Santa Visits the Animals at Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter

The Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter was full of holiday spirit today when Santa paid a visit to the Bonnie Hays Small Animal Shelter, bringing joy to the cats and dogs who are waiting for forever homes. 

Santa knows who is naughty and nice, and he knows there is nothing nicer than shelter dogs and cats. That’s why he brought food and toys to the shelter animals and asked them what they are hoping for this Christmas. 

“The real Santa is very busy this time of year, so he asked his assistant, Dr. Scott Loepp (who owns Frontier Veterinary Hospital), to fill in for him. Dr. Santa brought in donations from Frontier Veterinary Hospital’s food drive for our shelter animals and gave treats and toys to the animals. The animals got to tell Dr. Santa what they want for Christmas, and he will be sending that information directly to the North Pole,” says Deborah Wood, Manager of Animal Services. 

The shelter hopes this visit from Dr. Santa will inspire lots of people to remember the shelter animals at Bonnie Hays and other shelters this holiday season. “So much of what we do to make the animals comfortable and happy relies on donations,” says Wood. “With all the rain this week literally dampening the holiday spirit, we’re hoping this event reignites the spirit of joy and giving.” 

Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter Wish List: 

● Cash donations are always helpful! They pay for the shelter’s veterinary and behavior programs.

● Gift cards to pet supply stores so we can purchase items for animals with special needs

● Good Mews brand cat litter

● Soft dog and cat treats: To avoid tummy upsets, we use only Pure Bites Chicken Breast Treats, Lean Treats, and Zuke’s Mini Naturals

● Cat and dog toys that can be easily sanitized. Ping pong balls and plastic balls that rattle or jingle for cats. Kongs, Kong Wobblers, Kibble Nibbles, and Tug-A-Jugs for dogs.

● Scratch & Stretch cat exercisers (to order, go to

● Kuranda beds for dogs and cats. You can donate Kuranda beds at a discount by going to

● Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter also has an Amazon Wish List. Order items and have them sent directly to the shelter at:

Keep them safe, during winter and the holidays

‘Tis the season for new hazards in our pets’ environments.  Life is crazy enough around the holidays without having to worry about a trip to the ER vet. Below are common seasonal hazards that pose potential risks to your pets.


Don’t let those big, sad, hungry eyes persuade you to give your dog or cat table scraps. Many delicious holiday foods are high in fats and simply too much for your pets to handle. Fatty foods can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even pancreatitis — a painful, potentially fatal condition. It’s best to never feed your pet table scraps.

Chocolate is everywhere during the holidays, but should never be given to pets. It contains high levels of caffeine, which can cause tremors, seizures and hyperactivity. Additionally, chocolate can cause vomiting and diarrhea. The properties in chocolate that are toxic to pets can accumulate over years, potentially causing death. Ingesting large amounts can also be fatal. Please take care to keep chocolate out of reach to prevent accidental ingestion. Treats under the tree, for example, are an open door for accidental consumption by your pets.

Xylitol, a sweetener used in many sugar-free gums, candies; and has recently, been added to several brands of peanut butter. Xylitol can cause very low blood sugar and severe liver damage in pets. Symptoms can include vomiting, weakness, depression, seizures, coma, and even death; but some dogs show no immediate symptoms.  If you suspect your pet has ingested a product containing xylitol, seek emergency care promptly.

Other common foods that can make pets ill include bread dough, grapes/raisins, macadamia nuts, coffee, garlic, onions, alcoholic beverages and moldy foods. If your pet eats any of these items call your veterinarian. 

Environmental risks:

Ornaments and tinsel are another hazard, and many ornaments and snow globes contain toxic chemicals.  If a pet ingests one of these, or its contents, seek immediate emergency care. Additionally, ingested ornaments and tinsel can cause intestinal obstruction and damage that can require surgery and potentially cause death. Cats are especially attracted to tinsel; do not let them near it.

