206.323.4433 2115 - 23rd Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98144

4 Important New Year’s Eve Safety Tips for Pets

There are two days each year when the most U.S. pets get lost: The 4th of July and New Year’s Eve.

The explosive noise and flashes of light from fireworks scare the “pants” off many dogs and cats.

Of course, Seattleites don’t wait until midnight on New Year’s Eve to shoot off fireworks. You’ll hear a smattering of booms throughout the day, with neighborhood fireworks starting in earnest at 9pm (to coincide with the Time Square Ball Drop) and continuing past midnight.

Some pet owners unwisely bring their dogs with them to New Year’s Eve celebrations, where the combination of unfamiliar surroundings, crowds, loud music, alcohol, and fireworks creates a potent cocktail practically guaranteed to send panicked pets running for cover (not to mention getting “the runs,” and you don’t want that, either).

By planning ahead, you can help calm your pets’ nerves and keep them safe on New Year’s Eve.

Protect your Pet with a Collar, ID tag, and Microchip

You don’t want your pet to be one of the 7.6 million pets who are lost each year.

Even if your pet wears a collar and ID tag, those can fall off. A collar, ID tag, and properly-registered microchip will increase the chances of your pet being reunited with you if it runs away.

What is a Microchip?

Microchips are implantable computer chips no bigger than a grain of rice. The microchip is placed under your pet’s skin by your veterinarian with a needle and syringe.

The chip receives a radio signal from a scanner and transmits a unique encoded identification number back to the scanner, to help reunite you with your pet.

Register the Microchip

It is important to register your pet’s microchip, to maintain updated contact information, and to provide multiple emergency contacts in case your pet gets lost while you’re out of town.

Give your pet the best chance of being reunited with you. Call us today at 206.323.4433 to schedule an appointment to have your pet microchipped.

Create a Safe Place for Your Pet

Whether you’re hosting a get-together or spending a quiet evening at home, you’ll want to keep your pet indoors on New Year’s Eve.

  • Close pet doors, windows, and curtains.
  • Set up a comfortable pet bed in the most sound-proofed space in your home, as far away as possible from noisemakers, poppers, fireworks, loud music, and conversations. A good location might be a closet or the basement.
  • If you have a cat, provide access to as many hiding places as possible.
  • Dim the lights and turn on soothing white noise such as a fan, air conditioner, radio, or television.
  • If you have a white noise machine, try playing the sound of a gentle rainfall. Every Seattle pet is accustomed to that particular sound, and it’s likely to calm them.
  • Provide toys and treats to distract your pet.

If you’re hosting a party, consider temporarily disabling your doorbell, particularly if you have a dog who barks like crazy whenever it rings. If a lot of people will be coming and going, your curious pup will want to meet them, but your dog may also freak out and make a break for it out the front door.

Your dog is not the host of your party – you are.

Keep your dog safe, in a room away from the door.

If you’re planning to go out on New Year’s Eve, recruit a family member, friend, or neighbor to pet-sit. Be sure to supply your sitter with your pet’s water bowl, bed, and their favorite food, treats, and toys.

If your pet experiences severe noise anxiety, we can recommend medications that may help decrease anxiety and relax your pet.

Give Your Pet Plenty of Physical Activity

When their normal routine gets disrupted, pets often get frightened and anxious. They’ll likely sense that there’s something different about this day, so make an effort to spend extra time with your pet throughout the day. Buy a new toy for your pet and actively play with them throughout the day.

Earlier in the day (when it’s still relatively quiet), take your pet for a longer-than-usual walk, which will tire them out and help them relax and sleep more soundly. During your walk, be prepared for people to unexpectedly set off fireworks. Make sure your pet’s collar ID tag, GPS tracker, and leash are properly attached.

If you’re home with your pet during the evening, be extra attentive to them. If your stressed pet pees or defecates on the floor, don’t yell at them. Instead, attempt to make your presence a comforting one. Distract your pet by calmly playing together or listening to soothing music.

Keep Your Pet Away From Toxic Substances

Alcohol. Marijuana. Salty snacks. Liqueur-filled chocolates. Balloons. Streamers. Party Poppers.

New Year’s Eve is a veritable feast of items that can cause digestive issues, poisoning, and other health issues.

Alcohol

Copious amounts of alcohol are often within easy reach of curious pets on New Year’s Eve, so it’s not surprising that a lot of opportunistic pets get alcohol poisoning.

