Holiday Hazards- Tips for a Safe Holiday Season

Happy Holidays! It’s that time of year again. Time for celebrating with family and friends, for eating way more that our stomachs can handle and decorating with lights and tinsel and everything that sparkles. It’s a time of year that most of us look forward to every year.

Eily is ready to party with her fancy new Christmas dress!

It can be a time your furry family member looks forward to as well but there are many ways that our holiday celebrations can put them at risk for illness and injury. From food to parties, decorations and noise makers, the holidays hold a plethora of potential hazards for our pets.

Eat it up – or rather don’t

            If you’re like my family, a celebration is not a celebration without food. Usually way too much food! Though it’s tempting to offer some to our furry family members there are definitely some foods to avoid.

  • Chocolate – it’s kind of a double whammy, containing both caffeine and a chemical called theobromine, which dogs can’t process. Chocolate toxicosis has a wide range of clinical signs from GI upset, to making your dog really hyper, to more serious effects such as seizures and even death. You’ll want to make sure that tray of fudge is never left unattended!
Always keep an eye on potentially toxic foods. At least Eily is asking permission… this time.
  • Fatty or spicy foods – these can lead to GI upset, vomiting and diarrhea or more seriously a condition called pancreatitis that can become life threatening. So as much as Fido begs for that piece of turkey skin it’s much better to stick with his regular treats.
  • Grapes and Raisins – another food not tolerated by dogs. For some dogs it can cause problems for the kidneys, leading to permanent damage.  If you’re looking to get rid of that fruit cake, don’t feed it to your furry family members!
  • Yeast Dough – for those of you baking your own rolls, rising yeast dough can cause increased gas and more seriously, bloat in dogs.

Deck the Halls!

There is nothing better than a house lit up with decorations for the holidays. However, our pets may simply see the decorations as new toys or their brand- new jungle gym. I know I’ll be getting creative trying to keep my puppy, Wynter out of trouble.

  • O Christmas Tree – the tree itself can create a falling hazard. Make sure your tree is stable and securely anchored. If your pets are anything like mine, you may want to install bullet proof glass enlcosure around the tree for proper protection.
  • Glass or breakable ornaments should be hung on the top part of the tree, out of reach of curious mouths and paws. After all, ornaments just look like shiny fetch balls!
Ornaments may look like toys to your dog. Eily’s wondering why it doesn’t squeak!
  • The Holly and the Ivy – and numerous other plants we receive around the holidays can cause GI upset, vomiting and diarrhea. Plants such as lilies are toxic to cats. If your plants can’t be kept safely where pets are unable to reach, you may want to go with artificial. They live longer anyway😊
  • Tinsel Town – though it may look pretty on your tree, it’s not so pretty when it’s sticking out of your cat’s rear end. Pets love to ingest tinsel and it can create serious GI issues and even intestinal blockages. Best to avoid tinsel all together if you have cats. Watch out for ribbon as well! It has the same appeal to cats as well as the same problems.
  • Setting the Mood – candles should be kept up where pets can’t get to them. Cats especially like to get the wax in their fur! Cords and wiring should be covered and of out of pets’ reach. If chewed, they can cause a potentially fatal shock.

Party On!!

          What would the holidays be without parties, gatherings of friends and family?  It’s sometimes easy to forget that all those extra people can cause quite a bit of stress and potential hazards for your furry family member.

  • Medication mishaps – make sure that all your medications are in a safe location. Remind visitors to keep theirs packed away as well. Purses provide a great place for pets to get into trouble. Make sure any medications, mints or gum are in a zippered pouch.
  • Safe Room – if your pet is one that gets stressed around people, providing a quiet room (or space for them to go if they feel overwhelmed) is essential. My girls love their kennels and can often be found there when trying to escape the rambunctious puppy.
  • 10, 9, 8.. – We love our noise makers and sometimes fireworks when midnight hits at the new year. Make sure your pets are in a quiet, dark place to avoid noise phobia and potential escape. If your pet has a noise phobia, make sure you have medications on board if needed. I know Ember will be getting her Xanax.