Tree hazards include electrical cords, batteries, and the water in the stand. Batteries can cause severe burns, cords can cause electrocution, and tree water may contain chemicals or bacteria that cause stomach upset.

Liquid potpourri can make a home smell heavenly, but can seriously harm pets. Inhalation or ingestion of even a small amount can result in fever, respiratory distress, tremors, and severe chemical burns in the mouth and respiratory tract. 

Poinsettias, Mistletoe and Holly are all risky, potentially causing illness such as mucosal irritation, vomiting and diarrhea. While the chance of toxicity is low, pets with ongoing symptoms may require care and hospitalization. 

Insects and rodents head where it’s warm in winter. If bait is used, it should be strategically placed to avoid accidental ingestion by pets. Insecticides generally can cause GI upset, and rat and mouse baits can be life threatening. If ingestion is suspected, seek immediate care. 

De-icers that can irritate the skin and mouth, and contact or ingestion can result in drooling, depression, vomiting, and electrolyte imbalances. Additionally, one of the most poisonous toxins to pets is antifreeze (ethylene glycol), which can cause rapid kidney failure. Found in car radiators, brake fluids, some home solar units, snow globes and toilet winterizers; if an animal is suspected of ingesting antifreeze seek immediate veterinary care. 

Pets are curious, and they do find trouble. If you are concerned about anything your pet has ingested or been exposed to, the ASPCA provides a 24-hour hotline and information on its web site. If you are unsure about the toxic potential of something your pet has ingested, immediately call your local emergency veterinarian or ASPCA Poison Control [insert #].

Provided courtesy of Columbia River Veterinary Specialists

Local vet team makes a (Santa) run for it

Halsey East staff

Halsey East staff

This time of year we sometimes hear “It’s better to give than to receive” so often it begins to feel like commercial banter empty of the spirit of the original adage.  Then there are those who live the adage, not only reminding us of its power, but lifting our spirits along the way. 

On Sunday Dec. 15, Spot tagged along as the staff of Halsey East Animal Clinic loaded into a bus — accompanied by a pickup loaded with boxes and sacks — and set off to act on their belief that “The best way to be grateful is to give back.” 

Organized by office manager Donna Police in a mere three weeks, the clinic, along with help from vendors and area merchants, was able to donate over 2000 lbs of pet food, pet supplies, hats, gloves, scarves, sweatshirts and blankets to area organizations dedicated to getting supplies and aid to those who need it most.  Halsey East is not a large corporate business, but a family-owned neighborhood pet clinic in business for over 45 years, providing loving quality pet care to generations of some of the same families. 

Before boarding the bus Sunday, the staff gathered for a hearty lunch provided by second-generation clinic owner, Stephen Vockert, DVM.  The bus was a comfy limo style, large enough to accommodate the many staff members eager to help out.  The departing bus was filled capacity. 

Happy holiday meals for the cats and dogs at Dignity Village.

Happy holiday meals for the cats and dogs at Dignity Village.

First stop was Dignity Village, a City of Portland enabled encampment, or tent city, for homeless people.  The camp has many identities in political circles, attached to equally numerous opinions — but all that mattered to the Halsey East staff was that the people and pets living there could really use a little kindness.  Police says, “Our intention was to meet the people and feel connected,” and clearly they did.  Immediately upon the bus’s arrival villagers, along with their beloved cats and dogs, joined in to help distribute the gifts of warm and colorful hats, scarves, socks, gloves, blankets and shirts that Halsey East staff had purchased just for them.

Next stop . . . this is Portland after all . . . Starbucks — where everyone warmed up with beverages as the evening chill settled in. The stop proved a blessing; the next stop, at PAW (Portland Animal Welfare) Team, was COLD — pipes had broken in the cold snap.  The damage included flooding, which somehow made it twice as cold inside as the arctic temps outdoors.  Clinic staff bundled up and listened intently to PAW Team’s Executive Director Cindy Scheel discuss the organization, which provides veterinary care to pets of very low income folks experiencing homelessness.  While at PAW Team, additional donations were loaded and sent off to the House of Dreams, a local cat shelter working closely with PAW Team.