Sadly, some people think it’s funny or cute to get a pet tipsy.

Please, PLEASE don’t serve a dog or cat alcohol!

One teaspoon of grain alcohol (hard liquor) is enough to cause severe alcohol toxicity symptoms in cats and dogs. One tablespoon is enough to put a healthy cat or small dog into a coma, and can even be fatal.

Pets who consume even a small amount of alcohol have a similar, yet more severe reaction to alcohol than their human counterparts: vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, lethargy, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, drops in body temperature and blood pressure, loss of consciousness, cardiac arrest, acute kidney failure, and even death.

(Yes, we know we sound like a TV commercial that ominously intones a long list of potential side-effects of a prescription drug, but we want you to be aware of the dangers of alcohol poisoning!)

Marijuana

The same goes for marijuana. Pets who inhale secondhand marijuana smoke or eat edibles that contain caffeine, chocolate, garlic, grapes, raisins, or Xylitol often require emergency treatment.

According to the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), “Marijuana can cause your pet to become unsteady, sleepy and sensitive to touch, and can cause a decrease in their heart rate and body temperature. In rare cases, seizures and death may be possible.”

Other Items Toxic to Pets

  • Salty snack foods
  • Chocolate
  • Raisins
  • Grapes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Raw and under-cooked meat
  • Poultry, beef, and pork bones
  • Pie crust
  • Decorations (streamers, balloons, ribbons, twinkly lights)

For more information, read these articles on our blog:

The last thing you want is to ring in the New Year with an emergency visit to the vet.

Whether you’re entertaining at home or you’re at a party away from home, assume that dangerous items will be within your pets’ reach. Keep a close eye on your furbabies, and do your best to keep them away from toxic substances.

Your Pet Shouldn’t Have to Wait to Feel Better! Consider Urgent Care

Your Pet Shouldn't Have to Wait to Feel Better! Consider Urgent Care | AtlanticVetSeattle.comWhy pay for an emergency room visit if it isn’t necessary?

We can provide comfort and relief for conditions that aren’t serious enough for an emergency hospital, but are too pressing to wait for an appointment the next business day.

When to Seek Urgent Care for Your Pet

Urgent care is appropriate for non-life-threatening conditions that cannot wait, but do not require emergency treatment and hospitalization.

Urgent Care Conditions

Urgent, non-life-threatening conditions often include:

  • Eyes – swelling, discharge, redness
  • Ears – discharge, pain, odor, scratching, shaking (could be signs of ear infections)
  • Facial swelling, licking, or scratching
  • Skin conditions
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Vomiting (minor or occasional)
  • Diarrhea
  • Mild constipation
  • Change in urine color, frequency, or amount
  • Straining to urinate, dribbling urine
  • Change in amount of food or water intake
  • Change in behavior (mild depression, anxiety, excessive sleepiness)
  • Evidence of worms or fleas
  • Minor wounds
  • Lumps

We save a number of same-day Urgent Care spots in our appointment schedule every day.

If your pet is experiencing an urgent situation, please call us at 206-323-4433, and we’ll do our best to fit you into our schedule on the same day.

A patient seen on Urgent Care who requires emergency care will be transferred immediately to Emergency Status or referred to a 24-hour veterinary specialty hospital.

For a list of conditions that are considered medical emergencies, visit our Urgent Care page.

10 Tips for Keeping Your Cat Cozy and Safe During Winter

As the temperatures drop and the days grow shorter, it’s important to take extra care of your feline friend to ensure they stay warm, safe, and comfortable throughout the winter months.

Cats are naturally resourceful and adaptable, but even they can suffer from the adverse effects of cold weather.

In this article, we’ll explore the five most common dangers of cold weather for cats, and we’ll offer 10 tips for keeping your furry companion safe and happy during the winter season.

5 Dangers of Cold Weather for Cats

Cats are generally more sensitive to the cold than dogs, and they can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold-related illnesses if they’re not properly protected.

1. Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when a cat’s body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Symptoms of hypothermia include lethargy, weakness, confusion, and difficulty breathing.

Hypothermia can lead to a number of serious health problems, including organ failure and death. If you think your cat may be suffering from hypothermia, it’s important to seek veterinary care immediately.

2. Frostbite

Frostbite is a serious condition that occurs when a cat’s skin and tissue freeze.

Symptoms of frostbite include redness, swelling, and pain in the affected area.

