Previous Walks of Nature Tips for your Pet's Health & Safety:

February 2014

Winter StrollLove Among Pets, Partners Means Harmony At Home

Borrowed from:

LOS ANGELES (AP) It's got to be more than puppy love to move in with your partner. But that's just what you'll need for household harmony if that partner comes with a pet.

If you just walked down the aisle or took your relationship to the next level, both people and pets will need time to adjust to a new living situation. Maybe Fido is getting kicked out of his favorite spot on the couch, or Whiskers has never been around a pooch. Pets need to get comfortable with new animals and with a new person giving orders. As the household adjusts to different personalities, changed schedules and new ways of doing things, experts offer tips for a seamless transition, including establishing consistent habits as soon as possible and using treats to help bond.

Pets thrive on consistency, so if you have to change the rules, do it during the move-in — teach pets what's expected of them and stick to it, said Dr. Katherine Miller, a certified applied animal behaviorist for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York. Pets need to know their boundaries: can they sleep on the bed, sit on the sofa, play ball in the house? Where are the litter boxes, is there a doggy door, are there walks, where's the water?

Every pet-person relationship is different, but each is a two-way street, Miller said.

"When it comes to introductions, gradual is better and patience is a must. It can take weeks, months or a year," she said.

Rebecca Hjorten and Gavriel Kohlberg know all about taking time to adjust to a pet. The New York City couple started dating in medical school seven years ago, and Hjorten wanted a dog from the get-go but Kohlberg always came up with a reason to avoid adopting.

Two years ago, despite Kohlberg's continued worries, they went to a shelter and got a year-old Siberian Husky mix they named Maya.

There were problems: Someone had taught Maya to use the shower as a bathroom. The couple hired a behavior expert and trainer, and they still work on it.

Despite the potty training issues and early objections, Kohlberg easily fell in love with Maya. "It was one of the best things we ever did," Hjorten said of adopting the dog.

Recently, Kohlberg took Hjorten and Maya for a walk in Central Park and proposed to both.

Sometimes it's a more difficult transition than the New York couple faced. If there is friction between a pet and a partner, the whole household has to work it out.

"Ask your partner to be the bearer of all good things for your pet each day," Miller said.

Don't be afraid to use a pet's stomach to reach its heart. If a man just moved into his girlfriend's dog-friendly house, he should feed the animal and provide treats and rewards. And she should reward her dog for sniffing, approaching or its other investigating of the boyfriend.

"Encouraging this social behavior will grease the wheels of affection," Miller said.

Don't punish a pet for failing to bond instantly, Miller said. Tension is always highest at the first meeting, so it helps if you can make the introductions on neutral territory, like a park.

"It's hard to expect everybody to just get along, so it's good to have a couple of low-key dates," Miller said.

Don't force interaction, she warned, and never lock animals in a room.

People have to take relationships with their pets seriously, looking ahead to how their lifestyle will change and talking with their partner about it, Miller said.

Sometimes the transition doesn't work out, as Angela Gonzalez knows. The 56-year-old from Carrollton, Texas, and her 9-pound Pomeranian named Peaches have been together for 12 years. When Gonzalez brought her new boyfriend home two years ago, he seemed to like Peaches.

"I love my animals like they are my children," Gonzalez said. "He knew going in how I felt about Peaches."

After 18 months, he started spending more time at the house, and Gonzalez knew there would have to be little compromises:

  • He didn't want Peaches in the bed, so the dog learned to sleep on the floor.
  • He thought she spent too much time brushing Peaches, so she got the dog's hair cut short.
  • He said it was the dog's fault they couldn't go out on weekends, so she hired a pet-sitter.
  • He said Peaches barked too much and suggested a shock collar. Or maybe, he said, Peaches would be happier somewhere else.

That wasn't an option for Gonzalez. Now, Peaches is back in bed, the dog's hair is growing out and the boyfriend is history.

December 2013

5 Ways To Winterize Your Pet: Keep your furry friends warm and healthy this season

By HANNAH WOIT | Borrowed from Prevention®

Storm windows? Check. Snow tires? Check. Winter woollies? Check. What about your dog or cat? While you're prepping your home, your car, and your wardrobe for the colder months, don't forget to weatherproof your furry friend. Here are a few things the experts say you can do to keep your pet warm, healthy, and safe all season long.