The back of the bus was loaded with gifts as well as a pickup full of goods which followed behind the bus.

The back of the bus was loaded with gifts as well as a pickup full of goods which followed behind the bus.

As a foggy golden glow settled over downtown, the bus rolled to the next stop:  the Portland Rescue Mission.  Now comfortable with the routine, vet staff disembarked and moved to the pickup to load boxes and bags they then carried through the open, welcoming doors of the mission.  Portland Rescue Mission relies heavily on gifts and donations, and their procedures for accepting same are well organized.  Donors are directed to open the lid of a large culvert-like tube in the floor and drop items directly in — where packages slide quickly to the floor below for sorting and distribution.

In addition to donations made during the tour, gifts were also bestowed upon the group Potluck in the Park, an organization providing hot meals each Sunday to homeless folks in downtown Portland, that will feed over 1500 people on Christmas Day.

The last stop of the day was Other Mother’s, a very small rescue caring for dogs and cats that are pregnant or with litters, providing the labor-intensive care needed until babies and mothers are ready to be homed. 

Back at the clinic, the end of this day found a very happy, tired and thoughtful group return to their cars and soon homes, where provision was a given. 

Will the group make a Santa run again next year?  Donna Police says if they do, she’ll start planning in July, not the end of November.  One can only imagine what these folks will accomplish with that kind of head start!

Kudos to Donna for her tireless, joyful handling of this special day — from concept to execution — and to her fellow Halsey East crew members who leant their hearts and hands.  In addition to blessing the recipients of their efforts and donations, the group reminds us all that any group, large or small, can give in a very big way. 

Cozy on the bus!

Cozy on the bus!

For additional information of the organizations in this story please visit the following web sites. 

Dignity Village:

PAW Team: 

House of Dreams:

Potluck in the Park:

Portland Rescue Mission:

Other Mother’s:

Halsey East Animal Clinic:


View all the photos from the day on Spot's Facebook page!  


Marty Davis is a Portland writer and event photographer. She live in North Portland where is she closely watched over by Shasta, a bossy Aussie Shepherd.   She is herded on a daily basis. 

Homeless Families in Vancouver Get a Special Holiday Visit from Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams on Christmas Eve


Portland, Ore.—Homeless families taking shelter at Share Homestead and Share Orchards Inn have something special to be excited about this Christmas Eve: a holiday visit from Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams (PACTT). Dedicated to furthering human health and well-being through positive interactions with dogs, the PACTT program is a partnership between DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital and Guide Dogs for the Blind. 

“We are very pleased to announce our recent collaboration with DoveLewis, which certifies a group of our ‘career-change’ dogs and their adopters in the Portland area as therapy teams, enriching the lives of many Portland area residents who may be in homeless shelters, hospitals, residential care facilities, or other such places,” said Brent Ruppel, Director of Community Operations for Guide Dogs for the Blind. 

Career-change and retired dogs from the Guide Dogs for the Blind program are highly trained, participating in specialized PACTT training in addition to the preliminary training and socializing that is standard for guide dogs. They also undergo extensive assessment through DoveLewis to complete their certification in animal-assisted therapy. “We’re thrilled to be working in conjunction with Guide Dogs for the Blind to offer such a unique community program—one which advances our mission to promote the human-animal bond,” said Ron Morgan, DoveLewis CEO. 