Frostbite can cause severe damage to the affected areas – typically ears, paws, tail, and nose – and may even require amputation in some cases. If you think your cat may have frostbite, seek veterinary care immediately.

3. Respiratory infections

Cold weather can weaken a cat’s immune system, making them more susceptible to respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

4. Arthritis

Cold weather can aggravate existing joint problems and arthritis, causing pain and discomfort for your cat.

5. Dehydration

Cats may not drink as much water in the winter as they do in the summer, which can lead to dehydration. This can be particularly dangerous for older cats or those with kidney problems.

How Cold Is Too Cold for Cats to Be Outside?

The temperature at which it is too cold for cats to be outside varies depending on several factors, including the cat’s breed, age, and overall health.

A good rule of thumb is that if it’s too cold for you to be outside comfortably, it’s too cold for your cat to be outside.

In general, cats should not be left outside if the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

10 Tips for Keeping Your Cat Safe During Winter

1. Provide a warm and cozy place to sleep.

Cats love to curl up in warm places, so provide them with a soft, comfortable bed or blanket off the floor and away from drafts.

Consider using a heated pet bed to provide extra warmth.  Check out our article on microwaveable heating pads and insulated cat shelters. 

2. Limit outdoor time.

If your cat enjoys spending time outdoors, ensure their outdoor excursions are brief and supervised, especially during harsh weather conditions.

Limit outdoor time to daylight hours and bring your cat inside when the temperature starts to drop. Make sure they have a warm place to dry off.

If you have an outdoor cat, be sure to read our article, How to Keep Outdoor Cats Warm in Winter.

3. Protect their paws.

Cats’ paws are sensitive to the cold and can be damaged by ice, salt, and other chemicals used to treat roads and sidewalks.

To protect their paws, consider applying a protective, pet-safe balm, paw wax, or booties before going outside.

After each walk, check your cat’s paws for any signs of cracks, redness, or irritation.

4. Provide plenty of fresh water.

Cats may not drink as much water in the winter as they do in the summer, so make sure they have access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Consider using a heated water fountain to encourage them to drink more.

5. Maintain a healthy diet.

Cats may need to eat more food during the winter to gain the energy they need to stay warm and active.

Consider feeding them a slightly higher-protein diet to help them maintain their body temperature. Talk to your veterinarian about how much food to feed your cat during the cold months.

6. Monitor your cat’s weight.

Make sure your cat is not losing weight during the winter. If you notice your cat is losing weight, talk to your veterinarian.

7. Watch for signs of illness.

Be aware of any changes in your cat’s behavior, such as lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite, or difficulty breathing.

These could be signs of a hypothermia-related illness or other cold-related issue. If you notice any of these signs, seek veterinary care immediately.

8. Be aware of potential hazards.

Antifreeze is deadly poison to cats, even in small amounts. Store antifreeze out of your cat’s reach and clean up any spills immediately.

Your car is another potential hazard. Cats – your own cat, as well as neighborhood and feral cats – seek shelter under the hood, close to the warm engine. When the car is started, they can be injured or killed.

In this article, Jane Harrell, former Editor-in-Chief of Pet Health Network,  recommends pounding on the hood, slamming the car door, or honking the horn before starting your car. Of course, you’ll also want to check underneath the car, to see if cats are hiding.

“After you’ve made plenty of noise, be sure that any cats have had time to run away. Cats can tuck themselves into the tightest of spaces and may need a little extra time to wiggle out.”

9. Schedule regular veterinary checkups.

Regular veterinary checkups are essential for maintaining your cat’s overall health, especially during the winter months. When you schedule an appointment with Atlantic Veterinary Hospital, ask your veterinarian to check for any underlying health conditions that may make your cat more susceptible to the cold.

10. Make sure your cat is microchipped.

In the event that your cat gets lost during the winter, a microchip can help you reunite with your furry friend.

Check out our article on microchipping.

Cats are individuals with different needs and preferences, so pay attention to your cat’s cues and adjust your care accordingly. With a little extra attention, you can ensure your furry friend enjoys a warm, cozy, and healthy winter season by your side.

Related articles on our blog

Note: This article includes Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase a product via a link, we receive a small commission. We do not necessarily recommend these linked products; we are providing them to give you a starting place for your own product research.

7 Cold Weather Tips for Dogs

Despite the popular misconception, fur alone is not enough to protect dogs from the elements. Like people, dogs have varying degrees of cold tolerance.