Winterizing Your PetWarm Him Up

You might laugh when you see a Chihuahua wearing a miniature coat, but there are practical justifications for a coat that keeps your animal warm, especially for small dogs. "These breeds have a relatively high ratio of body surface to body weight, so they lose body heat more quickly than larger dogs," says Jeff Werber, DVM, of Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles. "But large dogs can also benefit from an extra layer if they spend a lot of time outdoors in the cold." (Boots & Barkley Puffer Jacket, $10;

Keep Him Dry

As much as you hate getting caught in a rainstorm, getting soaked can actually be worse for pets. "Their coats retain water, so the impact of the cold and dampness is greater, increasing the risk of hypothermia," says Dr. Werber. Protect your pet with a poncho that folds up and can be worn around the neck, so it's there if you need it in case of an unexpected shower. (Rain Bandana by Quaker Pet Group, $13;

Soothe His Skin

If your pet's skin becomes red or itchy from the cold, Dr. Werber recommends washing the affected area with a gentle soap and applying a triple antibiotic ointment. For an on-the-go fix for a dry, cracked nose, try a healing balm formulated for pets. Just make sure to apply it right before a meal so that your pet doesn't lick it off. (Snoutstik, $4;

Improve His Visibility In The Dark

Reflective gear is a safety essential for walks at night or in snowy, rainy, or foggy weather—it helps drivers spot your animal if he bounds into traffic. "Reflective gear gets a thumbs-up for safety, even for cats. If your pet escapes out the front door, a reflective collar will alert drivers to his presence, and the name tag will help get your pet safely home," says Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, of the Animal Medical Center in New York City. (Lazer Brite Reflective Collar, $7;

Protect His Paws

When you tug on your snow boots, do the same for your pup if it's icy out. Pets can suffer frostbite, and the salt or chemicals commonly spread on streets to melt snow can irritate your dog's paws. Try protective booties, such as Protex Pawz Dog Boots ($14 to $18;

October 2013

Dogs are People, TooDogs Are People, Too!

By GREGORY BERNS | Borrowed from The New York Times SundayReview

For the past two years, my colleagues and I have been training dogs to go in an M.R.I. scanner — completely awake and unrestrained. Our goal has been to determine how dogs’ brains work and, even more important, what they think of us humans.

Now, after training and scanning a dozen dogs, my one inescapable conclusion is this: dogs are people, too.

Because dogs can’t speak, scientists have relied on behavioral observations to infer what dogs are thinking. It is a tricky business. You can’t ask a dog why he does something. And you certainly can’t ask him how he feels. The prospect of ferreting out animal emotions scares many scientists. After all, animal research is big business. It has been easy to sidestep the difficult questions about animal sentience and emotions because they have been unanswerable.

Until now.

M.R.I.’s are conducted in loud, confined spaces. People don’t like them, and you have to hold absolutely still during the procedure. Conventional veterinary practice says you have to anesthetize animals so they don’t move during a scan. But you can’t study brain function in an anesthetized animal. At least not anything interesting like perception or emotion.

From the beginning, we treated the dogs as persons. We had a consent form, which was modeled after a child’s consent form but signed by the dog’s owner. We emphasized that participation was voluntary, and that the dog had the right to quit the study. We used only positive training methods. No sedation. No restraints. If the dogs didn’t want to be in the M.R.I. scanner, they could leave. Same as any human volunteer.

My dog Callie was the first. Rescued from a shelter, Callie was a skinny black terrier mix, what is called a feist in the southern Appalachians, from where she came. True to her roots, she preferred hunting squirrels and rabbits in the backyard to curling up in my lap. She had a natural inquisitiveness, which probably landed her in the shelter in the first place, but also made training a breeze.

With the help of my friend Mark Spivak, a dog trainer, we started teaching Callie to go into an M.R.I. simulator that I built in my living room. She learned to walk up steps into a tube, place her head in a custom-fitted chin rest, and hold rock-still for periods of up to 30 seconds. Oh, and she had to learn to wear earmuffs to protect her sensitive hearing from the 95 decibels of noise the scanner makes.

After months of training and some trial-and-error at the real M.R.I. scanner, we were rewarded with the first maps of brain activity. For our first tests, we measured Callie’s brain response to two hand signals in the scanner. In later experiments, not yet published, we determined which parts of her brain distinguished the scents of familiar and unfamiliar dogs and humans.

