The closing of the year includes travel for many people. For those with pets, the question arises of whether or not to board your pet for the duration of holiday travel. By taking note of a few boarding do’s and don’ts, you can help ensure a stress-free time for you and your pet this holiday season.

Believe it or note, there are many benefits when boarding your pet. Boarding can be safe—and often fun—for your furry family member.

  • DO research boarding camps and kennels in your area and compare reputability. Visit facilities first-hand to get a feel for the level of care and comfort provided.
    •  “Get recommendations,” said Richard Schlatter, general manager of Green Leaf Pet Resort.
  • DON’T wait until last minute to confirm your pet’s stay.
    •  “Book your stay early,” said Schlatter. “Many facilities will book up just as hotels do.”
  • DO make certain your cat or dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and is in good health. Most boarding facilities require this as a prerequisite to boarding. It helps keep your pet, and the pets of others safe and healthy during their stay.
  • DO inform the kennel of any special needs your pet may have. Does your pet have allergy medication or need a special supplement? Does your dog get anxious during storms? Make sure to let the staff know.
    • “I always label all of my stuff and type up any feeding/medication directions,” said Becca Spalding, claims administrator at PetFirst and frequent boarder. “The easier I can make it for the employees, the less they have to call me or second guess the care they are giving to my pets.”
  • DO drop off a comfort item with your furry friend. If your pet is prone to homesickness or anxiety, a beloved blanket or toy will help ease the transition for the time you’ll be out of town.
  • DON’T be overbearing. The staff of reputable facilities are pet-lovers too. Trust they will take care of your pet. Don’t call multiple times a day or give them an exhaustive list of down-to-the-minute times of when your pet needs to sleep or be given a special treat.
  • DO thank the staff and tip for services when picking up your canine or feline family member. They’ve been working hard to ensure your pet is happy and healthy while you were away. Make sure to express your gratitude on behalf of your less vocal counterpart.
  • DON’T worry if your pet is tired and sleeps much of the time upon your reunion. He’s been spending his time playing with other pooches all day in a new environment. Now that he’s home with his family, he’ll feel comfortable to rest. You’ll have plenty of much-wanted play time together before long.

Altogether, the end of the holiday season carries much fun for you and your pets. Whether your canine or feline counterparts travel alongside you this season, or they’re given their own vacation at a resort, camp or boarding facility, we wish safe and happy celebrations to all.

About PetFirst

PetFirst is the fastest growing pet insurer in North America offering easy-to-understand lifelong coverage for dogs and cats. PetFirst’s comprehensive coverage is unique in the industry providing simplified policies with coverage for hereditary, chronic and breed-specific conditions with no per-diagnosis limits.  PetFirst offers pet insurance in all 50 states and the District of Columbia through animal welfare agencies, retailers, employers as well as other partners.  PetFirst polices are underwritten by American Alternative Insurance Corporation (Munich Re) which is rated by A.M. Best as A+.  Additional services are underwritten by Lloyd’s.  For more information about PetFirst pet insurance, visit or call 877-894-7387.

Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals Warns of Cold Weather Dangers for Pets