Hypothermia in pets

Even the hardiest breeds are susceptible to hypothermia. Pets can die from hypothermia, where decreased core body temperature decreases circulation to organs, brain, and limbs. Luckily, hypothermia can be easy to avoid by taking a few precautions.

1. Ask Us About Cold Weather Protection.

Arthritis can worsen in the cold months, increasing stiffness and discomfort. Several key strategies can help keep your older dog comfortable and active in cold weather, and we’re eager to share this information with you at your next appointment.

7 Cold Weather Tips for Dogs | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

2. Know Your Dog’s Cold Tolerance.

Although all dogs are at risk in cold, wet weather, some are better able to handle a dip in temperatures. Huskies and other Artic breeds are certainly more comfortable in cold weather than breeds such as grey hounds. Consider that old, young, thin-coated, and wet dogs are at greater risk for hypothermia.

3. Take Shorter Walks With Your Dog.

All dogs need daily exercise year-round, but in extreme temperatures, shorter, more frequent walks are preferable to extended walks. Don’t forget about playtime at home, either.

7 Cold Weather Tips for Dogs | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

4. Beware of Antifreeze & Sidewalk De-Icers.

Antifreeze dripping under cars can be deadly to dogs, even in small amounts. And rock salt used to melt ice on sidewalks and road ways can cause irritation to dogs’ paws. Take care where you walk your dog to avoid these substances.

5. Some Dogs Need Warm Sweaters or Rain Coats.

Small dogs have a larger surface area for their body size and benefit from a warm, dry coat or sweater during cold weather. Dogs with short fur, even large dogs such as Whippets or Vislas, also appreciate dog clothing. And any dog would benefit from a rain coat around here this time of year!

6. Don’t Leave Your Dog Outside Too Long.

While dogs need exercise, they also need warmth and comfort. Leaving dogs outdoors in the cold make them miserable and some develop frostbite or die. Make sure your dog has access to a warm, comfortable place to rest and isn’t outdoors too long when temperatures are low.

7. Dogs Should Always Have Access to Fresh Water, Even When Outdoors.

Be sure your dog’s water bowl isn’t frozen and don’t use a metal bowl outdoors in cold weather because your dog’s tongue can get stuck! (Think of the flag pole when you were a kid). Heated water dishes are available for outside to prevent frozen water dishes.

Why Pet Surgery Costs What It Does

When it comes to surgical procedures, your pet’s comfort and safety is our utmost concern, and we don’t cut corners.

High Standards of Care

We strive to provide the level of care, service, and medically-trained, licensed staff we would want for our own pets or children. There are standards of care we will not breach to make a procedure less expensive. If needed, we may provide payment plans for established clients to spread out the cost of a procedure.

Why Pet Surgery Costs What It Does | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Individualized Care for Your Pet

To provide your pet with individualized care, our surgeries and dental procedures are scheduled, planned, and performed individually, not as an assembly line.

Customized Anesthetic Plan

Before we begin a procedure, we provide a courtesy pre-anesthetic doctor exam (a $63 value) where the doctor assesses your pet’s current health status and writes an individualized anesthetic and pain management plan.

For maximum safety and comfort, we customize the plan for each pet, taking into account the pet’s age and health status, as well as the type, duration and severity of pain that may accompany a procedure.

Pain Management Plan

We provide a multi-modal pain management to deliver consistent, reliable comfort using different classes of drugs that work together to provide pain management at lower, safer doses.

A typical multi-modal pain management plan may include:

  • pain injections before, during, and after the procedure for extra comfort
  • gas anesthesia and oxygen (via endotracheal tube for airway protection)
  • acupuncture to improve anesthesia
  • local anesthesia at the site of the incision or dental extractions
  • a dermal patch providing round-the-clock pain medication for three days after the procedure
  • oral pain medications to be given at home during the healing period

Pre-Anesthetic Laboratory Screening

For the safety of your pet and to assist in planning the procedure, we require pre-anesthetic laboratory screening within 30 days of a procedure to assess your pet’s internal organ functions.

We have negotiated with our reference lab to offer a mini panel (sufficient for most, but not all pets) at the lowest possible price. Lab screening also serves as wellness screening for your pet, setting an individualized baseline to which we can compare any future lab results.

General Anesthetic Best Practices

During all general anesthetic procedures, we place an IV catheter and provide intravenous fluids at a rate individually calculated for each pet, providing support to your pet’s cardiovascular system and kidneys. The catheter also provides immediate intravenous access in case of emergency.