Soon, the local dog community learned of our quest to determine what dogs are thinking. Within a year, we had assembled a team of a dozen dogs who were all “M.R.I.-certified.”

Although we are just beginning to answer basic questions about the canine brain, we cannot ignore the striking similarity between dogs and humans in both the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus.

Rich in dopamine receptors, the caudate sits between the brainstem and the cortex. In humans, the caudate plays a key role in the anticipation of things we enjoy, like food, love and money. But can we flip this association around and infer what a person is thinking just by measuring caudate activity? Because of the overwhelming complexity of how different parts of the brain are connected to one another, it is not usually possible to pin a single cognitive function or emotion to a single brain region.

But the caudate may be an exception. Specific parts of the caudate stand out for their consistent activation to many things that humans enjoy. Caudate activation is so consistent that under the right circumstances, it can predict our preferences for food, music and even beauty.
In dogs, we found that activity in the caudate increased in response to hand signals indicating food. The caudate also activated to the smells of familiar humans. And in preliminary tests, it activated to the return of an owner who had momentarily stepped out of view. Do these findings prove that dogs love us? Not quite. But many of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate. Neuroscientists call this a functional homology, and it may be an indication of canine emotions.
The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child. And this ability suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs.

Dogs have long been considered property. Though the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 and state laws raised the bar for the treatment of animals, they solidified the view that animals are things — objects that can be disposed of as long as reasonable care is taken to minimize their suffering.

But now, by using the M.R.I. to push away the limitations of behaviorism, we can no longer hide from the evidence. Dogs, and probably many other animals (especially our closest primate relatives), seem to have emotions just like us. And this means we must reconsider their treatment as property.

One alternative is a sort of limited personhood for animals that show neurobiological evidence of positive emotions. Many rescue groups already use the label of “guardian” to describe human caregivers, binding the human to his ward with an implicit responsibility to care for her. Failure to act as a good guardian runs the risk of having the dog placed elsewhere. But there are no laws that cover animals as wards, so the patchwork of rescue groups that operate under a guardianship model have little legal foundation to protect the animals’ interest.
If we went a step further and granted dogs rights of personhood, they would be afforded additional protection against exploitation. Puppy mills, laboratory dogs and dog racing would be banned for violating the basic right of self-determination of a person.

I suspect that society is many years away from considering dogs as persons. However, recent rulings by the Supreme Court have included neuroscientific findings that open the door to such a possibility. In two cases, the court ruled that juvenile offenders could not be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. As part of the rulings, the court cited brain-imaging evidence that the human brain was not mature in adolescence. Although this case has nothing to do with dog sentience, the justices opened the door for neuroscience in the courtroom. Perhaps someday we may see a case arguing for a dog’s rights based on brain-imaging findings.

Gregory Berns is a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University and the author of “How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain.”

August 2013

Good News for Cat lovers with allergies!Cat Allergy Breakthrough:
Give Your Kitty a Hug Today

By Sarah B. Weir, Shine Senior Writer | Borrowed from Yahoo! News

It's good news for cat lovers: A new, more effective treatment for allergies may be on the way. 

Scientists at the University of  Cambridge in the United Kingdom have discovered the receptor protein in human cells that triggers cat allergies. They anticipate that new drugs will be developed to bind the protein and prevent people from having an inflammatory response.

"It has long been known that cat allergies are caused by people reacting to cat proteins secreted by the salivary or scent glands being transferred to the fur," Dr. Clare Bryant, lead researcher, told Yahoo! Shine. "Other allergen—for example house dust mite allergy protein—trigger a receptor protein in host [human] cells and we wondered if cat allergen would have similar effects. We did not expect this to happen because the cat allergy protein is very different to the house dust mite protein, so we were very surprised to find that it triggered inflammation through the same receptor."

About 10 percent of people have pet allergies, and reactions to cats are twice as common as reactions to dogs. Cat allergies are especially pernicious because the proteins are small, light, and sticky. They float through the air and when they land on a surface—a piece of clothing for instance—they can be transferred to places that are cat-free. Symptoms include sneezing, watery eyes, stuffy nose, sore throat, hives, wheezing, and in severe cases, asthma.