PACTT program graduate Art and his handler Shirley Howard are scheduled to visit Share Homestead (located at 4921 NE Hazel Dell Ave., Vancouver, WA 98663) from 9:00-11:00AM and Share Orchards Inn (located at 5609 NE 102nd Ave., Vancouver, WA 98662) from 12:00-3:00PM on December 24. Shirley’s husband and two daughters will also be joining the team for these festive outings. “I wanted to do something special for Christmas Eve, so when Art graduated from the PACTT program, it opened up a new door for us,” said Howard. News reporters interested in attending the visits should contact DoveLewis Communications Coordinator Shawna Harch at 971.255.5933 or 

“It’s truly heartwarming to see how these incredible dogs can lift a person’s spirits in a matter of minutes,” said Kathy Loter, PACTT Program Coordinator with DoveLewis. “Making a trip to Share shelters this holiday season is just one of the ways PACTT program teams give back to members of our community who are struggling.”

Both Share shelters provide 30- to 60-day stays for eligible homeless children and adults. Families who utilize Share shelters fall into homelessness due to unforeseen financial challenges—such as a death or severe illness in the family, a lost job, or an unexpected bill—creating a situation where the family cannot maintain their housing.

“Medical science has shown us that interactions with a therapy dog can promote physical healing, reduce anxiety, fatigue and depression, and provide emotional support,” said Sue Warren, Director of Development and Communications for Share. “As a highly trained animal, Art can interact in a nonverbal, nonthreatening and calming manner, providing a sense of connection to children and adults who, during the emotional holiday season, are coping with anxiety or sadness as they reflect on the loss of their homes and old lives, but look toward a new future of self-sufficiency.” 

# # # 

About Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams (PACTT)

Sharing a common belief in the power of the human-animal bond, DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital and Guide Dogs for the Blind partner to bring animal-assisted therapy to the local community through the Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams (PACTT) program. Highly trained career change dogs from Guide Dogs for the Blind and their handlers undergo extensive training and assessment through DoveLewis and Guide Dogs for the Blind to complete their certification in animal-assisted therapy. Program teams visit with people in a variety of settings, including: long-term and skilled care facilities, assisted-living communities, hospitals, residential treatment centers, schools and libraries. Learn more at 

About DoveLewis

DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital, established in 1973 and based in Portland, Ore., is the only nonprofit, 24-hour emergency and intensive care unit in the region. DoveLewis provides donor-funded programs to the community, including one of the United States’ largest volunteer-based animal blood banks, a nationally recognized pet loss support program, a partnership with Guide Dogs for the Blind to bring animal-assisted therapy and education to the community, 24-hour stabilizing care for lost, stray and wild animals and financial assistance for qualifying low-income families and abused animals. Celebrating 40 years of service to the community, DoveLewis has treated over 500,000 animals and has been deemed one of Oregon’s Most Admired Nonprofits by The Portland Business Journal for seven years! For more information, please visit


About Guide Dogs for the Blind

Guide Dogs for the Blind ( is more than an industry-leading Guide Dog school; they are a passionate community that serves the visually impaired. With exceptional client services and a robust network of trainers, puppy raisers, donors and volunteers, they prepare highly qualified guide dogs to serve and empower individuals who are legally blind. GDB is a 501 (c)3 organization. All of their client services are provided free of charge; they receive no government funding. They are headquartered in San Rafael, California, with a second campus in Boring, Oregon. More than 12,500 teams have graduated since the organization’s founding in 1942, and there are approximately 2,100 active teams in the field.

Second Annual Pet-Themed Gingerbread Dog House Contest Winners Announced – Donations Help Bonnie Hays Shelter

Sunday at the Cedar Hills Crossing mall, adults and children entered their version of a pet’s dream gingerbread house. People at the mall were able to vote with donations to name the “People’s Choice Award” and a panel of judges named the winners in the other categories. 

The event was a fund-raiser for the Bonnie Hays Small Animal Shelter. “The event brought in an estimated $800 for the shelter animals, and was a lot of fun for the community,” says Deborah Wood, manager of Animal Services.