As the temperatures outside start to decrease and you prepare for colder weather, it’s important to also ready your pets for the winter.  Marla Lichtenberger, DVM, DACVECC, owner of the Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals, offers advice to pet owners on how to prevent harm to your animals this winter.
“During the winter, we spend much more time indoors because of the cold.  It’s important to make sure our homes are safe places for animals.” –Dr. Lichtenberger
Many types of houseplants can be poisonous to dogs.  Dr. Lichtenberger recommends keeping plants out of pets’ reach.  If eaten, animals may experience vomiting and diarrhea, as well as more severe or even fatal reactions.  Keeping warm by burning candles, fireplaces or space heaters can create the possibility of burns and, potentially, a house fire.  Never leave animals unattended near these items.  Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a threat to pets as well as people.  Furnaces and heaters should always be evaluated for any leakage.   Checking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors will help protect your pets and family.
“We can have a great deal of fun outdoors in the winter with our pets, but it’s important to remember that animals are susceptible to frostbite, hypothermia and many other cold weather hazards,” adds Lichtenberger.
In addition to keeping your pets warm, it’s also important to know the hazards of chemicals like ice melts, salts and anti-freeze.  These can all be toxic and cause serious complications if they are ingested or get stuck to animal’s paws.  It’s best to always wash the bottoms of their paws after your pet has been outside.
The holiday season brings a new list of hazards to animals from Christmas trees to ornaments to electrical wires.  Human holiday food like chocolate, coffee, nuts and alcohol, can all be dangerous to pets.  Make sure items such as these are kept out of reach of animals.  We all want our pets to enjoy the holidays with us.  By taking a few precautions and preventative measures, they can be protected from many common winter hazards.
Located in Greenfield, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals (MECA), a state of the art facility, is Wisconsin’s premier 24-hour vet animal hospital for critical pet emergencies and is the leading provider of veterinary surgery services.  Dr. Marla Lichtenberger, DVM, DACVECC, the owner of MECA, is a highly respected and knowledgeable veterinarian critical care specialist, dedicated to critical emergency and surgical care of dogs and cats, as well as exotic animals. MECA’s patients consist of walk-in emergencies, critical animal care or emergency vet animal hospital surgical referrals.

Goldens Holiday House celebrates 11th year

Hard to believe, but the holiday season is just around the corner once again! Celebrate the beginning of the holidays, and help a Golden Retriever rescue raise funds to help its dogs. Wisconsin Adopt A Golden Retriever (WAAGR) will hold its 11th annual Goldens Holiday House on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. WAAGR, an all-volunteer/member Golden Retriever rescue organization, will host the event at the home of one of WAAGR’s founding members, N61 W12851 Hemlock Court, in the River Heights South subdivision, Menomonee Falls, Wis.

The home will be decorated with 30 trees, including a Wizard of Oz tree, a snowman tree, and a tree dedicated to Jolly Old St. Nick himself. WAAGR Board member Barb Hart, who hosts the event with her husband Jim, begins decorating her home for the event in October. This year’s event also will feature a baked goods sale, silent auction, complimentary refreshments, and plenty of Golden Retrievers to greet attendees. A $5 donation is requested to attend the Goldens’ Holiday House, with kids under 12 admitted for free. All proceeds from the event go to help the Goldens in WAAGR’s care that are awaiting new homes. So far in 2014, WAAGR has helped 60 dogs.

“As a nonprofit organization with no paid staff, we rely on the generosity of individuals who want to help provide a safe and happy life for Golden Retrievers, that, for whatever reason, have lost their homes,” said WAAGR President Mary Schmittinger. “We look forward to seeing you at our final fundraiser of 2014, and appreciate all the support we have had throughout this year!”

Goldens Holiday House, by the numbers:

  • The tallest tree decorated for the event is 12 feet, the shortest is two feet tall.
  • Barb Hart said she has collected more than 2,000 Hallmark ornaments in 35 years, which adorn all but one of the trees.

About Wisconsin Adopt A Golden Retriever

Wisconsin Adopt A Golden Retriever received its 501(c)(3) February 2005 and helped its first dogs in May of that year. WAAGR’s mission is “to provide bright new beginnings to displaced Golden Retrievers.” WAAGR is an all-volunteer/member rescue organization based in southeastern Wisconsin, also serving the Madison area and the Fox Cities/Green Bay areas. For more information about WAAGR and adoption, visit


Pet Talk: Biting off more than they can chew

As doting pet owners, we find our dogs’ eager and curious natures utterly irresistible. After all, who can say no those puppy-dog eyes when you open up a bag of new dog treats? However, this endearing characteristic often leads to biting off more of the bone than they can chew. Literally.

“Fortunately, dogs do not ‘choke’ as often, meaning that they don’t get things lodged in their throat causing them not to be able to breathe,” said Dr. James Barr, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Most commonly, they swallow things that are too big to pass and end up stuck in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines.”

Although bones and other dog treats typically don’t cause any harm, many dogs will try to swallow them whole. What looks like a bone that will last all week to you may be a quick, after dinner snack to them.