The holidays can be a fun and enjoyable time for both you and your furry family members. We hope these tips help to keep everyone safe and happy. We at Capitol Illini in Springfield and Chatham are here to help with any of your holiday (or other) pet problems.

Also keep in mind that most veterinary clinics and animal hospitals are closed on holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. It’s important to have the number of a local emergency clinic handy in case you need it. Here in Springfield that would be the Animal Emergency Clinic (217) 698-0870.

Happy Holidays to all!! Please feel free to share our blog and help other pets avoid some holiday hazards.

5 Tips to Maximize your Counter Surfing!

By: Eily Rose O’Brien

SHHH! No noise. I have control of the word making thing. Probably don’t have much time as my hooman is in next room.

I want to share advice as I am master counter surfer. To all doggos out there, here is my wisdom. I have tips to help you steal the bestest food and not get caught. Read fast!

1. Always Watch

You always need to watch EVERYTHING. Know where your hooman is. Know where other hoomans may be. Keep eyes on the food and where it may go. Know common areas that the hoomans are likely to get food from (the box that heats and the box that keeps cold) and leave unattended. The corner of the table is perfect for helping yourself.

By knowing where hoomans and food are, you can get closer without them watching you. Then you’ll be in a better position to strike.

2. Stay Close to your Target

Must be sneaky at all times!

The hoomans always have food out and available in the room with the table and the hot/cold boxes. The best way to get close to the bestest food is to stay close to the hoomans. It works great. They think you are there to be closer to them but really you want the bestest food. They will never suspect.

You also need to stay close to the real target: the bestest food. You want to stay close enough to strike but not too close that the hooman starts to look at you funny. If you hear the NO, you are too close. Try to look sad and back away slowly.

3. Strike From Behind

This is where tip one and two come together. By watching the hoomans and the food and staying close to the hoomans but having good closeness to the bestest food you can strike at the bestest time.

Strike at the bestest moment when backs are turned!

The timing has to be just right. Watch the hooman closely and when your hooman begins to turn their eyes away from the bestest food that is the time. Strike!!

4. Erase The Evidence

This is the bestest way to not get caught. Erase the evidence. Don’t chew. Just swallow. If the bestest food is gone they can’t know where it went. Maybe it disappeared. Maybe the other doggo ate it. You can even blame it on the cat at this point.

Seriously, the key is to just swallow. Even if there is yucky tasting covering over the bestest food just swallow that too. You may have a little harder time when it comes out the back end but you still stole the bestest food so it’s worth it.

5. Run!

The second bestest way to keep from getting caught is to run away. You swallowed all the evidence, so that’s gone. But get this, if you’re not in the room anymore they really can’t blame you. You don’t even have to go far, just into the next room with the talking box they stare at.

To look even more like you didn’t do it lay down. You can close eyes and they will think you’re asleep or you can give the cute puppy look or turn your head. Now you’re home free.

Yay doggos! You just stole the bestest food and didn’t get the NO. Use my tips and you will eat every time. I have stolen spongy sweet things I heared the hoomans called pup cakes, sammiches, breads and even peeza. Uh oh, I got the NO. Time to go.

Dr. O’Brien Here…

Please forgive Eily. I honestly don’t know what to do with her most of the time. I’m going to let the post stand as there is some valuable information in here. Whether the food is toxic to your dog or not, they’re still going to try and eat it. Whether there is a wrapper or other container that may cause your dog harm they’re still going to try and eat it.

Evidence of Eily’s thievery. Cherry Coke cupcakes (or in her mind pup cakes)

Unfortunately, a lot of food that we eat on a daily basis can cause serious problems for your for furry family member. Please keep an eye out when you are in the kitchen and don’t ever leave food unattended. Believe me, none of us are perfect. Eily was not lying about what she wrote, she’s stolen a lot.

