Holidays & Pets – Your Questions Answered

When we travel over the holidays, we often take our dog with us.  Unfortunately, he vomits every time.  Is there anything that we could do to make him not get car sick?

It seems as though your dog is suffering from motion sickness. There are a few options available to deal with your dog’s problem with carsickness. The first, and easiest, is to just avoid having the dog in the car unless completely necessary. You can limit the dog’s car rides to just trips to the veterinarian, groomer, and other absolutely required destinations. Other options include modifying your dog’s behavior. We do this through a process called systematic desensitization and counterconditioning. The end result of this training would be to modify the dog’s behavior in a way that will make him feel less fear and anxiety while riding in the car and eliminate the expectation of nausea every time he gets in the car. This can be a long and slow process, however, and most veterinarians use medications to help with carsickness in their canine patients. It might be easiest to start with an over-the-counter medication like Benadryl. Please be advised that you will need to get a dosage from your veterinarian first, before giving this drug to your animal. Along with its antihistamine effects, this drug aids in the prevention of motion sickness, and might be able to calm anxiety by making your animal sleepy. Another over-the-counter drug that could be used is more popular for humans and is called Dramamine. It is used to prevent motion sickness, and once again you will need to get a dosage from your veterinarian before starting this medication. If these over-the-counter medications drugs aren’t effective, then your veterinarian might have to prescribe something for your dog. One prescription medication that your veterinarian might try is called Acepromazine. This drug is a tranquilizer and is mainly used to prevent anxiety or calm you dog during car rides. It must be given a few hours before your anticipated trip to have the most effect. Another drug that can be prescribed is Meclizine. This drug is used to prevent and treat nausea, vomiting, and dizziness produced by motion sickness. By far, the most popular medication veterinarian’s use to treat canine carsickness is called Cerenia. This drug is a powerful anti-emetic, and will prevent nausea and vomiting, and has a specific indication for carsickness in dogs on the label.  Please contact your veterinarian for more information concerning your dog’s carsickness problem.

We just recently adopted a dog and need to find care for him over the Holidays.  What should we look for when boarding our pet?

Boarding pets can be a source of stress for many people, but it does not have to be if you know how to choose the right facility. When you are beginning your search for a boarding facility, your veterinarian can recommend several in your area to help get you started. Before selecting one, visit the facility and find out some key information. Also ask your veterinarian if they offer boarding, some clinics will offer this service to their clients. Boarding kennels should allow you to tour their facility and view where your pet will be cared for.

On your tour pay attention to several things:

  • Are the runs/cages large enough for your pet?
  • Are the runs/cages clean?
  • Are the runs/cages secure in order to prevent escape of a pet?
  • Does the facility have a displeasing odor?
  • Are dogs given indoor/outdoor access?
  • Are dogs given a bed or platform to get them off the floor?
  • Are cats housed separately from the dogs?

If you are dissatisfied with any of the above components of the facility, you may wish to tour a different facility. A facility that has a strong odor may suggest improper ventilation or a lack of daily cleaning.  You should select a facility that requires appropriate vaccinations for all pets including the Bordetella (Kennel Cough) vaccine for dogs to help protect your pet. Find out when staff members are present at the facility. If your pet has special needs or a serious medical condition, you may want to select a kennel that is staffed 24/7 so that your pet can be promptly taken care of should a problem arise. When you are touring the facility, find out how medical emergencies are taken care of. Some facilities have a veterinarian on call, while others transport the pet for care. If your pet has any existing medical conditions, make sure that the staff is able and willing to give medications and provide treatments for your pet.

It is important to keep your pet on its own diet while boarding to avoid digestive upset such as vomiting or diarrhea. You should ask about bringing your pet’s food because some facilities do not allow you to bring it and others charge an additional fee to feed your pet’s own diet. Selecting the right kennel for your pet can take time, but it will keep them happy and healthy while you are away. For more information on what to ask when selecting a boarding facility, you can visit

Are poinsettias poisonous to dogs and cats?

The myth that poinsettias are toxic began in the early 1900s when an Army officer’s young son passed away after having eaten a leaf from the plant. It was never medically or scientifically proven that the poinsettia caused his illness and eventually the story was determined to be a rumor. Unfortunately, this rumor persists today to confuse many holiday decorators.  In 1971 The Ohio State University ran a battery of tests on the poinsettia plant to see if they were poisonous. Their experiments showed no death, disease or loss of appetite after eating the plant. Although this analysis shows poinsettias will not cause severe illness, they do contain a milky white sap that can be irritating to the skin, eyes or gut. If your pet comes into contact with a poinsettia, they may develop an itchy rash or red, watery eyes. When eaten, the plant may cause irritation of the mouth, vomiting or occasionally diarrhea. Most pets will experience mild discomfort but will not need medical treatment. Moreover, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center describes the plant as “generally over-rated in toxicity”.  Like in humans, vomiting pets are at risk of dehydration if they continue to be sick over an extended period of time. In this situation you should contact your veterinarian to see if they recommend treatment to replace fluids and electrolytes lost in the vomit. If you are concerned about skin contact with the sap a bath with mild soap and water may be beneficial.  Have no fear when decorating your home this holiday season. Poinsettias are beautiful plants to warm your home with their many of colors (I’m partial to the traditional reds). Even though they’re non-toxic, it may be easier to avoid the situation altogether by leaving the plants out of pets’ reach on a mantle or in a hanging basket. For more information on this topic check out the link.

The holidays are a time of gathering with friends and families, remember our furry friends are curious and want to also be involved in the festivities.  A little bit of planning can ensure that everyone is safe and enjoys the season.

Happy Holidays!