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Which Holiday Foods May Be Harmful to Your Pets?

pet-foodThe holiday season seems to be defined by meals. We fill our homes with the scents and tastes of the delicious holiday dinners we grew up eating with our friends and family. That’s what the holidays are all about, for many of us—making new memories over a table spread with things we’re thankful for.

It’s very common for our dogs and cats to also find those smells mouth-watering, but unfortunately, it’s best to deny our animal friends a place at the holiday table. Many of our favorite holiday treats can be harmful or even fatal to our beloved dogs and cats. That’s why it’s best to keep your pets eating their pet food over the holiday season, even if you’re indulging in special meals. While it may seem like a festive treat for your dog or cat to sneak them something under the table, too often little bites like that can cause a panicked call to your veterinarian in the greater Philadelphia area.

The reason for this is simple: human foods are for humans, and pet foods are for pets. While your cats and dogs have a gastrointestinal system capable of eating certain human foods and digesting them properly—especially dogs—many foods that are fine or even healthful for humans can be a big problem. And while pet owners tend to slip their dog or cat a nibble of something or other throughout the year to no bad effect, holiday foods are often some of the most toxic to our animal companions.

Sure, a bite of turkey or ham isn’t the worst thing for your dog or cat, but oftentimes holiday centerpiece meats are dressed with toxic seasonings or gravies. Garlic is poisonous to dogs and cats, as are onions, leeks, shallots, chives, and scallions. And anyway, fatty leftovers can cause health problems for your pets down the line. These include pancreatitis, a condition that may necessitate seeking out a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital. And bones from your holiday bird can puncture your pets’ internal organs or cause them to choke.

But the main course isn’t the only time your pet may be at risk this holiday season. Dessert can also be a danger. Chocolate is disastrous for dogs to consume, for example, and coffee and tea contain caffeine, which is also not good for animals. Even fruit isn’t great to leave out, as grapes are toxic to dogs. It’s also crucial to keep an eye on the wrappers for your Ferrero Rocher or chocolate Santas (as well as the foil from your honey baked ham). Swallowed wrappers can cause your pet to choke, or worse, an intestinal blockage later on. Every dog owner knows it’s tough to keep canine companions out of the trash even when it’s not full of delicious smells, but around the holiday it’s a good idea to invest in a garbage can with a lid, and make sure it’s secured.

VRC is a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital. Our emergency medicine and critical care center is open even on Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you suspect your pet has eaten something off your holiday table, give us a call. The sooner you act, the better.

8 Plants for Your Pets to Avoid this Summer

VRC Vet HospitalSummer is here, and for pet owners that can be a good thing and a bad thing. While the sunny mornings and warm nights are definitely good for taking your dog on long walks in the woods or the local park, and the rapid growth of hedges, flowers, and ornamental shrubs make for happy, curious cats, summer also means there are a lot of blooming, toxic plants out there that can put your pets at risk.

Even if you keep your dog on a leash during daily walks and monitor their trips into the yard to do their business, it can be difficult to stop an eager dog of any age from chewing on the various plants it encounters. The same goes for cats. Outside cats tend to slip away and out of sight to do whatever they want, and even indoor cats may get interested in and nuzzle or take a bite out of plants you bring indoors, whether they’re potted ornamentals or a vase of cut blossoms you just brought in from the yard. That’s why it’s a good idea for pet owners to keep in mind the sorts of flowers and other foliage they plant and bring inside in order to keep their homes a pet-safe zone.

While most pets are pretty smart about the things they choose to nibble on, they make mistakes. It’s good to be aware of the sorts of plants that are toxic to pets before you get your indoor garden going—or before you take that nice long walk to see the beautiful blooms all around your suburban neighborhood. For example, be extra careful around the following:

  • Lilies: The entire lily plant is toxic to cats, and this is especially true of the lovely day lilies that grow outside and Easter lilies, which tend to be grown in pots.
  • Azaleas: A pretty staple of many a yard, azaleas are toxic to house pets.
  • Oleander: The leaves of this notoriously toxic plant can harm your pets.
  • Daffodils: It’s the bulbs of these common flowers that pose a risk to your dog.
  • English Ivy: The leaves and berries are especially toxic to your pet, but the whole plant is dangerous.
  • Bird of Paradise: The pods of this common tropical beauty pose a risk.
  • Morning Glory: The seeds and roots of this beautiful wildflower are poisonous if ingested.
  • Sago Palm: All of this ornamental plant is deadly to pets, especially the seeds.

Summer can mean a lot of fun with your pet, but it does pose its own unique dangers. If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic that might make them ill, or if your pet is exhibiting signs of poisoning such as listlessness, panting, disorientation, or vomiting. They require medical attention from a veterinarian in the greater Philadelphia area, so take them right away.


VRC is located in the greater Philadelphia area. We’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so if you suspect your pet has been poisoned by a plant, contact us immediately.

Simple Things You Can do to Keep Your Dog Happy And Healthy

healthy dogDog owners want to give their pets the best life possible. Sometimes that takes the form of splurging a bit on high-quality food — which is a great idea as long as it’s nutritionally balanced, of course. Sometimes it means lavish toys and designer collars, both of which are fun, though we all know such things are more about the owner than the dog. Really, improving your dog’s quality of life can be very easy with a few simple changes. Read on and see the sorts of things you can do to improve the day-to-day of your favorite companion.