“The most common thing that causes actual choking are dog treats like rawhides that can be swallowed,” said Dr. Barr. “Bones and rawhides to a dog that chews them well pose little threat, but dogs that want to quickly ingest their treats are the ones most likely to get things stuck in their throat. Though it’s too big to swallow, they try anyway.”

As one might guess, puppies are more likely than older dogs to swallow something that they aren’t supposed to or take too big of a bite. Because of this, it is important that they have careful supervision until they are out of their “toddler” phase and can be trusted to be alone.

“Children’s toys are common household items not unusual for dogs to ingest. These can include small dolls, trucks, or balls,” said Dr. Barr. “Also, poorly socialized dogs that are food aggressive are more likely to swallow household items.”

Even if Fido properly chews his food before swallowing and knows better than to eat the tennis ball, accidents still happen. If your dog is choking or has something stuck in his stomach, it is best to get to the veterinarian immediately.

“There is not a universally accepted Heimlich maneuver in dogs, but it would stand to reason that a similar thing could work in a dog,” said Dr. Barr. “However, it can be very dangerous to try to remove the obstruction in their throat with your hands while a dog is still awake, which why it is necessary to get them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.”

More often than not, keeping your dog from choking is possible. Try to put children’s toys and other household items that are small enough to ingest out of sight, and—keeping your dog’s personality in mind—decide what types of treats and bones are safe to provide.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed online at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to
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Ebola and Pets

As officials in Spain recently euthanized a dog for being exposed to Ebola, and the dog of a Texas nurse who became infected with Ebola is currently in quarantine, doctors from BluePearl Veterinary Partners want to share the information that is known about pets and Ebola.

“When it comes to Ebola and how this infectious disease interacts with our pets, there really isn’t a ton of information available,” said Dr. Jennifer Welser, chief medical officer of BluePearl Veterinary Partners. “However, we’ve done our best to put together a list of the important things we do currently know.”

  • Diseases that can pass between humans and animals are referred to as zoonotic diseases. This is important because 62 percent of American households have at least one pet according to a 2012 Humane Society survey. Because of this, veterinarians play a vital role in recognizing and preventing the spread of disease.
  • Ebola is zoonotic, but the extent to which it actually affects animals is not well known. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scientists believe that the first patient became infected through contact with an infected animal, such as a fruit bat or primate (apes and monkeys), which is called a spillover event. Person-to-person transmission follows and can lead to large numbers of affected persons. In the current West African epidemic, animals have not been found to be a factor in ongoing Ebola transmission.
  • As for dogs and cats becoming infected with Ebola,there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola, even though they may develop antibodies from exposure to the disease.Certainly a greater understanding of the effects of Ebola on dogs and cats is needed.
  • According to the CDC, the risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people in the United States is very low. Therefore, the risk to pets is also very low. Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola.
  • Beyond the more common household pets, some people do keep monkeys as pets. According to the CDC, monkeys are at risk for Ebola. Symptoms of Ebola infection in monkeys include fever, decreased appetite and sudden death. Monkeys should not be allowed to have contact with anyone who may have Ebola. Healthy monkeys already living in the United States and without exposure to a person infected with Ebola are not at risk for spreading Ebola.
  • If there is a pet in the home of an Ebola patient, the CDC recommends that veterinarians, in collaboration with public health officials, evaluate the pet’s risk of exposure. Appropriate measures, such as closely monitoring the exposed pet while taking necessary precautions, should be put in place.

Scientists and veterinarians with the American Veterinary Medical Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the CDC and many other partners are continuing to work together to develop additional guidance for the U.S. pet population.

“Besides being doctors to animals, veterinarians play a key role in public health and disease prevention,” Welser said. “Veterinarians throughout the U.S. and around the world work together with human health officials to keep the public safe.”