Dedicated Surgical Veterinary Nurse

A separate trained and experienced veterinary nurse is dedicated to your pet to monitor anesthesia and vital signs throughout the entire procedure and recovery period. The technician carefully and continuously assesses blood pressure, oxygen saturation, pulse rate, respiration, tissue perfusion, comfort level, and body temperature.

Monitoring is accomplished through subjective methods (e.g., clinical appearance) and objective methods (e.g., electronic systems).

In anesthesia, seconds count. Immediately recognizing and responding to a change in patient parameters provides better patient outcomes, reduces stress during the procedure, and may help minimize overall procedure time.

Some clinics expect the person performing the procedure to also monitor anesthesia, but having a separate person solely responsible for anesthesia increases safety.

Sterile Surgical Suite

Our doctors perform surgery in a separate, sterile surgical suite and are capped, masked, gloved, and gowned. The anesthetic nurse is also capped and masked. Some clinics do not insist upon this level of sterility.

Courtesy Grooming Services

We provide courtesy grooming services while your pet is under anesthesia, including a nail trim and anal gland express (a $50 value) – two procedures many pets aren’t too enthused about while awake.

Padded E-Collar

We budget for and encourage the use of an Elizabethan collar (e-collar) for many surgeries to help keep your pet from licking his/her incision, causing self-trauma, infection, and pain. We have new padded collars that are more comfortable and better accepted by pets.

Discharge Appointment

We write individualized home care instructions, taking the time at your discharge appointment to review them with you and answer any questions you may have before your pet goes home.

Courtesy Re-Evaluation Exam and Suture Removal

We provide a courtesy re-evaluation exam (a $45 value) with the doctor within 7 days to check your pet’s healing progress. We also provide a courtesy suture removal appointment, if necessary, 10-14 days after a procedure.

All-Encompassing Cost Estimates

No one likes unwelcome surprises or tense conversations, so we try to provide an all-encompassing, “soup to nuts” treatment plan and cost estimate. We attempt to anticipate all costs associated with a procedure, while maintaining our standard of care (and providing courtesy services we think you’ll appreciate).

Cost Estimates for Non-Elective Procedures

With non-elective procedures, we may provide a cost range to attempt to encompass unknowns, and we’ll call you during the procedure if additional unknowns arise.

When asked for a cost quote, we don’t just quote for the procedure, as some clinics do, then surprise you with the cost of take-home medications, supplies, and recheck appointments that add to the total. We provide that information right up front. And we don’t cut corners.

4 Holiday Hazards to Keep Away from Your Cat

Gingerbread houses. Turkey and ham. Glittery tree ornaments. These holiday delights can be irresistible to your cat, but they can also be dangerous.

Here are 4 quick tips to keep your kitty safe and healthy during the holidays.

1. Don’t feed your cat leftovers or table scraps.

Fat-laden holiday foods can contribute to inflammation of the pancreas, causing discomfort and digestive trouble.

2. Don’t give the cat a bone, especially a poultry bone!

Cats love to jump on tables and steal things the second your back is turned. Keep cooked turkey bones out of your cat’s reach. These sharp bones can splinter and get stuck in your cat’s throat or digestive tract or cut into intestinal tissues.

3. Don’t feed your cat raw turkey giblets, kidneys, liver, or necks.

Since we’re talking turkey, when you’re prepping your turkey, double-bag the “innards” that are included inside the raw turkey and dispose of them. Raw meats are often contaminated with bacteria that can cause diarrhea, cramps, and upset tummies… or worse.

4. Keep kitty away from the Christmas tree.

This is a tough challenge, because cats love to play with the shiny, dangling ornaments and tinsel. They also enjoy drinking the toxic water at the base of the tree, climbing the tree, knocking over the tree, sharpening their claws on the trunk… you name it!

Both  artificial and live trees pose risks to your cat.

  • If they eat the needles off a live tree, it can puncture their intestines. If they eat the needles off an artificial tree (which is usually sprayed with fire retardant), they can experience intestinal blockage or thyroid disease.
  • If they swallow tinsel or ornaments, they can experience internal cuts and intestinal blockage.
  • If they chew dangling tree lights or extension cords, they can penetrate the insulation around the cords and get a severe tongue burn or electric shock.