Currently the only way to treat cat allergies is to reduce the symptoms with antihistamines or decongestants or endure weekly shots to boost the immune system—which can take as long as a year to kick in and may not even be effective.

Bryant can't predict exactly how long it will take for new drugs to reach on the market—that's up to the pharmaceutical companies—but says that "drugs that inhibit the receptor have already been tested in clinical trials for conditions such as sepsis." She added, "I would anticipate that an allergic person could, say, inhale a blocking drug before going to a house with cats and not get a reaction."

And allergic dog lovers have cause for hope, too. Bryant believes the findings could lead to improved treatment for canine allergies. The research will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Immunology.



Flea and Tick Control for Your Dog


May 2013

Flea and Tick Control: Your Decision

By: Donna Solomon, DVM,
Veterinarian, Animal Medical Center of Chicago |
Borrowed from Huffington Post

Over the past 10 years there has been an explosion of newly released flea and tick products for dogs and cats. Choosing the right product for your pet has become daunting given the choices available. Additionally, advertisers and their makers make it more confusing to the pet owners by flaunting their flea and tick product as "the safest," "the most effective," "the most convenient," and "the quickest kill."

I've decided to tackle this confusing purchasing decision by educating you on how to make the most informed decision. I'm not going to recommend one product for all pets because you will soon discover that every pet faces its own risks. In my opinion, there is no one product on the market that is best for all pets.

These eight questions will help you select the best flea and tick control product for your pet:

1. Does my pet have exposure to ticks?

Yes, if it goes outside according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, which reports that ticks are present in every state of the United State. Why should I be concerned about ticks? Ticks carry diseases like Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Anaplasmosis.

2. Is my pet high or low risk for exposure to ticks?

Living in an urban setting does not mean ticks are not there. For example, 10 years ago, Chicago veterinarians rarely discussed tick control but due to our frequent traveling with pets and wildlife presence, we now have ticks in Chicago. Ticks live on the ground, whether it is on a city lawn or in a forest. They usually crawl up on a blade of grass, wait for a warm-blooded animal to pass by, and then drop onto their host to take a meal.

Determining your pet's risk for tick exposure will help narrow or eliminate some of the products on the market. Products containing Selamectin, Fipronil, Amitraz and pyrethoids are usually labeled to control ticks. If your pet has negligible exposure to ticks, then the tick efficacy of the product is not that important to you. You may want to select a product that just has flea control in it. If your pet roams in dense, wooded areas, then your tick exposure is high and tick control efficacy is a very important consideration when choosing an insecticide.

3. Does your pet go to daycare, grooming parlors, or parks? Or, does your pet stay in its own backyard?

If your pet is social, then this increases your pet's exposure to fleas. Although you may think that if your dog stays in its own backyard that its exposure to fleas is negligible, this assumption is incorrect. Unfortunately, wildlife - like opossums, raccoons, and stray cats can carry fleas into your yard. I believe all dogs and cats that go outside are at risk for exposure to fleas and should consider excellent flea control of utmost importance when selecting a product.

4. Does your pet swim or get bathed at least once every two weeks?

If yes, then it is imperative that you choose a flea and tick control product that is guaranteed to still be effective after exposure to water and soap. When applying topical insecticides that are labeled waterproof, don't forget to wait at least 24-hours before or after applying the insecticide before allowing your pet to swim. Most topical insecticides need this time to be absorbed by the skin in order to be effective. Obviously, if your pet does not swim, your chosen product does not need to be waterproof.

5. Do you own a cat?

Applying a pyrethroid (like cyphenothrin, deltamethrin, permethrin, and phenothrin) or amitraz containing product on your dog can be toxic to your cat. Just allowing your cat to rub next to your recently treated dog can be extremely toxic to your cat.
If you are choosing a flea and tick product for your cat, make sure when purchasing the product that it is specifically labeled for cats. Not only would I avoid the amitraz or pyrethroid containing products, but I would also avoid applying flea collars on cats. Cats that roam outside can get the collar caught on branches or fences, and strangle themselves.

6. How old is your pet?

Some products are not safe to apply on pets less than eight weeks of age. Some products are definitely not safe to apply on ill or pregnant pets. Read the label for age and health restrictions before choosing and applying them onto your pet.