Dogs need guidance from their owners. They are pack animals, and thus need to know who is in charge—otherwise they can become anxious, nervous, and insecure. Basically, knowing how to behave, and when and where, is essential to your dog’s happiness. Understanding the rules will make your dog more secure and at ease than one who is forced to guess. Dogs need boundaries to feel happy, so it’s important to teach them good and bad behavior, as well as to enforce consequences. Build a routine, be consistent, and offer praise. A few obedience classes will help any dog and its owner have a happier life together.

Continuing Education

Dogs are intelligent creatures. They need stimulation and enrichment in their lives. A bored dog is an unhappy dog, and often their intelligence will manifest as misbehavior if not properly channeled. Take the time not only to walk your dog and play with them, but also to train them to do tricks, build their vocabulary, or even retrieve specific toys. An agility class can also help keep your dog’s mind active. For a dog, improved focus means an improved life.


As we mentioned, dogs are pack animals. They need to have a social life to be happy. But some dogs need different sorts of socialization than others. While one dog might enjoy the freedom of the dog park, another will need smaller social circles or risk becoming stressed or aggressive. Watch your dog carefully and see what they like, and plan doggy play dates around your dog’s individual needs.


Naturally, you want your dog to be in tip-top shape. Good quality food is essential, of course, so ask your greater Philadelphia area veterinarian about what sort of nutrition your dog needs at every stage of life. Also, make sure your dog gets all their regular vaccinations, and that you take them in to the vet to talk over any issues such as joint problems, allergies, or strange behaviors. It’s also essential to keep your dog active. Dogs that are sedentary tend to gain weight, which affects their overall health. Go to the park, go jogging—whatever it takes!

VRC is a specialty veterinary healthcare hospital located in the greater Philadelphia area. Consult your dog’s regular vet for any concerns, but we’re here when you need us. As a specialty veterinarian, we’re open 24/7, 365 days a year.

Frequently Asked Questions: Emergency Services

Emergency Services


Do you close on holidays?

VRC is open 24/7, 365 days a year; rain or shine. Our doors never close and you can always count on us to be available for your pet’s needs at all times!

Does it cost more to bring my pet through the ER?

The ER consultation fee is no more expensive than consultation fees of other departments within VRC. Fees associated with a given category are equal across all departments (e.g. hospitalization, medications, and diagnostics).

How does the process work when I arrive?

When you arrive you will be directed to speak with one of our emergency nurses. They will first ask you a few questions about your pet and will later bring him/her to the back for our doctors to perform a physical exam.

Will there be a long wait in the ER?

When the ER is busy, your pet will be seen on the basis of need. A triage nurse and ER doctor will make an initial assessment of your pet’s needs within minutes of your arrival. Pets that are experiencing emergencies and need immediate attention will take priority.  If all of our current patients are equally stable, they are seen in order of arrival. If other pets are being seen before yours, this is good news as it means your pet is not as sick as some of our other patients.

Who will be seeing my pet?

Our excellent and experienced emergency doctors or critical care specialists will personally perform a physical exam on your pet. They will also be sure to come out and speak with you afterwards with an initial diagnosis.

Is anyone caring for my pet during the night?

We have veterinarians and nurses available in the hospital 24/7, 365 days a year. Your pets are always being looked after and cared for while they are in our care.

How often will my dog get walked while (s)he is in the hospital?

Our patients are walked regularly. We have areas surrounding the hospital that allow for seamless transition from inside care to bathroom breaks and appropriate exercise outside. Typically, our patients on IV fluids are walked at least every 4 hours.

Can I visit my pet if he/she has to stay in the hospital?

We encourage visiting with your pet while (s)he is in the hospital and always do our best to accommodate those who wish to do so. Your pet misses you as much as you miss him/her! We do ask that you discuss a visit with your doctor or call ahead to arrange a time so that we can best accommodate you.

Should I bring my pet’s own food, medicine or blankets/personal items?

It is helpful to bring your pet’s food and medicine while (s)he is in the hospital.  If you do choose to bring personal items, we recommend not bringing anything of sentimental value.  We have plenty of comfortable bedding here, so there is no need to bring your own.  Please understand that if any items become soiled, they will go into our laundry and we cannot guarantee their return to you. We also suggest asking your veterinarian prior to bringing any toys to make sure that they won’t interfere with your pet’s treatment.

Will my veterinarian be kept updated on my pet’s care?

Your veterinarian receives regular updates from our emergency/critical care doctors during hospitalization. Our goal is to work closely with your veterinarian to ensure seamless care for your pets while they are at VRC. Your primary veterinarian will receive the details regarding our physical exam, any diagnostic tests performed with the results, and the recommended treatment plan. If your pet is admitted to stay overnight, then your primary veterinarian will receive twice daily updates.

What if I cannot afford my pet’s care?

Here at VRC, we understand that medical costs can be extremely difficult, especially when they are unexpected. Should you choose to do so, you may apply for CareCredit. This is a healthcare credit card designed for payment of your veterinary needs. It’s a way to pay for the costs of treatments and procedures in manageable monthly increments. Please talk to your doctor or a member of our client services team at reception to learn more.