5 Tips for Cat-Proofing Your Tree

4 Holiday Hazards to Keep Your Cat Away From | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

To deter your curious kitty from exploring or chewing on the tree, try spritzing a bitter apple spray, Citronella oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon or orange scent around the tree. Cats don’t like citrus scent, so you could also scatter orange peels under the tree.

To keep your cat from drinking chemically-treated tree water (which can be highly toxic), wrap aluminum foil over the base filled with water.

To stop kitty from chewing the bottom branches, spray the bottom limbs with tabasco sauce.

When hanging ornaments, tie them on with string or twine, rather than metal hooks (but be vigilant, as cats like to eat string, too!). Hang your most delicate decorations near the top of the tree.

Most importantly, keep your cat out of the room where the tree is located unless you are carefully supervising your cat!

How to Keep Outdoor Cats Warm in Winter


We’d prefer your cats are curled up at your feet on a cold winter night, but not all cats want to or are able to live indoors.

Here are some creative ideas for keeping outdoor cats (owned and feral) cozy in winter.

Outdoor Housing

Outdoor cats appreciate a warm place to curl up at night. This insulated cat shelter (pictured above) from K&H Pet Products is perfect for cats who sleep on porches and in garages or barns.

Insulated cat shelter

The shelter features a heated bed and two exits with removable clear door flaps to protect kitty from the elements.

Microwaveable Heating Pads

SnuggleSafe Heat Pads are a wonderful means of providing warmth on a cold night without the worry of electrical cords.

They’re used in veterinary hospitals, as well, to keep warm our recovering, young, and geriatric patients.

After microwaving the Frisbee-size disk per the manufacturer’s specific instructions, they provide warmth for 6-8 hours, sans cord.

Help Stop the Spread of Feral Cats

All cats, whether feral or owned, need to be spayed or neutered to help prevent the sad perpetuation of the feral cat problem in the United States.

Feeding unaltered cats, while noble, contributes to the birth of more feral kittens.

Trap/neuter/release programs, such as the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project, provide a safe, no-cost or low-cost means of altering free-roaming and tame/pet cats. These programs help thousands of cats every year.

Obesity in Dogs, and How to Prevent It

If you’ve watched the hit PBS series, All Creatures Great and Small, you’ve “met” Tricki Woo, the chubby Pekingese who belongs to the overindulgent Mrs. Pumphrey.

The wealthy Mrs. Pumphrey is a soft-touch in the food department, ordering hampers of gourmet treats for Tricki from Fortnum & Mason.

The three veterinarians, “Uncle Herriot,” Siegfried, and Tristan, regularly board Tricki at the clinic, where they feed him a healthy diet and give him plenty of exercise.

If, like Tricki, your dog eats a high-calorie, low-nutrient diet and lies around most of the time, he’ll likely puff up like Mrs. Pumphrey’s pampered Pekingese.

Overfeeding is the number one cause of canine obesity. In fact, more than 50% of the dogs in the United States are overweight or obese.

Overweight and obese dogs have increased risk of arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, heat exhaustion, and cancer. Obese dogs also have increased anesthetic risk should they require surgery.

We want our canine companions to enjoy a long, healthy life. In this article, you’ll learn about risk factors that can lead to obesity, and steps you can take to prevent your dog from becoming overweight or obese.

Predictors of canine obesity

Here are 7 common factors that contribute to canine obesity:

1. Diet

Dogs should be fed a healthy diet appropriate for their age, breed, and activity level. A healthy diet for dogs should be high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fat.

You can feed your dog a commercial dog food formulated for weight control, or you can make your own dog food at home. If you feed your dog commercial food, don’t rely on the recommendations on dog food labels; they often recommend too much or too little food.

Ask your veterinarian for advice on how much to feed, and measure your dog’s food and avoid overfeeding.

2. Sugary Treats

Some pet parents “reward” their dogs with sugar- and fat-laden treats.

As few as 30 extra calories per day can result in a weight gain of more than three pounds a year (similar to the way humans gradually pack on the pounds when we inhale high-calorie drinks, donuts, and snack crackers).

When you give your dog a treat, look for healthful low-calorie, no-sugar goodies, such as small slices of apple, banana, baby carrots, broccoli, or green beans.

Be aware of treat sizes. Dog treats come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. But when you feed a pocket dog three small treats, your pup may have just eaten an entire day’s worth of calories.

Chop treats into teeny-tiny pieces appropriate for your dog’s size. Your dog can’t do math – they won’t notice the size difference.

