Winter Safety

Winter Safety

Colder weather and the holidays will soon be here with hidden dangers for our pets. It is important to keep our furry friends safe and happy this season. Dangers for your pets can include plants, table foods, holiday decorations, and of course, colder weather.

Many people are aware that poinsettia can be toxic to dogs and cats, but did you know that many other decorative plants can cause health issues if ingested? Poinsettia, mistletoe, holly and Christmas cactus can all cause stomach upset and diarrhea if eaten. The leaves and flowers of the Amaryllis plant can also cause gastrointestinal upset, but ingesting the bulbs can lead to cardiovascular problems and seizures. Lilies, though not a traditional winter plant, can be deadly even if only small amounts are ingested by cats.

Other potential health hazards for our pets include gastrointestinal illness from eating table foods. Though it is fun to spoil our pets by giving them some of our traditional holiday meals, too much of a yummy thing can be deadly. Eating fatty foods like processed meats or chicken/turkey skin can cause pancreatitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas. Symptoms of pancreatitis include lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea (often bloody). Pancreatitis can also predispose our pets to diabetes in the future. Ingestion of onions can cause severe anemia in both dogs and cats. Do not feed table foods that contain onions or that have been cooked with onions.

Remember to keep potentially hazardous decorations and ornaments away from your pets. Tinsel and ribbons can cut through the intestinal lining if ingested and may require extensive surgery to repair. Glass ornaments can be broken, eaten or stepped on, potentially causing severe lacerations.

Winter holidays are a popular travel time for pets and their people. Remember that health certificates are required for most interstate travel. This is a document signed by your veterinarian ensuring that your pet is healthy enough to travel and is not bringing potentially harmful diseases or parasites to the destination. Usually a rabies vaccine and some type of flea preventative is required for interstate travel. Remember to keep up with your flea/tick and heartworm preventives even through the winter months. Fleas can still live inside where it is nice and warm, and many parasite eggs can continue to live in the soil and mulch around our houses.

If you have pets that live outdoors, provide a shelter that protects against wind and precipitation. Always make sure that fresh water is available and that the water bowls are not covered with ice.

Have fun with your pets this holiday season, and remember to keep them safe, happy and warm. Happy holidays!
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Meet Our Team

  • Dr. Bob  Sarsfield Photo
    Dr. Bob Sarsfield
    Veterinarian in Harrisburg, PA The chief medical officer and owner and has been with the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County since 1979. He started out working in the kennel and then attended Penn State University, which he graduated from in 1985. He received his DVM from Purdue University in 1989. His professional areas of interest include feline and canine medicine and surgery, ultrasound, and low level laser therapy. Contact the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County today and make an appointment ...
  • Dr. Heather  Balmer Photo
    Dr. Heather Balmer
    Dr. Heather Balmer (Zanes) is managing veterinarian and has been with the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County since 1999. Dr. Balmer first worked as a kennel assistant and then as a veterinary technician assistant. She received her undergraduate degree from Juniata College and her VMD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. Dr. Balmer was raised in Penbrook but currently lives with her husband, Matt, and grandmother in Hummelstown along with their four-legged ...
  • Dr. Kelly  Allen Photo
    Dr. Kelly Allen
    Dr. Kelly Allen joined the staff of the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County in 2011. She is a graduate of Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, PA. She enjoys talking to clients about their furry family members. Dr. Allen has a keen interest in animal behavior and enjoys helping new dog and cat owners as they experience the joy (and sometimes frustrations) of introducing an animal into the family. She lives with her husband, Todd, and one ...
  • Dr. Jennifer  Fletcher Eckenrode Photo
    Dr. Jennifer Fletcher Eckenrode
    Dr. Jennifer Fletcher Eckenrode, CCRT joined the staff of the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County in 2011. She attended Colorado State University where she earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Microbiology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Originally from Boston, Dr. Fletcher grew up in Michigan. She has lived in California, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, and even Perth, Australia. She lives in Mechanicsburg with her husband (also a veterinarian!) and daughter, their Heeler-Lab mix, Colbie, ...
  • Dr. Audrey  Zajac Photo
    Dr. Audrey Zajac
    Dr. Audrey Zajac joined the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County in July, 2013. She became interested in animals at a young age, spending her summers working on her grandparents’ dairy farm and riding horses at 12 years old. Dr. Zajac attended King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and headed off to Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in Auburn, AL. After graduation, she returned to PA in 2009 where she worked with dogs, cats, and horses ...
  • Dr. Whitney  Wolfgang Photo
    Dr. Whitney Wolfgang
    Dr. Whitney Wolfgang joined the Animal Hospital of Dauphin County in June 2016. Growing up in Hummelstown, PA, Dr. Wolfgang always knew she wanted to work with animals in some capacity. Early in her college career, she fell in love with veterinary medicine. She graduated from Towson University in Maryland with a dual degree in Biology and Animal Behavior. She traveled to South Africa for a veterinary experience with local community outreach and wildlife veterinary medicine. Dr. Wolfgang earned ...
  • Dr. Lloyd V.  Reitz, Jr. Photo
    Dr. Lloyd V. Reitz, Jr.
    Dr. Lloyd V. Reitz, Jr. grew up on his family’s fourth-generation dairy farm in Shamokin, PA. In addition to caring for cows, he grew up with a wide variety animals, including horses, pigs, chickens, rabbits, cats, dogs, and even a couple of emus. Dr. Reitz pursued a degree in Biology from Messiah College, graduating in 2001. He then continued his education at Bucknell University, obtaining a Master’s of Science in Cellular Biology in 2004. After receiving his M.S., he moved to Richmond, VA, and ...
  • Dr. Jamie  Putt Photo
    Dr. Jamie Putt
    Dr. Jamie Putt is a native of Harrisburg, PA. She obtained her B.S. in Animal Bioscience from Pennsylvania State University in 2001. She attended veterinary school at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and obtained her D.V.M. in 2005. Dr. Putt is a current active member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Foundation for Veterinary Dentistry, the mission of which is to educate the public about the importance of oral health in animals. Her special ...
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