7. Does the product kill both adult fleas and eggs?

I personally believe that a product that only prevents the flea eggs from hatching or larvae from completing it's life cycle (insect growth regulators) misses the mark of an acceptable product when used alone. Lufenuron is an example of an insecticide that prevents eggs from completing their metamorphosis. Examples of insect growth regulators are pyriproxyfen and methoprene. No one, including you or your pet, finds it acceptable to have an adult flea biting its skin. On the flip side, if the product only kills the adult fleas and not the flea eggs, this creates a situation where the eggs in the environment can hatch, jump on your pet, and bite them. One female flea will lay 20-40 eggs per day.

8. Are you concerned about absorbing this product when you touch your pet?

I hesitate to recommend any insecticide product that is intended to remain on the surface of the pet's fur. I do not want any personal exposure to these products. I would never apply flea powder or use a flea collar containing propoxur or tetrachlorvinphos on my pets for fear that not only could it be carcinogenic or toxic to my pet but also to anyone exposed to it. Reported by the National Resources Defense Council, when an adult plays with a cat or dog wearing one of these insecticide collars they could be potentially exposed to up to 500 times the safe levels of the pesticide set by the EPA. This number is substantially higher for children. Their exposure to the toxin is up to 1,000 times the safe level.

A case study:

My golden retriever, Zack, lives in Oak Park, Illinois but frequently goes to Michigan during the summer where his tick exposure is high. So, tick control is extremely important to me. He swims at least two to three times per week in the summer so I want to choose a flea and tick product that will not wash off him. Although he does not go to dog parks, he does walk the streets where many dogs pass by so his flea exposure is high. I own two exclusively indoor cats so I am going to avoid products containing pyrethroids or amitraz. My dog is 10 years of age and in good health so I don't have to worry about him being too young or too ill to apply. I definitely don't want adult fleas on him or eggs in my environment -- so both of these properties will be in my selected product. I don't want to smell or feel this product on him -- so topical sprays or collars are unacceptable. Next, I would contact my veterinarian to recommend a flea and tick product that kills ticks, waterproof, kills adult fleas and eggs, safe around cats, and is absorbed by his skin or taken orally.

Do not fall victim to a boastful flea and tick advertising campaign by the manufacturer. Choose the best product for your pet based on your concerns and the advice of your veterinarian. And then, apply your flea and tick control on your pet as directed by the manufacturer's label. Being proactive with your pet's health allows you to enjoy more sunny days with your beloved pet!

April 2013
Borrowed from:

Setting a price on loveHow to Set a Price on the Life of a Beloved Pet?

I COULDN’T begin to add up the number of times my husband and I have had the Talk. We know illness and death are two of life’s certainties. And we’ve taken care of the issue when it comes to ourselves. We’ve signed medical directives saying we want no extraordinary measures taken to extend our lives if we become incapacitated to the point that we’re a burden, emotionally and financially, to our families.
But when it comes to our pets, the Talk never resolves anything.

Luckily our two 14-year-old cats, 8-year-old Border collie and 3-year-old Labrador retriever are all in fairly good health. We haven’t had to make decisions about whether to spend thousands of dollars, possibly tens of thousands, to save or extend their lives. But those decisions are coming, and despite our efforts to have the Talk, we have no idea what we’ll be willing to do to keep them around as long as possible.

That so many more technological advances are available now than there were 10 years ago means pet owners have more ethical and financial choices to make. “In the last 30 years there’s been an increase in specialty veterinary medicine,” said our veterinarian, Dr. Woody Walker of La Cañada Pet Clinic, north of Los Angeles. “And the technology is amazing. Whatever we can do in people, we can do in pets.”
Pet owners, who represent 68 percent of United States households, spent a collective $53 billion on pets last year, according to the American Pet Products Association. That’s for everything from medicines and operations to toys and food.

No one has a figure for how much people spend on end-of-life care for their pets. But it’s safe to assume that the number mirrors ours; for humans, 90 percent of medical spending occurs in the last 10 percent of life. The choices involved in keeping pets alive can be as numerous, expensive and emotionally thorny as they are with people.

Lisa Sobieri of Greenwich, Conn., knows the choices all too well. The 49-year-old married mother of two lost two dogs to kidney disease in the last three years. The first, Kiefer, an American Eskimo, died just before turning 15, only after the family had spent several thousand dollars on chemotherapy for bladder cancer and then other drugs to keep him comfortable as his kidneys failed.