Some treats offer the added bonus of helping keep your dog’s teeth clean. Ask us to recommend healthy goodies.

3. Breed

Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to obesity than others. These breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Beagles, Basset Hounds, and Cocker Spaniels.

These breeds are often referred to as “food-motivated” breeds, and they are typically very good at begging for food. Since these breeds are at a higher risk of becoming obese, it’s important to not overfeed them.

4. Age

As dogs age, their metabolism slows down and they are more likely to gain weight.

Monitor your dog’s weight as they age and make adjustments to their diet and exercise routine as needed to help them maintain a healthy weight.

5. Gender

Male dogs are more likely to become obese than female dogs. This is because male dogs have higher levels of testosterone, which can promote weight gain.

6. Spayed or neutered status

Spayed and neutered dogs are more likely to become obese than intact dogs. This is because spaying and neutering can lead to changes in metabolism and appetite.

7. Activity level

Dogs that are not encouraged to be active or who live in homes where there is a lot of food available are more likely to become obese.

In addition, inactive dogs often have inactive pet parents. People who don’t exercise regularly or who are house-bound with their dog tend to overfeed their dog or to “love on them” with too many treats.

Dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Take them for a walk, run, or swim; play fetch, or sign them up for agility classes. If you are house-bound, consider hiring a dog-walker. Exercise helps dogs (and humans!) burn calories and prevents weight gain.

If you’re concerned that your dog may be overweight or obese, schedule an appointment with us. Call 206-323-4433.

During your pup’s exam, we’ll look at some of these predictors of canine obesity:

Body condition score (BCS)

A BCS is a measure of a dog’s body fat percentage. It is scored on a scale of 1 to 9, with 1 being emaciated and 9 being obese. A BCS of 5 is considered ideal for most dogs. A BCS of 6 or higher is considered overweight or obese.

Waist circumference

A dog’s waist circumference should be measured at the smallest part of their abdomen. A waist circumference that is greater than 40% of their body length is considered a risk factor for obesity.

Triglyceride levels

Triglycerides are a type of fat that is found in the blood. High triglyceride levels are a risk factor for obesity and other health problems, such as heart disease.

Leptin levels

Leptin is a hormone that helps to regulate appetite. Dogs that have low leptin levels are more likely to become obese.

Insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body’s cells do not respond properly to the hormone insulin. Insulin resistance can lead to weight gain and other health problems, such as diabetes.

Inflammatory markers

Inflammation is a natural response to injury or infection. However, chronic inflammation can contribute to obesity and other health problems.

Gut microbiome

The gut microbiome is the community of bacteria that live in the digestive tract. The gut microbiome is thought to play a role in a number of health conditions, including obesity.

Hypothyroidism

When the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, it can lead to weight gain, as well as other symptoms, such as lethargy and hair loss.

Cushing’s syndrome

When the body produces too much cortisol, this can lead to weight gain, as well as other symptoms such as increased thirst and urination.

If your dog is found to be at risk for obesity, your veterinarian will help you develop a weight loss plan for your dog and can monitor their progress.

Create an environment that discourages obesity.

To help your dog maintain a healthy weight…

  • Don’t feed your dog table scraps (often high in fat and calories).
  • Don’t give your dog treats high in fat and sugar (see Tricki Woo, above).
  • Keep food out of reach of your dog.
  • Feed your dog measured portions at regular times each day. This will keep them from becoming too hungry and begging for food.
  • Make sure your dog has plenty of opportunities to be active.

If your dog is already obese, it is important to work with your veterinarian to develop a plan to help them lose weight safely and gradually. Rapid weight loss can be dangerous for dogs.

Tips for helping your obese dog lose weight:

  • Feed your dog a weight-loss diet.
  • Increase your dog’s exercise level gradually.
  • Avoid giving your dog treats.
  • Monitor your dog’s weight loss and adjust their diet and exercise plan as needed.

Losing weight can take time and effort, but it is important for your dog’s long-term health.

Pumpkin: A Dog’s Best Friend

Pumpkin: A Dog’s Best Friend | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Have you enjoyed one of those gigantic Costco pumpkin pies?

Or perhaps you prefer to whip up a homemade pumpkin pie.

But did you know that pumpkin can be good for your dog? (Not pumpkin pie, but pureed pumpkin).