If you ever have concerns about something your pet may have eaten please call Capitol Illini in Springfield or Chatham so we can advise you of any steps that need to be taken.

Eily would like know what your pets have stolen. We would love to hear your stories, so please comment on our Facebook page! Pics are welcome as well.

How I use essential oils safely for my pets. And you can too!

It’s All Fun and Games…

The best way to introduce oils to your pet is by allowing them to investigate a closed bottle. Their little noses are highly senstive. Wynter loves peppermint!

I’m sure you’ve seen the articles, the viral post about the cat that nearly died when the owner diffused essential oils. You’ve heard the phrase “Essential oils and pets are like oil and water, they don’t mix?” Oils will kill your pets. I’ve heard it over and over and I’m here to tell you it’s simply not true.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, essential oils (EO’s) are the compounds that give plants and flowers their smell. They can come from the flower, bark, seed, roots or other parts of the plant.  Essential oils can be a helpful tool for the health of your pet and here at Capitol Illini Veterinary Services in Chatham, you can always find our diffuser running. There are a few things to take into consideration when using oils with your pets.

Research, Research, Research

Except there is none.  So far, we don’t have scientific studies to tell us an exact dose or even which oil to use. I’m hopeful that it’s coming, but in the meantime, we rely on veterinarians who have been on the front lines of essential oil use to guide us.

Recently there has been research into the use of oils for specific disease processes so we’re making progress.

Quality Matters

You can pretty much walk into any store or pull up Amazon on the device of your choice and find EO’s for sale. They tend to be pretty cheap, too. But here’s the question you should ask yourself – what’s really in those oils? Can you verify they’re pure? Do you have access to testing that proves this? You should.

It’s important the oils you use with your pets – and even on yourself – should be pure therapeutic grade oils. This is why I use doTerra essential oils. Everyone has access to the testing of each batch of oil ensuring they are pure, with no synthetic additives.  Knowledge is power, right?

The Dose Makes The Poison

 While there are some essential oils that are toxic to dogs and cats, it depends on how much they are exposed to. Most essential oil poisonings reported to Animal Poison Control were from undiluted oils being used on pets.

Melaleuca or Tea Tree oil has really gotten a bad rap. Yes, it’s toxic to dogs and cats but did you know there are several over the counter shampoos that contain this EO? Highly diluted doses can be safe for pets but luckily there are other oils that will give you the same results.

But let’s get into the real issue at hand: how to use essential oils safely on your pets. There are three basic ways to use oils.

Diffuse it!

Diffusers come in a variety of options so you’re bound to find one to fit your decor!

Diffusing is the safest way to use oils with your pets. Ultrasonic diffusers dilute oil in water and disperse a mist of water and oil into the air allowing your pet to inhale the oils. Always allow your pet a way to leave the room if they don’t like the smell. Even though the oils are safe, they can cause irritation in some pets so it’s important watch for red eyes or runny noses and discontinue if you notice this.

Diffusing is the best way to use oils with cats. Eucalyptus and Cardamom are great for upper respiratory infections or congestion in cats. Lavender or a blend that contains Lavender, Vetiver and Ylang Ylang as well as others, is a great help to my dog, Lilly, for storms or anything else that makes her anxious.

It Puts The Oil On Its Skin

(Ok, I completely dated myself with the “Silence of the Lambs” reference.)

Applying oils topically is an excellent way target specific areas of concern. The most important thing to remember is size does matter, at least when it comes to using oils with pets. Oils should be diluted before topical application. Smaller dogs need less essential oil as they are very concentrated. Dilute! Dilute! Dilute!

A blend called Digestzen which contains Anise, Peppermint and Ginger oils among others has really helped Ember’s tummy troubles. Frankincense, Helichrysm and Myrrh are great for healing skin issues and hot spots. Just ask my yellow lab, Eily! Cats should have oils applied only every third day or so and remember to dilute.

Bottoms Up

It’s safe for some essential oils to be ingested. These oils should have supplement facts listed on the bottles. Large dogs can have 2-3 drops of an oil added to food or as with my dogs, hidden in a peanut butter sandwich.