“I guess when you go into it you don’t really know how much you’re going to spend,” she said. “So it keeps kind of adding up, and you don’t really know. We were thinking, O.K., there is a limit, but when it’s $500 here or $1,000 there, you don’t really see it adding up that fast.”
After Kiefer died, the family got Perry, a 6-month-old golden retriever. When Ms. Sobieri took the dog to the vet to have him neutered, a routine blood test showed Perry had a genetic kidney disease. “I actually didn’t believe them,” she recalled. “I said, ‘No, you’re looking at my other dog’s file by mistake.’ ” Unfortunately, they weren’t. The vet sent Ms. Sobieri to a veterinary oncologist who said Perry probably would not live more than three years.

“I was thinking, Well, we’re such great dog owners that we’re going to defy that, give him all the medications and diet, experimental treatments, and he’s going to live longer,” Ms. Sobieri said. The family decided against a kidney transplant, which would have cost a minimum of $25,000 just for the operation, an amount she said would have taken money away from the children’s college fund. There was also no guarantee it would work. But they still spent, by Ms. Sobieri’s estimates, tens of thousands of dollars to keep Perry comfortable for the duration of his life, with pet insurance picking up the rest.

Many pet owners struggle with whether to buy pet insurance, because it has a mixed track record. Consumer Reports, in its August 2011 issue, said the insurance was “rarely worth the price.” Pre-existing conditions are usually excluded from coverage; routine care, like annual checkups, is sometimes not included in plans; and premiums can rise significantly as the pet ages.

The Sobieris, though, said their insurance, provided by Embrace, was invaluable and made their decision-making just a little easier. Still, Ms. Sobieri said, “We did some pretty good damage on the credit card toward the end.”

The puppy lived only an additional 18 months. And Ms. Sobieri said she now wondered if the money would have been better spent as a contribution to research to find a cure for the disease, even though they cherished the extra year and a half they had with Perry.

Read More:

Borrowed from DC Editors:

Keep your dog's mouth healthy!Dog Tooth Care: Infographic

Does your dog have bad breath? This could be a sign of dental disease. Brush up on dog dental care!

Your dog's "doggie breath" could be a sign of periodontal disease. The most common health problem for dogs, periodontal disease destroys the tissue and bone supporting his teeth. In fact, eight out of 10 dogs have it by age 3.

This might make you wonder a couple of things. First, could your dog be among this growing number? A visual test can get you started on answering that question. The second question that can come to mind is: How can I prevent or correct it? The good news is, dog dental disease is preventable.Check out this infographic for information on dog dental care.

For more in-depth information on caring for your dog's teeth, click here.

Dog Tooth Care: Infographic

January 2013
Borrowed from:

Mistakes With Pet Prescriptions Can Prove DeadlyMistakes With Pet Prescriptions Can Prove Deadly

Reporting Cynthia Demos

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — We’ve all heard stories of someone being prescribed the wrong medicine, or the wrong dose, with devastating consequences. Now, a warning has been issued for pet owners. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said these deadly mistakes are also being made with pet prescriptions. Sarah Schuck said she was heartbroken over the death of her beloved dog, “Rafter.” The 8-year-old lab died because of a prescription drug error.

“It was really hard,” she said.

Schuck said the label on Rafter’s prescription mistakenly said to give him two and a quarter teaspoons of medication, when it should have read 2.25 CCs, which is a much smaller dose.

“It was a tough realization,” she said.

Surprisingly, the deadly mistake was not an isolated case. The FDA has issued a warning about an increase in pet prescription mistakes.
Investigators discovered errors stemming from simple issues, including unclear medical abbreviations on vet prescriptions, drugs with similar names and packaging, and simple penmanship errors — all leading to mistakes where the pet paid.

"The consequences can be completely devastating,” veterinarian Howard Silberman said.

Silberman said he takes extreme prescription precautions at his veterinary practice. He types all medications and dosages into a computer, allows only vets or vet techs to fill prescriptions, and posts pet pictures onto prescription labels so there are no mix-ups.

“We do a tremendous amount to make sure that those things don’t happen,” Silberman said.