Health benefits of pumpkin

Pureed pumpkin is low in fat and cholesterol, is an excellent source of fiber, and can help combat several common gastrointestinal maladies:

Diarrhea – the fiber in pumpkin can act as a sponge that absorbs excess water within the gastrointestinal tract.

Constipation – fiber can ease stool passage and can create bulk inside the colon that helps relieve constipation.

Weight loss – pumpkin gives your dog a sense of a full stomach, so if Bowser is on a diet, pumpkin can make the reduction in food quantity more tolerable.

Before feeding pumpkin to your dog

The amount of pumpkin your dog needs will vary from 1 tsp per meal for a small dog to nearly half a cup for a large dog. Before feeding your dog pumpkin, contact us to ask whether:

(1) your dog could benefit from pumpkin
(2) how much pumpkin he should eat
(3) what type of pumpkin we recommend

You’ll want to avoid feeding your dog canned pumpkin pie filling, which is about 90% water and has added sugar, fat, and seasonings. Instead, look for pure pumpkin puree or pumpkin formulated specially for pets.

3 Dangerous Halloween Candies to Keep Away From Your Dog

Halloween Dog

Halloween is one of the most poisonous holidays for dogs. We humans leave bags and bowls of chocolate candy out, and our curious pups discover it and gorge.

3 Dangerous Halloween Candies to Keep Away From Your Dog | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

The darker and less sweet the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. So be extra careful to store unsweetened baking chocolate squares and semi-sweet nibs out of your pup’s reach.

The toxic ingredient in chocolate is methylxanthines (called theobromine) and caffeine. Mild ingestion (1-2 mini candy bars) may cause agitation/restlessness, panting, vomiting, or diarrhea. Symptoms of mild chocolate poisoning usually appear within 6 to 12 hours after your dog eats chocolate, and may last up to 72 hours.

If your dog eats a lot of chocolate, symptoms may include a racing heart rate, very high blood pressure, and abnormal heart rhythm.

Severe poisoning may cause tremors, seizures and rarely, death.

Unsure how much chocolate could cause a toxic reaction in your dog?

Check out this Toxicity Meter for Dogs. Input your dog’s weight and the amount and type of chocolate consumed and you’ll get suggestions on how to monitor your dog.

Note: We don’t vouch for the reliability of the toxicity meter and the meter does not constitute medical advice. The meter is merely an informational tool.

Keep Sugar-Free Candy Out of Your Dog’s Reach

3 Dangerous Halloween Candies to Keep Away From Your Dog | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Sugar-free candies are also dangerous to dogs. Certain candies, mints, baked goods, yogurt, peanut butter, and chewing gum can contain large amounts of xylitol, a natural sugar-free sweetener that can cause low blood sugar and even liver damage in dogs.

Symptoms of xylitol poisoning may include weakness, vomiting, lethargy, collapse, racing heart rate, and general malaise.

Raisins Are Highly Toxic to Dogs, Too!

3 Dangerous Halloween Candies to Keep Away From Your Dog | AtlanticVetSeattle.com

Keep your dog away from those tiny-but-toxic boxes of raisins, too. When dogs accidentally ingest raisins, grapes, and certain currants, acute kidney damage can result.

Symptoms may include vomiting, belly pain, bad breath, excessive or decreased thirst or urination, or generalized malaise.

What To Do If Your Dog Ingests Toxins

If your dog has eaten chocolate, sugar-free candy, raisins, or grapes and is exhibiting symptoms, call us immediately at 206-323-4433. If you can’t reach us, call the 24-hour emergency hospital at 206-624-9111.

Emergency Home Remedy: Induce Vomiting

You can also induce vomiting by giving your dog a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide. Mix the peroxide with water or vanilla ice cream to make it easier for your dog to swallow.

After administering the hydrogen peroxide, take your dog on a walk for about 15 minutes. The activity will help induce vomiting (and you’d rather have that happen outdoors).

If your dog does not vomit within 30 minutes, do NOT give her more hydrogen peroxide.

If you can’t get your dog to vomit feed her something she likes eating, which will help dilute the chocolate in her system and reduce the potency of the theobromine.

Keep your furry family member safe…

Store chocolate, foods containing xylitol, raisins and grapes far out of your dog’s reach.

Atlantic Veterinary Hospital in Seattle serves the following neighborhoods: Mt. Baker, Columbia City, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Seward Park, Capitol Hill, Leschi, Central District, Madison Valley, International District, and Georgetown.