from people altogether, try using a baby gate so that you can still be seen and visit with ease. If your pet gets particularly upset by guests, speak with your vet about the possibility of medicating.

             Mention this blog post at My Zoo Animal Hospital and get a free Kong toy your pet this holiday! Have a wonderful holiday season, may you and your pets be safe!

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Pregnant with Pets – Concerns about Cats

Wear gloves and a mask!

In this photo, Dr. Katie is demonstrating proper personal protective equipment for litter box cleaning if you are pregnant. Pregnant women who clean the litter box should wear gloves and a mask, and thoroughly wash their hands when finished. Masks and disposable gloves are available at many stores and online.

Many people have had a lot of questions about being safe around animals during pregnancy.   The most commonly asked question is “Is it safe to be around cats when you’re expecting?” We hope to answer that question and maybe give a few more tips about being safe around pets when you or a loved one is expecting.


Is it safe to be around cats? The short answer is yes, but precautions should be taken to protect the mother. Generally when people ask this question, they have the disease toxoplasmosis in mind.   Toxoplasma is a parasite that can be very harmful to an unborn baby if the mother acquires the infection for the first time during pregnancy.   It can cause miscarriage, neurological defects (brain damage), blindness, and other symptoms. Some of these symptoms may not be apparent at birth, but they may become evident as the child grows.   Cats pick up this infection by ingesting small animals (mice, birds, etc). For this reason, we recommend keeping your cat indoors to minimize hunting of small prey.   Infected cats shed the parasite in the feces. It takes one or more days for the parasite to develop in the cat’s feces to an infective form.


How would a pregnant woman become infected with toxoplasma? Interestingly, most people acquire toxoplasma by eating undercooked meat or contaminated produce.   A pregnant woman can also become infected by inadvertently ingesting contaminated cat feces or inhaling litter dust while cleaning the litter box.



Here are some tips quoted directly from the Center of Disease Control on preventing toxoplasmosis (

  • Have someone who is healthy and not pregnant change the cat’s litter box daily. If this is not possible, wear gloves and clean the litter box every day, because the parasite found in cat feces needs one or more days after being passed to become infectious. Wash hands well with soap and water afterwards.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after any exposure to soil, sand, raw meat, or unwashed vegetables.
  • Cook all meat thoroughly; that is, to an internal temperature of 160° F and until it is no longer pink in the center or until the juices become colorless. Do not taste meat before it is fully cooked.
  • Freeze meat for several days before cooking to greatly reduce the chance of infection.
  • Wash all cutting boards and knives thoroughly with hot soapy water after each use.
  • Wash and/or peel all fruits and vegetables before eating them.
  • Wear gloves when gardening or handling sand from a sandbox. Wash hands well afterward.
  • Avoid drinking untreated water, particularly when traveling in less developed countries.



Do you have questions? Feel free to give us a call at 573-875-3647. If you have an idea or a question you’d like answered on a blog, leave a comment here or on Facebook (






Remember, if you are expecting, it’s even more important for your pets to be healthy and up to date on vaccinations. Schedule an appointment today to get your pet checked out and up to date. Call us at 573-875-3647.

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Gary the greyhound here!  I’m going to talk about keeping your pets safe and warm this winter.   With the temperatures dropping, winter is fast approaching!  I talked about hazards of the heat this summer, and now I’m going to talk about the hazards of the cold this winter.   I don’t really mind the winter, because Dr. Katie takes precautions to keep me safe.  Here are some tips for keeping your pets safe and healthy this winter

  • Shelter.  If your pet cannot (or refuses to) come inside the house, providing a safe and warm shelter is a must.   Home Boy (HB) is a feline friend who doesn’t like Ruby (my younger house-mate who loves to bark and chase cats) so HB won’t come in our house.  Since HB prefers the outdoors, Dr. Katie and her husband built a shelter for him.  It’s made of a plastic box with lots of insulation to keep him warm.
  • Water.  If your pet lives outdoors be sure to provide fresh water.  If the temperature drops below freezing, your pet’s water bowl will freeze as well.  There are special heaters made to keep water from freezing that you can order or purchase.
  • Lost.   Never let your dog off leash if you take him on walks or hikes.  Snow can mask scents, and your dog can easily get lost.  If you live in an area that receives a lot of snow, snow drifts can also pose a threat to your pets.
  • Cars.  Below freezing temperatures can mean patches of ice can form on the roads.  This means your pet may be more likely to get hit by a car that cannot stop fast enough. Another way an animal could be injured by a car is by getting caught in the hood.  Outdoor and feral cats may crawl into the hood of a car for warmth.  It’s a good idea to bang on the hood of the car before starting it to try to scare out any cats/animals that may have crawled in.  Chico, My Zoo’s clinic cat, was surrendered to the clinic after getting caught in a fan belt when he was a kitten.  He was lucky he survived and was given a safe, warm home in the clinic, but he will always have a limp.
  • Antifreeze.  Antifreeze has a very sweet taste, but it only takes a small amount to hurt your pet.  For example, if your cat walks though a puddle of antifreeze and licks his feet, he can get a toxic dose of antifreeze just from licking it off his feet.  Be sure to clean up antifreeze appropriately, keep the lid on securely, place the bottle in a safe location, and don’t pour it out in gutters.
  • Rodent poisons.  Winter is one of the most common times for rodents to sneak into the home.  We don’t recommend using toxins in your house if you have pets.  The rodent poisons are also poisonous to pets!  Your pet could either eat the poison directly or eat the dead rodent.
  • Ice melting products.  Salts and other salt melting products can be irritating to the skin, mouth, and GI tract.  Only use these products where your pet cannot get to them, and wipe off paws and skin if your pet comes into contact with them.   Sometimes snow or ice can get packed between the toes so it’s a good idea to wipe your pet’s paws when he comes inside from the cold.


Happy Thanksgiving!