The People’s Choice Award is given to the entry with the most donations made in its honor. The winner was “Home Wrecker” – which arrived at the contest with caution tape. “The family dog, Percy, had decided to get a closer look at the gingerbread house, which ended up on the floor. Rather than miss the opportunity to support the shelter, the family re-named their entry and brought it in. There was a total of $313.27 of donations made for this gingerbread house – which will help us do a lot of good for a lot of animals,” says Wood.

The winner in the adult category was “Cats Move to Gingerbread Dream Home.” “It was obvious a tremendous amount of work went into this entry,” says Wood. “It was just beautiful – and had a sense of whimsy that was really charming.”

“The youth entries were especially fun for us. You could see how much care and effort the kids put into their entries. They were wonderful,” says Wood.

Youth winners were:

Children Under Age 10: “Puppy Cabin” (winner was 7 years old)

Youth/Teen Winners: “To Grandmother’s House We Go,” “Home Tweet Home,” “Home on the Range”

Home Wrecker

Home Wrecker

Cats Move to Gingerbread Dream Home

Cats Move to Gingerbread Dream Home

Puppy Cabin

Puppy Cabin

Adopt an Adult This Holiday Season

Tank - 7 years old

Tank - 7 years old

The Bonnie Hays Small Animal Shelter in Hillsboro is encouraging people to think about “adopting an adult” this holiday season. From now until January 4, 2014, the adoption fee for all dogs and cats five years of age or older will be half-priced.

“We know the image that people have in their minds is usually of a puppy or kitten this time of year. We’d like people to replace that image with a grateful dog with some gray on his face or a cat who may be at an age where he’s a little less frisky,” says Deborah Wood, manager of Animal Services. “Part of the joy of adopting a pet is giving that animal a second chance at life. That’s always meaningful – but it’s even more extraordinary for an older pet,” says Wood. “These are animals that know they’ve been saved. They will thank you every day for what you’ve done for them.”

There is often a perception that people bond best with puppies and kittens, but people who adopt older pets often find that there is a depth of relationship that comes from the adoption that is unlike anything else they’ve ever experienced.

“These are also animals that are done with all the puppy and kitten problems – they’re usually not chewing shoes or climbing curtains. They just want to be loved and give love,” says Wood.

The usual adoption price for dogs is $150 – which will be reduced to $75 older dogs for the holidays. The regular fee for an adult cat is $50 – which will be reduced to $25. All animals are spayed or neutered, microchipped, and up-to-date on shots.

“What could be more in the holiday spirit than adopting an adult dog or cat who really needs you?” asks Wood.

You can see photos of adoptable pets on the shelter’s web site:

The Bonnie Hays Small Animal Shelter is located at 1901 SE 24th Avenue in Hillsboro – right on the Tualatin Valley Highway next to Lowe’s and Home Depot. Adoption center hours are 11:00 AM to 5:30 PM Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and noon to 5:30 PM on Wednesday. 503-846-7041,

Dogs Eating Antlers, Ornaments Top List of Unusual Holiday-Related Pet Insurance Claims


BOISE, Idaho (Dec. 6, 2013) – Pets Best Insurance Services, LLC, a leading nationwide pet insurance agency, today released a list of its most bizarre holiday-related claims. Since opening in 2005, the agency has processed a host of surprising claims stemming from unusual holiday hazards. 

“The holiday season is filled with trappings that people love, like decorations, desserts and bustling crowds. Unfortunately, there are many aspects of these celebrations that can threaten our pets,” said Dr. Jack Stephens, founder and president of Pets Best. “We strongly encourage pet owners to consider the safety of their curious and hungry animals during any preparations with decorations and food.”

These are a few of the more bizarre holiday-related claims Pets Best has processed, some of which might even shock the Grinch: 

Ornamental Distress

Many dogs and cats are tempted to sample shiny Christmas tree decorations, and a 19-week-old Boxer puppy named Laila was no exception. Last December, the puppy downed a glass ornament, resulting in an exam, X-rays and a hospital stay. The bill reached more than $600. Pets Best reimbursed 80 percent of the claim, after the annual deductible. 

