A Christmas Journey: Understanding how the Holy Family felt
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist , Observer Today
The semester had just ended. There was an air of excitement and exhilaration in the student body at the University of Illinois, School of Veterinary Medicine as we all packed up to head home for Christmas. Finals were done, and we wouldn’t be back for classes until January. Although it was a long and monotonous trip, I was excited to make the 10-hour drive home across the corn fields of Illinois and Indiana, up through Ohio, and Pennsylvania and finally the last stretch through New York to home. There on our little hobby farm I would see my fiance Daryl, my family, and my pets I had left behind.
It was December 23, the day before Christmas Eve as I packed my clothes, my two bearded dragons Hydra and Drake that I had hand raised from babies, my elderly Siamese cat Angel, and my loyal Papillon Foxy. Foxy sat in the passenger seat while Angel rode in my lap. Hydra and Drake enjoyed sitting on the dashboard right on the heat vents of my 1991 Honda Accord.
My Honda was the most reliable car I had ever owned. Handed down to me from my Grandma, it made many 600-mile trips back and forth to school. It never gave me any problems and it would prove to me this day its reliability. I had gotten a bit of a late start that morning as my roommate and I closed up our apartment for the break. The first stretch was across Illinois, crossing into Indiana. It was a cool and crisp but sunny day. They were calling for snow in Indiana and Ohio, but a little snow never deterred me after living in the great snow belt of Chautauqua County. It would be about 5 hours to my halfway point, Columbus, Ohio.
The pets were all resting comfortably in their places as we headed through Indiana. It had started to snow as we drove through Indianapolis. After leaving the city, the snow was picking up a bit and the roads were not plowed very well. The whole last half of Indiana, I saw one snow plow and there was no salt on the roads. It was quite dark already due to the snow clouds ahead. As I continued to drive in my sturdy old car, I came upon a truck off the side of the road. Eventually there would be more vehicles off the road as I crossed into Ohio. The snow was coming down harder the farther I drove and the traffic was backing up. It seemed like the Midwest was overwhelmed by the storm and did not have the means to handle the heavy snow that night.
Now this was before cell phones had become a permanent attachment and a necessity. I had yet to acquire and embrace one of these new technological advancements. I pulled off the road to get some gas and called my parents from a pay phone to let them know I wasn’t sure if I’d be making it home that night. I was anxious as it was getting dark and I didn’t know if I should keep driving or make a stop for a few hours. I decided to keep driving. At this point I was somewhere near Dayton, Ohio.
I had put the two Beardies back in their cage, and was grateful I had my faithful Foxy and sweet Angel to help calm me and keep me company as I continued to drive. The snow and the traffic continued to get worse. I looked at my road map and decided to get off the interstate to attempt driving on a road that ran parallel to the poorly plowed highway.
It seems other people had the same idea and soon I came across backed up traffic again. Up ahead of me there was a bridge and a sharp curve in the road. Two cars that had gotten in an accident were blocking the way and a large semi was stuck in the snow right behind the accident. I had no other choice but to turn around and head back to the interstate. I continued to drive going about 30 miles per hour until I was somewhere outside of Columbus, Ohio. By this time it had been about 8 and hours since I had left my apartment in Illinois.
I finally decided to pull off the road and find a place to stay for the night. As I stopped at the well known hotels I was turned down immediately, as there were no rooms available. I continued to drive and see signs that said “No vacancy” I now understood what it felt like for Joseph and a very pregnant Mary those many years ago as they traveled to Bethlehem looking for a place to stay. They were turned down time and time again until the only place left was the stable with the animals. I could just feel their desperation. Weary with traveling the many miles, Mary burdened with aches and pains from pregnancy and possibly the start of contractions as she was to give birth to God’s son that night. I asked one of the hotel staff why there were no rooms. The whole city of Columbus had been without electricity from the storm and people were coming in droves to stay in the nearby hotels and motels.
I was desperate and finally came to the last hotel on that road. It was called the “Best Inn” and looked like a small run-down privately owned hotel. It was my last chance. There was a drive through window to check for vacancy. I drove up trying to hide my pets from their view. I had a pleading look on my face as I asked for a room.