Many pet owners get pet prescriptions filled at human pharmacies, which is also contributing to the confusion.

“Currently, most of the pharmacy curriculums don’t touch upon vet medicine,” said Carmen Catizone of the National Association Boards of Pharmacy.

Experts said, ultimately, it’s up to pet owners to provide that extra layer of protection. The American Veterinary Medical Association said pet owners should make sure the pharmacist speaks directly to their vets about all prescriptions, and should always verify the name and dosage of their pets’ drugs with their vets themselves.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Schuck said.

Pharmacists aren’t alone. FDA investigators also found pet owners share some of the blame by misinterpreting labels and accidentally giving pets human drugs.

The FDA has more tips on its Web site on how to prevent pet medication errors and how to report mistakes.

December 2012

Mutt, stat of "Even Dogs Get The Flu"Help reduce the spread of canine influenza. 

Though human flu is seasonal, canine influenza is a year-round threat for dogs. Fortunately, you can play an important role in protecting your dogs and reducing the spread of the canine influenza virus (CIV).

The virus that causes dog flu is a unique strain that only affects dogs. It can spread quickly and easily from dog-to-dog by direct contact or when an infected dog coughs or sneezes.1 Because the virus that causes CIV is relatively new, most dogs have no natural immunity, and virtually all dogs exposed to the virus become infected.2,3

Humans can also spread the virus by carrying it on their clothes or hands to other pets. For pet sitters, being around multiple dogs a day increases the risk of unknowingly spreading CIV to other dogs in our care and even to our dog at home.
The signs of dog flu are similar to those of the human flu: cough, fever, runny nose, fatigue, and loss of appetite. If left untreated, CIV can lead to more serious conditions like pneumonia. About 20% of infected dogs don't show signs of disease, but even these dogs can spread the virus without appearing to be sick.3

Educate is key.

The good news is that there's a flu vaccine just for dogs. In 2009, Merck Animal Health developed the first vaccine for dog flu called Nobivac® Canine Flu H3N8, which has been proven to reduce the spread of disease among dogs.4 The more dogs that get vaccinations, the more we reduce the spread of disease. By promoting vaccination for your clients' dogs, you're helping build immunity for the whole canine community.

Learn more by clicking here.

Protect your dogs from the flu.    

1. Canine influenza backgrounder. AVMA Website. Available at: Updated September 9, 2009. Accessed May 4, 2012.
2. Jirjis FF, Deshpande MS, Tubbs AL, Jayappa H, Lakshmanan N, Wasmoen TL. Transmission of canine influenza virus (H3N8) among susceptible dogs. Vet Microbiol. 2010;144(3-4):303-309.
3. Crawford C, Spindel M. Canine influenza. In: Miller L, Hurley K, eds. Infectious Disease Management in Animal Shelters. Ames, IA: Wiley-Blackwell; 2009:173-180.
4. Deshpande MS, Jirjis FF, Tubbs A, et al. Evaluation of the efficacy of a canine influenza virus (H3N8) vaccine in dogs following experimental challenge. Vet Ther. 2009;10(3):103-112


October 2012
Borrowed from:

Boy with beagleHow Dog-Savvy Is Your Child?

Simple safety tips can prevent nasty bites, expert says

SUNDAY, Sept. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Dog bites are one of the risks faced by children playing outdoors, but some simple safety measures can help protect them.

"In the summer, dogs are out more, kids are out more, and the more contact that dogs and people have, the more likely it is that somebody will get bitten," Dr. Anne Brayer, a pediatrician in emergency medicine at University of Rochester Medical Center, in New York, and director of Injury Free Coalition for Kids, based at URMC, said in a medical center news release.

Remaining calm and not aggravating a dog are key elements in preventing dog bites. Dogs bite when they feel anxious or threatened. Staying relaxed when dealing with an aggressive dog can help minimize the threat, Brayer said.

She offered the following tips:

  • Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog, and keep children away from dogs that are eating, sleeping or caring for puppies.
  • Be careful when visiting older relatives with dogs. These dogs often aren't used to young children and can be jealous of the attention they receive.
  • Remember that all breeds of dogs can bite, and a dog's upbringing plays a much larger role in its tendency to bite than its breed.
  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog, which may perceive you as a threat and may think you are challenging it.
  • Avoid neighborhood dogs with a history of aggression and dogs that have little contact with children.