Antler Fix

Santa’s reindeer might want to watch what they leave behind. Maggie, an 8-month-old Golden retriever, faced a slew of procedures after swallowing a large piece of antler bone. After the puppy’s initial visit to the veterinarian, which involved an exam and X-rays, she was referred to a veterinary specialist to have the antler surgically removed from her stomach. Pets Best reimbursed Maggie’s owner more than $2,500. 

Bad Dough Rising

Sasha, a 3-year-old Shetland sheepdog, faced an emergency trip to the veterinarian after consuming bread dough last December. This basic food item can be toxic to dogs and cats, as it expands in their stomach and causes the organ to twist. The yeast can also result in alcohol poisoning. A veterinarian performed an exam and X-rays on Sasha, and also provided anti-nausea medication shots. Pets Best reimbursed 80 percent of the claim, after the deductible. 

Scrumptious Santa

A 7-year-old mixed breed dog named Jasper decided to fill himself with the holiday spirit by gorging on a Santa costume. After swallowing some of the suit’s fluffy stuffing, however, Jasper’s behavior struck his owners as a little off. The subsequent trip to the veterinarian involved a gastrointestinal blood panel. Pets Best reimbursed 80 percent of the claim, after the deductible was met.

A Little too Corny


Corn is a staple of many holiday feasts, but pet owners should make sure it stays on the dinner table. When a 9-month-old mixed breed dog named Cooper ate a corncob, he was rushed to the vet for an exam, blood panel and surgical removal of the cob. That single corncob resulted in a bill totaling nearly $1,295.  Pets Best reimbursed 80 percent of the cost, after the deductible.

For more information about the plans offered by Pets Best, please visit

*Different deductible amounts and reimbursement percentages may apply based on the policy options selected and available in the insured’s state. The claim examples illustrate conditions that were determined not to be pre-existing for the animal insured. Claim administration is subject to all terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions in the policy.

Winter Worryland

Oscar, NE Portland    Erik Schultz Photography

Oscar, NE Portland

Erik Schultz Photography

Benjamin Franklin’s quote “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is the unspoken maxim of the veterinary emergency room.  Still, even those of us who start forewarnings of holiday hazards as early as the first school bell in fall understand that an inevitably sad side to the festivities remains.  We of the fellowship of the hairy lab coats know that keeping the new puppy from chewing light cords, the cat from slurping tinsel, or the Lab from gorging on a stolen turkey carcass/ham bone/box of chocolates (reader’s choice — pick your favorite) will not stop our ER from being busy Thanksgiving through New Years Day.  Dreaded chronic illnesses have a way of flaring up during winter holidays, and animals with cancer, immune diseases and metabolic disorders such as diabetes often are frequent flyers in the ER.  

Being stuck inside due to inclement weather — in addition to entertaining Uncle Clem from Kansas — causes stress for us and our furry housemates.  Wind and rain make arthritic joints ache, and pets with breathing and heart issues work extra hard to get through daily walks.  The stress of visiting relatives or changes in routine can unmask chronic medical conditions that your pet’s body has been keeping in check.  As stressors cause a release of unwanted chemicals, organ systems are bombarded, and that delicate internal balance is gone.  This can lead to waking up Christmas morning to find an unwanted surprise under the tree — a sick best friend.

No one wants to believe that their beloved pet has a chronic or terminal illness, especially during the “season of joy.”  And of course a trip to your veterinarian — or worse, the veterinary ER — is far from festive.  As tough as these things are, it’s best for our pets if we recognize a problem and try to make them feel better than to bury our  heads in the sand (or eggnog or figgy pudding — again, reader’s choice).  Many advances in veterinary medicine are boosting the fight against major diseases, so they’re not the hopeless situations they once were. 

The increased life expectancy of our pets is a boon to the human/animal bond, but it comes with a downside:  pets are now more predisposed to the development of cancer and chronic illnesses. 