Cats are a little different, but aren’t they always? The best way to give cats an oil internally is to place a single drop on your hands and then let it evaporate. Then you just pet your cat and they’ll ingest it while grooming.

Frankincense and Copaiba worked wonders for Piper’s joint pain and I managed to get rid of the Zyrtec by switching Eily to Lemon, Lavender and Peppermint for her itching and scratching.

 Essentail oils can be used safely on your pets and can be very helpful for a number of conditions. I have been using them with great results for the past two years. My dogs have even become fans. Ember loves to have Digestzen rubbed on her tummy. Then again, maybe she just likes her tummy rubbed!

Leave us a comment or question on our Facebook page regarding oils and your pets. I am always happy to consult on essential oils so feel free to schedule an appointment with us today.

How To Beat the Heat

Tips for the Cool Pooch

In the last week, I have heard about two (possibly three) separate cases of heat stroke in dogs. With the temperature close to 90 degrees and the “feels-like” temperature in the 100’s, it’s no surprise. While this is perfect pool weather, it’s not always a friendly environment for your dog. So, what exactly is heat stroke and how do you keep your furry friend happy and cool?

It’s All Fun and Games…

It’s all fun and games until someone overheats. But what is heat stroke? Heat stroke can occur when the body temperature rises to 105-107 degrees. This is usually the result of exposure to high environmental temperatures and/or strenuous activity. 

Overheating can exhibit as a dog that is merely seeking a cool environment, laying on the concrete, in the shade or digging in the dirt. You will notice heavy panting and your dog’s gums may be bright red in color or even purple.

As it progresses, the muscles are affected and your dog may walk with a strange gait or appear weak. This can eventually lead to collapse.

Some dogs will vomit or have diarrhea and some problems may not even develop for 3-5 days after the initial incident.

A Little First Aid

If you think your dog might be suffering from heat stroke the first step is to get them out of the heat. I know, common sense, right? Take them inside an air-conditioned building or in front of a fan. A tile or concrete floor will help to cool them as well. Wet their belly and paw pads or even completely wet them with cool, not cold, water. That fan may come in handy again at this point.

Now that you know the potential dangers, how do you make sure your furry family member enjoys the summer weather safely? 

Drink Up

It may seem like common sense, but the most important summer safety tip is to make sure your dog always has access to water. A full bucket in the shade is really all it takes but if you want to take it up a notch there are ways to make water more fun…

Add a few ice cubes to the bucket of water and you have a ready-made toy. It’s the summer version of bobbing for apples! 

Freeze the bucket of water and set the large chunk of ice out for your dog to lick. You can even add treats so there is a special surprise inside or flavor it with a little low sodium chicken or beef broth. Make sure to leave regular water out for drinking.

Everyone Loves a Pool

Dogs love kiddie pools!

Dogs are no exception. Plastic baby pools are easy to come by and relatively cheap. Add a little water and you’ll have a happy pup. Make it even more fun by adding water toys.  

If you already have a pool of your own feel free to share with your pup. Always supervise your dog and make sure he or she can get out when ready. Make sure to rinse them off well when done swimming to get the chlorine out of their fur!

High Fashion

Dogs always look stylish with a pretty bandana. Try wetting or freezing the bandana prior to having your dog sport the look. You can even find specialized cooling cloths or bandanas for dogs that are made specifically for this purpose.

More Than a Bed

Big fluffy dog beds are great in the winter but often a bit warm for summer, even in the cool air-conditioned house. A summer bed is just the thing to keep your furry family member cool and well rested.

Beds that are raised and allow airflow beneath your dog are ideal for both indoor and outdoor use. Check out Pinterest for some DIY ideas!

Cooling mats are perfect for summer. These are thin mats that contain a special gel that cools on contact. Just make sure your furry friend doesn’t chew on the matt!

Cooling mats are a great way for your pup to keep cool during naps.