“Yes, we happen to have only a couple of rooms available!” Thank God! I pulled around to my room with my family of pets in tow and had the best sleep that night. The next morning I woke up early and left for home. It took me approximately 3 hours to get north to where the roads would be clear. Coming close to Cleveland, the snow was deeper, but the roads were clear! We made that last stretch home in a breeze. As I pulled into my driveway that Christmas Eve, I couldn’t help but be grateful and thankful for safe travels, for a place to stay, and for a house and family to go home to. I was grateful for the opportunity that God had given me to be accepted to veterinary school and for my wonderful pets that night that helped me through a very difficult trip home even the bearded dragons.
As you create your own Christmas memories this year, consider how much we are blessed with. Be thankful that God has given us the job as caretakers of His creatures and that in return for our care, they give us never-ending love and companionship. Please consider including your pets in your celebration of the holidays this year and also remember what the holidays are about. May God bless you and your family and safe travels from the doctors and staff of the Dunkirk Animal Clinic.
By DR, REBEKAH FROST – OBSERVER Columnist , Observer Today
A beautiful dark red 10-month-old female Golden Retriever hopped in the car happily wagging her tail. She was extremely excited to be going for another ride away from home. Little did she know that she would not be going back home on that cold wintry February day. The back country road off of the main road looked like a good place to go. The car stopped at the next intersection and the young dog was pushed out the door and left there. She did not know where to go. There was a house across the road but there was a black dog barking at her. The snow banks were too high, so she headed down the road to hopefully find a warm place. By the time she got to the next house she was cold and scared. But there was an open garage door to protect her from the cold. She went inside the garage door, so much like her old home and waited. It seemed like hours but a truck pulled into the driveway; then a car. Out of the vehicles came a man and a woman. The Golden Retriever was so excited to see people! The people were talking. The woman came over and patted her on the head. The door to the house was opened as an invitation to the young dog. In she went and 5 years later she is still living in her new home. We named her Chili dog and she is a member of our family!
A grey kitten named Breezy was born under a porch in the middle of the city. The people who lived in the house did not want more cats in the neighborhood. As soon as the kittens were old enough, they were trapped and taken to the local humane society. There the grey kitten lived for 6 months watching the hundreds of people pass by her cage. She did not have any special markings and she wasn’t overly friendly because of her background. One day a young girl who had been volunteering with the shelter dogs took a walk through the cat area. Her mom was with her and they were looking for a cat to help control the rodents on the farm. The grey kitten would fit in perfectly they thought. She was brought home and put in the barn with a giant hayloft. But farm life was not meant for the grey kitten named Breezy. The other cats on the farm chased her up trees where she would stay for days. One day she was running from one of the other cats and she got her self stuck on the barbed wire fence. The young girl who had always been so nice to her took her to the vet’s office to have her belly stitched where she had been hung on the fence. She could not be put back outside again. Fortunately the girl was going away to school and was able to take a cat with her. Breezy was excited to be chosen and thoroughly enjoyed apartment life away from all the dangers outside. Breezy made her way 10 hours back home to NY and has been living with our family for the past 10 years!
A young bay standardbred colt with long gangly legs was born to his mother in Indiana on a warm summer day. Howie enjoyed long naps in the grass and playing around his mother. The day came to be weaned and he was taken to a different barn with other young horses. From that point , his training began. He was taught to wear a halter and a harness. He was taught to pull a cart behind him. Eventually he was taken into a large area with a track that went in a circle. He was taught to pull that cart in a circle and go as fast as he could with those long legs. He learned that when the other horses next to him went fast he was supposed to go fast too. But he never had the competitive spirit to keep up with the other horses. He mostly enjoyed going back to his stall and eating his hay. By the time he was 4 years old, he hadn’t won many races. His owner at the time, a very kind elderly man had just raced him in Ohio and he placed near the end of the group. Racing just wasn’t his favorite thing to do. Next thing he knew he was being loaded into a different trailer and headed to a different barn. He was taken out of the trailer by a nice girl and put out on pasture with other horses that looked just like him. Memories came back to him what he was supposed to do with grass pasture. But he wasn’t sure how to fit in with a herd of horses. Howie had been donated to the Starting Gaits Standardbred rescue in Ohio. He was started under saddle and came to live with us shortly after. Within two weeks of coming off the racetrack, he was taking my 5-year-old daughter for a ride. He has learned how to become a horse how to fit in with other horses and be on pasture all day. He is the most gentle and kind horse we have ever owned and we are so glad to have him as part of our family.