Most cancers in veterinary medicine were once deemed "incurable,” but research is finding more tumor types that are responsive to treatments.  And those treatments are increasingly accompanied by minimal to no negative side effects.  There are so many more options than in the old days, when choices were limited to removing an offending limb or discussing euthanasia.  Today treatment options abound (pain management, medical or radiation therapy, nutrition) to stem the flow of disease and provide good quality of life. 

Chronic illness was once a life sentence:  the proverbial “ball and chain” where the owner was destined to stay close to home, administering multiple daily medications or making frequent trips to the vet.  Diabetes is a classic example of a situation where pet owners once felt “doomed” by a diagnosis that today involves more treatment options, diets and home monitoring.  Life with the diagnosis of a diabetic cat is dramatically better.  When cats, like people, get off the kitty cushion and cut carbs, the specter of complications and shorter life expectancy diminishes.

More options are also now available for pets with conditions requiring frequent vet visits or home treatments.  One example is the advent of pet sitters; some are qualified and even specialize in administering meds or fluids to dogs or cats.  Any time an owner can avoid wrestling to get their cat or schlepping the dog to the vet clinic is a good day for man and beast.  The moral of the story — don’t hesitate to act if you suspect something is not right with your pet.  Just as in our own healthcare, swallowing your fears and seeking a solution sooner makes way for the best possible outcome — for you, your pet, and even your pocketbook.  While a diagnosis of cancer or major disease is never a happy occasion, medical advances in the past decade have not only eased the treatment process, but in many cases made a better outcome possible.

So, what are some things you can do to be “pet proactive” when the weather changes and Santa’s on his way?  Don’t overload your pets with goodies or arrange festive outings with 47 of their furry friends complete with hats and stuffed toys.  Sometimes we — even veterinarians — forget that the holiday season is for HUMANS.  For our pets, any day their human is around is a holiday.  Unlike us, they don’t need fudge-dipped red and green sprinkled Oreos to feel special.  A walk around the neighborhood to see squirrels, followed by an uninterrupted hour on the couch truly is Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Saint Swithun’s day all rolled into one for your pup.  As for your cat, substitute a few minutes of “bat the string” followed by a catnip-induced coma (minus the walk) and watch the feline disdain fade. 

It is important to step back from the frantic pace and make sure you’re taking a few minutes to stop and smell the Rover — and not just for a whiff of chronic ear infection.  Schedule periods of rest for you and your pet during the holidays.  Find a quiet room and relax with them, watch how they move and breathe, and touch them from head to toe, looking for anything “out of place.”  This is a gift you can give your dog and/or cat and yourself.  That little nagging thought that something might be wrong is often right on the nose.  So many of my conversations in the ER with pet owners have included “you know your pet best” — a simple lack of energy or appetite, or a slight limp caught by an astute eye has often detected a disease process and helped a pet live a longer, better life.  Keep the numbers for your regular veterinarian and the local veterinary emergency hospital (for nights/weekends/holidays) close at hand.

Like most of life, the secret to keeping pets — just as with people — around for many holidays to come is not being afraid to find problems and then figuring out ways to make things better. 


Dr. Heidi Houchen is an ER/Critical Care veterinarian at VCA Northwest Veterinary Specialists in Clackamas; she writes and lectures extensively about trauma, blood banking, and toxicology.  She is especially passionate about keeping pets and poisons apart.

Holiday tips for the pros


With the arrival of the holidays come plenty of cautionary tales about ways to keep pets safe around the tree and the dinner table, but one organization offers a little advice to those at the other end of the leash:  the trainers, walkers and sitters who are in high demand this time of year., based in Sixes, OR, recently sent out its newsletter, The Dog Pro Monthly Minute, with advice for pet pros such as urging clients to make boarding reservations early, hosting holiday doggie socials, and offering gift packages of training and other services.  Sign up for more great tips at