Heat stroke is a very serious condition that can lead to death if severe enough or not treated. Always monitor your dog closely during outdoor activity and limit that activity on warmer days. You don’t want a game of fetch to cost your furry fiend his or her life! Pay very close attention to brachycephalic breeds, those are the smushed nosed dogs like Bulldogs and Pugs. They’re much more sensitive to the heat!

If you are concerned your dog may be overheating please call Capitol Illini Veterinary Services at our Chatham or Wabash locations. Oh, and always have a thermometer handy! Knowing the temperature will help us to assess the seriousness.

We’d love to hear your favorite summer fun activities and ways that you and your pooch keep cool. Head over to our Facebook page and let us know. We love pics!!

What’s best for your pet? East meets West!

Dog receiving acupuncture.

The staff and veterinarians at Capitol Illini Veterinary Services in Springfield and Chatham Illinois are passionate about helping pets feel their best! We are continually searching for techniques, medicines, surgery, and other treatments that will help keep our best (furry) friends healthy with the least side effects. Sometimes that requires being on the cutting edge of the latest technology, as is the case with our autologous conditioned plasma system (ACP).  ACP utilizes healing factors in a pet’s own blood, which is specially processed and then used to help regenerate damaged tissues in his or her body. On the other hand, sometimes finding the best tool for the job requires using ancient therapies that have been practiced for millennia, as is the case with acupuncture.  

A brief history

There is substantial evidence dating the practice of acupuncture on humans in China up to 3000 years ago! While it is primarily thought to be a form of ‘eastern medicine,’ recent findings suggest a form of acupuncture was practiced in areas of Europe for a similar period of time. The first recordings of animal acupuncture dates to between 800-1000 years ago, although it likely was practiced before then.

What is acupuncture and how does it work?

Simply put, acupuncture is the practice of placing very thin needles into the body to provide therapeutic effects. Acupuncture points are located along channels on the surface of the body. 

Many acupuncture channels and points are associated with specific nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and thick fibrous tissues called fascia. Because of an acupuncture point’s close association with a nerve, it is a powerful way to impact the body’s nervous system. The nervous system regulates all bodily functions.

Until modern times, acupuncture was a blood-letting technique, and was thought to work by moving qi (pronounced “chee”). In the pre-scientific era, this was the best understanding practitioners had of why it worked. However, we know now that acupuncture’s mechanism of action is not mysterious at all! It is a means of affecting the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, endocrine systems, and many other bodily systems. 

Acupuncture is often used in conjunction with conventional testing and treatment. In contrast to many conventional treatments, acupuncture has the unique ability to work with a pet’s innate healing abilities. Rather than introducing a foreign compound (i.e. a medication), acupuncture causes the release of many helpful substances within the body to restore homeostasis or balance.

Several general effects of acupuncture include: decreased pain, increased blood circulation, better oxygenation, enhanced communication between nerves, anti-inflammatory effects, promoting calm and relaxation, improved mobility, and regulation of the immune system. 

Ancient technique with solid evidence

There are bound to be folks who are a little skeptical of acupuncture. However, there is a vast and growing body of evidence showing how effective acupuncture is, as well as helping to elucidate how it works in the body. There are many medical journals dedicated solely to studying acupuncture, as well as the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which is funded and directed by the United States Federal government. 

How are the treatments performed?

Acupuncture treatments are intended to be as relaxing and stress-free as possible. We work with each individual pet’s temperament and preferences to provide the optimum treatment. Each session will include a thorough myofascial (or muscular) exam and a neurologic exam if necessary. The first session generally starts with placing a few small needles to help the pet become familiar with the treatment and give the body time to adjust. Subsequent sessions will likely involve treatments directed more at the primary problem. Some pets even get peanut butter or another favorite treat to enjoy while the needles are being placed!

Many pets will not feel the needle at all. Most treatments are started with the smallest needles possible, placed in non-painful locations. However, it is sometimes necessary to treat painful locations. If your pet does feel the needle, it means that area needed to be treated and your pet will likely feel much better after the treatment! 

