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Happy ‘Howlidays’

Brush up on tips for ensuring a healthy and happy season for your furry friends.


Dr. Karen Burgess, owner of Healthy Paws Animal Hospital in Lake in the Hills, has more than 13 years of experience in veterinary medicine (including specialty, emergency and general practice).

One goal in opening her practice was to focus on educating clients regarding various aspects of their pets’ health. Burgess understands that during the holiday bustle and winter weather it is particularly important to pay attention to your pet’s health and wellness.

Following are 10 ways families and their pets can enjoy a fun, happy and safe holiday season:

  • The stockings were hung (treats) – What dog or cat wouldn’t want a stocking from Santa full of tasty tidbits? When buying pet treats, consider ones that are both enjoyable and good for their teeth. An independent organization, the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), certifies products that meet pre-set standards of plaque and calculus (tartar) control for dogs and cats. Although any product can be labeled to assist with dental care, those listed at have gone through definitive testing to prove their efficacy.
  •  Time for toys and time for cheer (toys) – Dogs and cats benefit from environmental stimulation. Incorporating toys that make them think are entertaining, help alleviate stress and anxiety, and can even encourage exercise.  Premier Products has a complete line of toys that rewards cats and dogs for “working.” For the dog that can chew through any toy, consider Zogoflex and GoughNuts (guaranteed durability).
  • To Grandmother’s house we go (pet care) – Plan ahead for your pet’s care while the family is away for the holidays. In home care, doggy daycare, pet walkers and kennels are all options. Speak with your veterinarian to help determine what option is best for your pet’s stage of life. Always provide caretakers with specific instructions on what to do in the case of emergencies including your veterinarian’s information and a local contact that can make decisions on your behalf in your absence.
  • There’ll be much mistletoeing (poison-proofing) – Doggy- and kitty-proof your holiday season. Poinsettia, mistletoe, lilies, holly and chocolate can all be toxic to your pet. Christmas garland is a frequent cause of intestinal obstruction in cats. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control (888-426-4435) veterinarians are available 24 hours a day to help in these situations. It will likely include a $65 fee for the service, but this will also allow your veterinarian access to ASPCA resources if treatment is deemed necessary.
  • Oh the weather outside is frightful (cold weather) – The dog thermoneutral zone (i.e., the temperature they are most comfortable at) is 64-77 degrees F and for cats 89.6 to 100.4 degrees F.  Although pets may love playing in the snow, keep a close watch on them when the temperatures drop and the air is frigid. Coats and booties can help on those cold winter days. To prevent snowballs on the feet, consider spraying footpads with no-stick cooking spray before going outside (make sure to wipe feet before walking back inside).
  • For Auld Lang Syne (training) – Even pets can have a New Year’s resolution. Consider brushing up on old skills or learning something new with your pet. Obedience training, rally, agility, freestyle, fly ball, clicker training – the options are limitless. There is no better way to create a positive bond with your pet then the learning/training process. In addition, basic obedience skills and exercise can help with a variety of common behavior problems.  Another great option is therapy work. Check out Delta Society’s website ( to learn more about how your pet might help others in our community.
  • Let’s run and we’ll have some fun (exercising) – Frosty wasn’t the only one who liked to get out and frolic.  McHenry County is home to Bark Park located in Lake in the Hills, Godbold Park in Cary, and Hound Town at Lippold Park in Crystal Lake. Consider getting your pooch a pass to play this holiday.
  • Feed the world, let them know it’s Christmastime (donating)– Did you know shelters collect food and supplies for pets, too? Pet food and cat litter are accepted at the Crystal Lake Food Pantry (257 King St. in Crystal Lake). Open pet food is accepted but should remain in the original bag/packaging. Any monetary donation can be specified for pet needs.
  • I’ll be home for Christmas (gift-giving) – Images of children opening a gift box to find a furry kitten or puppy are heartwarming. However, if you are thinking of adding a pet to the family, first empower yourself with information. The majority of the animals sold by pet stores come from puppy mills, which may affect a dog’s mental and physical health for years to come. Good resources to help pick a pet include your veterinarian and books like “Before You Get Your Puppy,” available free online at You can also find many quality pets at local animal shelters in need of a good home. Try Helping Paws ( and McHenry County Animal Control (
  • You better watch out (emergency preparedness) –Finally, if you are concerned about your pet’s health, contact your family veterinarian as soon as possible. If unable to reach your veterinarian, contact Animal Emergency of McHenry County (AEMC) ( at 815-479-9119.  AEMC provides 24-hour emergency/critical care, rehabilitation, surgical and internal medicine services.

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