Every one of these pets was a rescued pet. Please consider adopting an abandoned pet, a rescued pet, or a pet who needs a new purpose in life like Howie the Standardbred. It could have ended badly for any one of these pets. Many pets may sit in a shelter for weeks, months, and even years. Some kill shelters are so overrun that if the pet has not been adopted, they are euthanized. Many of the retired racehorses become an overworked buggy horse or go to a meat auction. Please consider opening your home and your heart to one of these pets. Please support our local shelters the Lake Shore Humane Society, the Chautauqua County Humane Society, the Northern Chautauqua Canine Rescue, Westfield Stray Cat Rescue, and many other breed specific rescue organizations like Second Chance Boxer Rescue. Give one of these deserving pets a chance!
Fall Fun with your Pets
By DR, REBEKAH FROST – OBSERVER Columnist , Observer Today
The air is filled with the smell of crisp dried leaves and the days are becoming shorter. Apple picking, pumpkin carving, jumping in piles of raked leaves, and horseback riding through the beautiful changing colors of the forest are all fond memories I have of the fall season. What better time of year to share with family and with our furry family friends? What should a pet owner be aware of with caring for pets this time of year? Here are a few tips and interesting facts for
you and your pet at this wonderful time of year!
1. Be cautious about letting your pets eat the falling apples and pears from your trees – apples and pear seeds contain a toxic substance called cyanide. When too many seeds are chewed and ingested, the cyanide can lead to increased heart rate and respiratory rate and lead to death in a short period of time. Also our area has many many grapes! Do not let your pets eat grapes at all! Grapes have recently been shown to contain a toxic substance that can lead to acute kidney failure in your pets.
2. Carve pumpkins with your pet! Either fresh pumpkin or canned pumpkin are a great source of fiber for your pet. If your pet is on a weight loss plan, pumpkin and other squashes are a great source of a low fat high fiber food to help your pet feel fuller. These squashes also contain nutrients like beta carotene and iron and the seeds contain antioxidants and essential fatty acids that are all very good for the health of your pet. If choosing canned pumpkin be sure to get the straight pumpkin and not the pumpkin pie filling.
3. Fall is the perfect time to take your pet hiking. Keep your pet on a leash because there may be other pet owners walking their dogs. Your pet may become seriously injured if it ends up in a fight with another pet. Consider carrying pepper spray or a small air horn in the event you may cross paths with an aggressive pet that may attack your dog. (Editor’s note: If you are under 18 or have been convicted of a felony or assault, it is illegal to have pepper spray. This substance, of course, may only be used for defense.)
4. Fall is a time of year to prepare for the cold weather ahead. Rodenticides may be used this time of year when the rodents are trying to find a warm place for the winter. Do not use rodenticides in any area accessible to your pets. If you have cats that are avid hunters I recommend boarding them for a couple weeks if you need to use a rodenticide. Ingesting the rodent that has eaten the rat poison can still be very toxic and life threatening to your cat.
Use caution when preparing your vehicle for the winter. Do not leave antifreeze bottles open and do not let any drip on the ground where your pet may lick it. This is a highly toxic substance that can lead to acute kidney failure and death.
5. Hide the Halloween chocolate! Don’t forget chocolate is very toxic to your pets. Chocolate can cause tremors and seizures and can lead to coma and death. Have your children keep their candy in a safe place away from your pets!
6. Do not let your pet run during hunting season or any time for that matter! Unfortunately there are people who may shoot your dogs if they are on the loose. They may be a nuisance by chasing the deer away from where someone may be hunting. Also this time of year people may put out traps for coyotes, fox, or mink. These traps are hidden well and if your pet is running they may get caught in one of these traps.
7. Many pet owners think that because it’s colder, it is OK to stop using their flea and tick preventatives. This time of year is actually the worst time of year for these bugs. Fleas are trying to get into your house and on your pets before winter. Ticks are much more active at temperatures between 40-50 degrees. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease which can lead to fever, lethargy, chronic arthritis and kidney disease.