If you feel your pet might benefit from medical acupuncture, please contact Capitol Illini Veterinary Services to request more information. We are very happy to help!

Capitol Illini’s Online Pharmacy Now Available!

We are proud to offer an online pharmacy to provide you with the convenience of 24/7 online ordering as well as the safety of ordering from a Vet-VIPPS accredited pharmacy.  Our Online Pharmacy, operated by VetSource, allows you to order your pet’s medications, preventatives, and even prescription pet foods online and have them shipped directly to your door.
VetSource, in addition to being Better Business Bureau-accredited, is also Vet-VIPPS certified. Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (Vet-VIPPS) undergo a rigorous accreditation process with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
Our team will be involved with any necessary refill authorization and medication approvals and will have access to these for your pet’s complete medical records.
In addition to convenience and its affordable pricing, you can rest assured of the quality and safety of these products. Our online pharmacy also provides the following beneficial options:

  • Autoship available: get your animal’s medications delivered to your door automatically
  • RemindMe service available: this service repackages monthly doses so they arrive right at the time they should be administered. 
  • FREE shipping available on many products!

To visit and shop our online pharmacy at any time, simply select the “online pharmacy” option under resources, or click here to start shopping for your four-legged family member! 

Try the Pet Desk App!

Have you tried our app? The PetDesk app, free for both Iphone and Android users, gives you 24/7 access to information about your pet’s care. The Pet Desk app stores your pet’s appointment and vaccination history, allows you to make appointment requests, set reminders, store photos and more! 
For more information about the Pet Desk App and all it’s features, visit or click on our “Pet Desk App” page (under the resources tab) to download today! 

Winter Hazards for Outdoor Dogs

The winter months can pose many risks for our canine companions. Here are a few things to keep our pets safe this season.

Housing:Be sure to provide adequate shelter and warmth for your outdoor dogs. A dog house that is well insulated and large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around is ideal. Anything larger than that makes it difficult to keep your pet warm. For additional warmth, use old blankets for bedding material. Blankets are ideal since they’re easy to remove and wash to maintain a clean and dry environment all winter long. Even dogs that are kept partially outdoors in kennels require protection from cold windy weather. Provide a doghouse or secure a tarp onto a portion of the kennel to create a windbreak.

Hydration:is a must in winter conditions. Dogs cannot eat snow as a source of water so water bowls need to be checked regularly or consider a heated water bowl to maintain a source of unfrozen drinking water.

Exercise:pets that exercise outdoors in the colder weather expend a lot of energy in order to maintain normal body temperatures. If you are planning a hike or some type of outdoor activity in the chilly weather, be sure to bring extra food. Dogs kept outdoors need about 30% more food than they require during the warmer months.

Antifreeze:can leak from car radiators and is very tasty to dogs because of its sweet flavor. Unfortunately, this chemical is also very dangerous and can severely damage kidney function. If your pet has come into contact with antifreeze, please contact Capitol Illini immediately!

Ice:may be pretty, but it’s pretty hard to walk on. Slippery sidewalks are a main source of injury during the harsh winter months. Our older pets that may also have arthritis have more of a difficult time maintaining balance resulting in injuries. Guide your pet to more of a grassy/sandy or gravel area. Booties may also help with traction when venturing outdoors

Grooming:your pet is important even during the winter months. If left unkempt, matting on the fur can easily trap in moisture and leave sores on the skin. Dogs with matted hair are less able to maintain their body temperature. Hair between the toes can pick up snow or ice which can irritate or lacerate the paws. Sidewalks that have salt or de-icing chemicals can cause irritation and inflammation to their paws.

Bring your dog indoors if he is shivering. Pay particular attention to older dogs as well as puppies. Older dogs will have special health considerations to address, especially arthritis. The cold can aggravate arthritic conditions and icy ground poses real dangers. Whenever possible, keep older dogs indoors.