Category: News

Holiday Safety

The winter months bring joyous holiday celebrations. We want your holidays to be fun filled and safe. The following are tips to keep the holidays happy and healthy for everyone!!

The holidays are a wonderful time full of family togetherness and fantastic food. Please remember our foods are often very unhealthy for our pets. Fatty foods can lead to severe stomach problems including pancreatitis (which can be life threatening if not treated), vomiting, and diarrhea. Some foods (grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, and chocolate) are toxic to our furry family members. The best plan is no table food for Fido and Fluffy.

Decorations and Pet Safety

  • Christmas Trees are beautiful especially when decorated, but animals often like to play with the ornaments and tree. Please place any small or breakable ornaments high and out of reach. Also please avoid tinsel since animals can eat it and cause an intestinal obstruction requiring emergency surgical removal!
  • If hanging ornaments, please avoid the metal ornament hooks. Animals can seriously injure themselves on these sharp objects. Consider using twine, yarn, or fabric instead.
  • If you have a real tree, please do not put any chemical in the tree water. This can be toxic to pets that drink the water.
  • Please be sure to secure any loose electrical cords and keep them out of reach of pets. Pets have been known to bite into these cords and electrocute themselves!
  • When wrapping gifts, please avoid using loose ribbon or tinsel. Pets may eat these beautiful decorations which can cause serious intestinal issues.
  • Please supervise any lit candles or simmering oils. Pets are often attracted to these and can become seriously injured in they get too close.
  • Although fireplace salts produce beautiful colors, the fumes can cause serious respiratory complications. Avoid them completely if you have pet birds!
  • Please avoid spun glass (Angel Hair) completely. This can be very irritating to eyes, skin, and intestines.


Common Holiday Toxins

Mild Toxicity – Poinsettia leaves/stems, angel hair, tree preservatives,Kitty Mischief

super glue, balsam/pine/cedar/fir.

Moderate Toxicity – Fireplace salts, model cement, artificial snow,

High Toxicity – Mistletoe, Holly, epoxy adhesives, antifreeze,

any type of Lily (fatal to cats)

Have a safe and happy holiday season from all of us at PVH!!!

Thanks to Dr. Jennifer for the blog!


Kitty Halloween

The most spooktacular night of the year is rapidly approaching!! Our clinic recommends taking some basic precautions this Halloween to keep you and your pet saying “Happy Haunting” all the way to November 1.

No Treats: The candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be VERY dangerous for dogs and cats. Raisins and grapes are toxic to dogs. Candies containing the artificial sweeteners (especially xylitol) can be EXTREMELY dangerous. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call our clinic or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Spark-less: Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

Fire Free: Jack-o-lanterns are very festive, but exercise caution if you use candles. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

Costume Cautious: Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she enjoys it! For pets that prefer their “birthday suits”, however, wearing a costume may cause extreme stress. Please make sure the costume is safe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede the ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.

Stranger Danger: All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

Door Don’ts: When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.

IDs Please: Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increasing the chances that he or she will be returned to you.

Pet Protection: Please be sure to bring ALL of your animals (especially black cats) inside to a safe area for Halloween. We want to be sure all the family has a fun and safe night!

Happy Halloween from all of us at PVH!

Thanks to Dr. Jennifer for this blog

Cat Communication 101 part 2


What is my cat really trying to tell me?

Tails Tell the Tale (Part Two)

Cats may only have a limited number of vocal communications, but they have numerous forms of physical communication.  Cats have VERY expressive facial signals and tail cues to try to communicate their feelings and emotions.  If we take the time to learn some of these signals and cues it will help us better understand our feline friends. 


 The Ears Have It

Cats are able to communicate a great deal with just their ear position.  Their ears have over 20 muscles to help with the subtle changes that can tell us a lot!

Cat's Ears

  • Ears forward – I’m paying close attention and on alert
  • Ears to the side – I’m at ease and relaxed
  • Ears flat – I’m ready for a confrontation (aggressive or defensive)
  • Ears twitching – I’m nervous or agitated








Cat's Tail 

 Tail Tales

Cats use their tails to communicate to us and to other cats.  Learning to interpret tail positions and movements can help us better understand and anticipate our cat’s needs.

  •  Tail straight up – I’m happy to see you
  •  Tail straight up and quivering – I’m VERY happy to see you
  •  Tail straight up with hair puffed – I’m trying to look bigger (fearful defensive posture)
  •  Tail straight back – I’m ready to fight (aggressive and/or defensive posture)
  •  Tail tucked – I’m very scared


Cat Communication 101

What is my cat really trying to tell me?
Listen to me Meow (Part One)
Cute Kittens

 Cats are naturally independent so they have a small array of vocalizations. Cat-to-cat vocalizations are typically limited to communication between kittens, mates or enemies. There is also a collection of vocalizations used by our feline friends when they want to communicate with us. Pellissippi Veterinary Hospital’s Cat Advocate (Dr. Jennifer) will help teach you the art of interpreting cat lingo.