8. Fall is a time of year for excessive shedding and allergies! It is normal for a pet to shed its summer coat in preparation for their winter coat. Be sure to brush pets at least a couple days per week and keep up with their grooming this time of year to prevent uncomfortable matting. If your pet is losing enough hair to leave bald spots, they may have an underlying skin allergy to fleas or many of the fall pollens. We highly recommend a check up if your pet’s hair is thinning
9. Enjoy the festivities with your pets! Dress them up for Halloween but be careful they aren’t stressed or overheated in their costumes. Take them with you trick or treating but again keep them on a leash and keep the chocolate away from them! The doctors and staff at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic hope you enjoy fall fun with your pets and have a wonderful rest of the year!
Is it an emergency?
By DR, REBEKAH FROST – OBSERVER Columnist , Observer Today
Summer is in full swing and fall is just around the corner. This is the busiest time of year for emergencies at my clinic. Pets and their owners are outside more often and dogs and cats may come in contact with trouble more frequently when out and about. Some emergencies without a doubt should be seen immediately by a veterinarian. But there are many times that a pet owner may question what actually constitutes an emergency. Therefore, I am going to discuss what situations should be seen immediately and what can possibly wait until the next day!
1. Breathing/respiratory issues – This may include heavy breathing, heaving sides, open mouth breathing, or heavy panting. Other symptoms that may contribute to the severity of a respiratory disease include a cough, pale, dark red or bluish gums, and other changes in the pet’s attitude such as lack of appetite or weight loss. Unless your pet is just panting on occasion, I highly recommend any respiratory problem be seen by your veterinarian. Conditions that cause difficulty breathing include congestive heart failure, feline asthma, bronchitis, and fluid in your pet’s chest from a mass or an underlying viral disease.
2. Seizures Seizures can occur in your pet starting at about 3 years of age and continuing throughout your pet’s life if the animal has a form of epilepsy. What exactly happens with a seizure? Your pet may experience a wide range of seizure-like activity from mild – such as a muscle tremor – to a full blown seizure where your pet may be on its side violently tremoring, chomping its teeth, salivating, and possibly losing urine and bowel control. Although a seizure may be a scary thing to watch in your pet, it does not constitute an emergency unless it lasts more than 2 minutes or your pet is going in and out of seizures. (This is called cluster seizures.) We recommend your pet be seen if it has never had a seizure in the past or if it is a very unusual occurrence. If your pet has a seizure, put towels or blankets around it to protect the animal from injury and use caution because it could inadvertently bite you. When the animal seems to come out of the worst part of the seizure, calm it down. Then call your veterinarian.
3. Lameness – Any hind or front limb lameness should be seen depending on the extent of the lameness and the cause of the lameness. Any dog that is hit by a car with a lameness associated should be seen regardless of how severely it was hit. Other injuries may be present and can be picked up by a veterinarian. I recommend a limb lameness should be seen if your pet cannot put any weight on the leg and/or is in extreme pain. If your pet can still put some weight on the leg, then your pet can possibly wait until your veterinarian opens again.
4. Wounds – Any wound that is bigger than a puncture or a wound associated with a fight should be seen. Infection can set in fast especially in cat bite wounds and should not wait until the next day. It is important to start your pet on antibiotics and close any wounds while the skin edges are still fresh.
5. Toxin ingestion or foreign body ingestion – If you know your pet has ingested a toxic substance such as rat poison, chocolate, or your own prescription medications, do not wait! Call your vet immediately. Depending on what has been ingested your veterinarian may recommend something to help your pet vomit or they may recommend your pet be seen for detoxification. Also if your pet has swallowed a bone, a ball, or any other foreign object they should be seen before the object causes an obstruction and your pet becomes ill.
6. Urinary issues If your pet is drinking more and squatting to urinate frequently it may have a urinary infection. Provide your pet with plenty of fresh cool water and your veterinarian may recommend a pain medication until your pet can be seen. I recommend your pet be seen immediately if your pet is squatting to urinate and no urine is being produced or if you see any blood in the urine. If your pet is attempting to urinate with no urine production this is a serious emergency and they may have a urinary blockage. Any cat or dog that remains blocked for more than 12 hours may go into acute kidney failure, become severely dehydrated and will not survive unless a urinary catheter is passed and the blockage is relieved.