About BluePearl Veterinary Partners
BluePearl Veterinary Partners employs 1,800 team members including more than 450 veterinarians. BluePearl hospitals offer referral-only, specialty care services and most offer 24-hour emergency care. BluePearl does not provide primary care. The company is one of the world’s principal providers of approved veterinary residency and internship programs. BluePearl also participates in clinical trials that investigate the effectiveness of new veterinary drugs and treatments, providing pet families access to cutting-edge medicine that is not yet commercially available. BluePearl is headquartered in Tampa, Fla.

Learn To Massage Your Dog

Caring dog owners can now take the welfare of their canine friend one step further by learning the art of dog massage through a new series of unique online courses.

The courses have been developed by qualified McTimoney Animal practitioner, Nikki Routledge MSc, who has worked for 12 years as an animal therapist.  Nikki has a vast amount of experience teaching her clients how to massage their dogs and has seen how this can benefit the dog’s wellbeing.  Drawing on her experience in animal therapy consultations and instruction in animal massage skills, Nikki has produced a set of easy to follow and convenient to use online courses to enable all dog owners to learn more about assessing their own animals and to how to apply basic effective massage.

“There are times when an animal needs a professional to assess their condition and apply the necessary therapeutic treatment, but there is a huge amount an owner can do as well. I have had cases where I am sure the benefits of a daily gentle massage by the owner of an animal have improved the animal’s health and well-being beyond that expected.” says Nikki.

Canine massage has many benefits, the focus can be on a decrease in tension in the muscles, on returning to a full range of movement within the joints, or even to increase the bond between the dog and owner.  Massage also promotes increased circulation and a decrease in muscle fatigue.

Applicants start with a basic six week online massage course which teaches the essentials and is suitable for all dog owners. Then for those who wish to learn more, there are further courses to develop your massage skills and knowledge particularly for competition animals and those with long term injuries or conditions.

Nikki Routledge holds an MSc in McTimoney Animal Manipulation and two BSc (Hons) in Equine Science and Psychology. By combining her love and study of animals with the study of human psychology, Nikki has been able to appreciate exactly how important it is to consider all factors in the health and care of animals, and how in doing so, this reflects in the quality of life for the human owner too. Nikki has taught in a range of environments, including at MSc level for the last twelve years, and has now developed online pet massage courses to help people and animals all over the world experience the benefits and joy of such a wonderful skill.

For more information and online enrollment, go to

Canine Diabetes, or Diabetes Mellitus, is a Common Disease in Dogs & is the Result of Inadequate Insulin Production

“Canine diabetes is usually caused by an immune mediated attack on the pancreas, which is likely related to genetic predispositions,” said Dr. Audrey Cook, associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “It may also be secondary to chronic pancreatitis, or may occur in intact females following their heat cycle.”

Some predisposed breeds include the cairn terrier, the dachshund, and miniature poodles. Although these breeds have a higher incidence than others, all dogs have a chance of becoming affected.

Diabetes mellitus is known to cause excessive thirst and urination due to the high concentrations of glucose in the bloodstream. “Hunger is also a common symptom in the early stages of diabetes, followed by rapid weight loss,” said Dr. Cook. “Vision loss is sometimes reported.”

Glucose appears in the urine, and can predispose the patient to urinary tract infections. Left untreated, other signs such as vomiting, dehydration and lethargy are expected.

“It is usually recommended that the dog receives insulin by injection twice a day,” said Dr. Cook. “Unlike many human diabetics, we cannot manage this disease with diet or oral medications. Canine diabetes is generally irreversible, and dogs will need insulin therapy for the rest of their lives. However, if diabetes develops soon after a heat cycle, some females may undergo remission following a spay.”

Each diabetic dog varies, so you will need to consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate insulin dose and treatment regimen for your pet.

It is also important that insulin injections are administered properly, so it is advised to have your veterinarian instruct and observe you giving the insulin to your dog. At first you may be nervous giving your dog an injection, but you can quickly learn how to do this with very little stress for your pet or for you.

Another important part of diabetes management is ensuring that your dog follows a consistent, stable routine. “They should be fed two meals a day of a well-balanced, high quality diet,” said Dr. Cook, “and definitely no table scraps.”

Although diabetes mellitus can’t be cured, the condition can be successfully managed, helping your dog to lead a happy, active life.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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