Pleasant Purring

The purr is the most common cat vocalization (and one of the least understood). Kittens just a few hours old purr as they knead their mom and nurse. The purr sound is made both on the inhale and the exhale, with an instantaneous break between breaths. While purring is often heard when the cat seems content, those familiar with handling cats in pain or near death know that they also purr when under duress, the reason for which is yet unknown.  Most behaviorists think this is to solicit care or diffuse threats when they are vulnerable.

Meaning of Meow

The second most common vocalization is the meow. Rarely heard between adult cats, this vocalization seems to only occur from kittens to adult cats and cats to humans. Young cats learn that meowing brings attention, contact, food and play from their human companions. Some behaviorists suggest that certain cats seem to alter their meows to suit different purposes, and that some cat parents can differentiate between the “I’m Hungry!” meow” from the “Let Me Out!” meow.

Cat-to-Cat Calls

Cats that are closely bonded (feline friends) often produce a greeting vocalization called a chirrup or trill.  This often sounds like “brrp” or “thrrp”.  In rare cases, cats that are very bonded to their “people parents” will call to them in this manner.

When a neonate kitten is cold, isolated from his mother or trapped, he issues a distress call—also sometimes called an anger wail. As the kitten matures, the distress call is used when play is too rough or the cat finds something else to protest.

Predatory Noises

The sound cats make when highly aroused by the sight of prey is called chirping.

When a cat is excited or frustrated by prey out of reach (indoor cats unable to get to the birds at the feeder), you may hear him chatter.

A Hiss Is Just a Hiss?

All threat vocalizations mirror the cat’s intense emotional state. A hiss is uttered when a cat is surprised by an enemy. A high-pitched shriek or scream is expressed when the cat is in pain or fearful and aggressive. Snarling is often heard when two toms are in the midst of a fight over territory or female attention. And a long, low-pitched growl warns of danger.

Fire Ants in East Tennessee!


By: Dr. Hackett

    Fire Ants arrived in the United States in 1938 at the port of Mobile, Alabama aboard a ship from South America.  Since that day they have steadily moved north toward East Tennessee. They have arrived.  I found four nests in my yard in Solway last year and three more this spring. Oak Ridge National Lab has a report of them on their property as well. I spoke with a client who found two nests on his property in Morgan County.

    What makes Fire Ants different?

  The fire ant is unlike the ants we are used to in East Tennessee because they actually grab their victims with their pinchers like any ant could and then deliver a sting from a stinger in their abdomen. The sting contains a venom similar to a bee.  When their nest is disturbed by an animal or human walking past they boil out of their nest in huge numbers and attack in force.

How do I know if there are Fire Ants in my yard?

 The fire ant’s nest is a 5-6 inch high mound of dirt in a sunny area of your yard. They just seem to suddenly appear. There are no holes in the top of the mound as we are used to seeing and no ants are visible until they are disturbed. The ants themselves are intermediate in size between the small red ants and large black carpenter ants we are used to seeing in our yards. The ants are red in the head area and black in the abdomen.

How dangerous are the Fire Ants? 

The sting of the ants causes a red welt which turns to a blister in 24 hours.  Infection can result if the blister is scratched and opened.  Young or small animals and children are at greatest risk due to their size and proximity to the ground.   The stings can result in allergic reactions in some animals and people.  In the U.S. , the ants result in an estimated 1 billion dollars of agricultural losses per year. This as compared to the estimated 1.5 billion dollars caused by termites.

Controlling Fire Ants

Using chemicals to control fire ants involves treating their nests and watering the surface to allow the insecticide a chance to penetrate the nest which may be five feet deep.  The queens, there may be as many as five or more per nest, only eat food first eaten by the workers.  Thus if the insecticide acts quickly it may never reach the queens.  Each and every nest needs to be treated.  The nests rechecked for live ants and retreated if necessary. Many recommended non-insecticide treatments are to be found ……club soda, baking soda, vinegar, molasses, plaster of Paris, and artificial sweeteners.  Unfortunately none of these do little more than encourage the ants to move their mound at most. Dish washing soap mixed with citrus oil does seem to have some effectiveness. Mowing frequently and at a short level discourages the mound building.   They prefer sun so shady areas are less likely to be invaded. There are flies which attack the ants and they have been imported in some southern states to limit the fire ants.


This is what a typical Fire Ant mound looks like. If you did not know any better you would think it was just a pile of dirt.

Fire Ant Mound 1

Here is a size comparison photo of the mound and a dime.

Fire Ant Mound 2

If you look closely, you can see the Fire Ants. This picture was taken after they had been disturbed. Unlike other ants, the Fire Ant does not hang out at the top of the mound unless attack.

Fire Ant Mound 4

This is Jasmine, one of Dr. Hackett and Jan’s Italian Grey Hounds, she was and unfortunate victim of an attack by Fire Ants.

Jasmine Red Belly 2

As mentioned above, there are chemicals that are made to eradicate the mounds. Spectracide Fire Ant Killer is the brand that Dr. Hackett used to get rid of his Fire Ant infestation.

Spectracide Fire Ant Killer

Here is a video of the Fire Ants when they are disturbed from their mound.