7. Allergic reactions I get many calls about allergic reactions. This may be mild like slight facial swelling from a bee sting to severe where your pet may go into anaphylactic shock. Mild facial swelling can be controlled with antihistamines and we recommend calling your veterinarian for a proper dose. If your pet is having difficulty breathing, is becoming covered in hives, or has pale mucous membranes call your veterinarian to be seen immediately.
Of course there are many more situations that you may find your pet in that I have not discussed. If ever in doubt, please feel free to call the clinic at 366-7440. We try to make sure we are available evenings and weekends to take your calls or give you other options if we cannot take your call. Our goal at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic is to help provide your pet with the best quality of life and to be prepared for an emergency. Again, don’t hesitate to call with any questions!
Veterinarian Rebekah Frost’s column “For Pet’s Sake” appears monthly in the OBSERVER.
Keep Pets on Your Property
By DR, REBEKAH FROST – OBSERVER Columnist , Observer Today
Responsible pet ownership means providing your pets with the best care you can give them. Care should include providing proper diet and housing, keeping them up to date on vaccinations and preventatives, and containing them in a way that will prevent injury. Being a responsible owner also requires spending time with your pet, giving it the attention the animal requires and deserves.
It is very important to keep close watch of your pets and keep them on your own property. People today are very protective of their property. Property owners may worry about invasion of privacy, damage to their property or injury to their livestock and their own pets. In this “sue happy” world we also need to be concerned with people or pets getting injured on our property. When you let your pets outside, whether intentional or not, you may be compromising their health and putting their lives at risk. Some of the possible mishaps include:
1. Injuries: Motor vehicle accidents, fights with other animals, injuries from traps intended for a wild animal, and shotgun or BB injuries are just a few. In my own small neighborhood, I have had to amputate a dog’s leg that was caught in a coyote trap and I have seen dogs shot and killed for being a nuisance and a possible threat to a neighbor’s dairy cows. As a veterinarian I have treated many fight wounds in cats and dogs and have seen many pets that do not survive being hit by cars. Recently we treated an older cat with an eye injury. She was found as a stray by one of our clients. She was very sweet but was in a significant amount of pain. We were unable to save her eye and when she underwent an enucleation (eye removal) surgery, we discovered a BB shot lodged in her eye.
2. Dietary Indiscretion: Roaming pets may pick up and ingest just about anything. They may find a toxic substance like rat poison or antifreeze. Your pet may also get into garbage, which can lead to a number of problems from mold toxicity to inflammation of your pet’s pancreas. Both of these conditions can be fatal.
3. Risks to pets that are not neutered: Ninety percent of animal car fatalities are to pets that aren’t neutered. These pets tend to roam more and get into trouble. If you have a female pet that is not spayed she will quickly find a mate leading to an unwanted pregnancy.
4. Parasites: Both indoor and outdoor pets can pick up parasites, but pets that are roaming are at a higher risk. These parasites include intestinal parasites, heartworms, fleas, and ticks.
What can an owner do to protect their pets? Many people feel that containing their pet is cruel and that their dog should be able to run in the great outdoors. A simple solution is to install an underground or wireless containment fence system. You can find whole systems for under $100 that are easy to install. Hardware stores may even rent a special machine to bury the wire for an underground fence. If you have a smaller yard, there are wireless containment systems that transmit a signal in a diameter around the central box. All that is required is turning the box on and a small amount of training your pup. There are also other simple fencing set-ups that do not require a shock collar. Ask your local hardware store what is available for fencing systems. Train your pet to a leash! If your pet is difficult to walk, a pressure harness or a halti both work great.
Keep your pet on preventatives against parasites. These include a monthly heartworm preventative and flea/tick control medications. Spay or neuter your pet. Your pets will be more likely to stay home without the urge to go find a mate.
Obey your town’s leash laws. These laws were put in place for a reason to protect people’s private property and to protect your pets. Call your town clerk to ask what is required for owning a dog.
Finally give your pet the attention it deserves. Play with the animal or walk it on a daily basis. Giving pets love, exercise, and play time will help keep them home where they belong and out of trouble!