Adults should always keep an eye on children when dogs are nearby and teach them how to act around dogs, Brayer said. Teaching them to keep their face away from dogs reduces the likelihood that the child will make eye contact with the dog and seem threatening.

If a child is approached by an unfamiliar dog, he or she should "act like a tree or act like a log," Brayer advised. This means remaining motionless, not shouting, and avoiding eye contact.

If knocked to the ground, children should curl up into a ball and protect their face and neck with their hands and arms. This can help minimize injuries.

Children should be taught not to tease a dog. That means not pulling its tail, petting it roughly or taking away its toys. Even doing these things in play can overexcite a dog and lead to an unintentional bite, Brayer said.

About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children most likely to get a bite are between 5 and 9 years old.

More information
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about keeping children safe around animals.


September 2012

You may have heard: Dogs can get the flu, too.

Sick PuppyBorrowed from: Pet Sitters Internationals Newsletter

It's a relatively recent development. The virus that causes flu in dogs, canine influenza virus (CIV) H3N8, was only first identified in January 2004. Dog flu cases have now been reported in 39 states.

Canine Influenze Now in 39 states

One of the factors that makes CIV such a concern for anyone who owns or works with dogs is that the virus can spread quickly and easily.

You may come in contact with a dog carrying CIV without knowing it. If you are around different dogs – say at a dog park – and the virus gets on your clothes or hands, you can spread it to your other dogs - as well as your own - which can spark an outbreak.

Because most dogs have no natural immunity against CIV, virtually all dogs exposed to the virus become infected. CIV can be spread through direct dog-to-dog contact and through airborne particles released when an infected dog coughs or sneezes.

Protect the dogs in your care by recognizing the warning signs of dog flu, taking precautions to limit the chances of spreading the virus, and vaccinate your dogs against highly infectious CIV.

Recognize the signs of dog flu

Like human flu, canine influenza causes respiratory infection and may lead to more serious conditions like pneumonia. The most common sign of dog flu is a soft, wet cough that may last for up to 3 to 4 weeks. Other signs include fever, nasal discharge, lethargy, and loss of appetite. If you notice any of these signs, encourage your client to have the dog examined by a veterinarian.

However, recognizing the signs of dog flu is not enough to prevent spreading the disease. Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. Some infected dogs do not appear to be sick. About 20% of infected dogs show no signs of disease but can still spread CIV to other dogs.3
  2. If you’ve spotted signs of flu, it’s probably too late. By the time a CIV-infected dog shows signs of illness, the dog is likely to have stopped spreading the virus. In other words, the damage has already been done. You may have already unintentionally spread the virus to other dogs. And remember, just because you see clinical signs of flu doesn’t mean it is flu.
  3. Dog flu cannot be diagnosed by clinical signs alone.4 The signs of dog flu are very similar to those of other respiratory infections, such as Bordetella. As a result, dog flu is often mistaken for other conditions.

Limit the chances of spreading CIV

  1. The virus can remain active for up to 12 hours on your hands and up to 24 hours on your clothing.1 Make sure you wash your hands after each encounter with an unknown dog, even if the dog shows no sign of illness. Wash clothing that comes in contact with dogs, too.

1. Canine influenza backgrounder. AVMA Website. Available at: Updated September 9, 2009. Accessed May 4, 2012.
3. Crawford C, Spindel M. Canine influenza. In: Miller L, Hurley K, eds. Infectious Disease Management in Animal Shelters. Ames, IA: Wiley-Blackwell; 2009:173–180.
4. Anderson TC, Crawford PC. Diagnosing H3N8 CIV infection. Clinician’s Brief. 2011;9(10):69­–72.

June 2012

Hot Dog!Surviving the Dog Days of Summer

As the temperature rises, so do Fido and Fluffy’s chances of experiencing heat-related problems. As the scorching days of summer descend upon us, Pet Sitters International (PSI) outlines what steps should be taken if a pet is suffering from heatstroke.

According to the Animal First Aid Chapter of PSI’s Certification Program, which was created in conjunction with Thom Somes, the Pet Safety Guy™, pets can easily suffer from heatstroke.

“High body temperatures and stress can cause a pet to go into heatstroke,” Ellen Price, PSI academic manager, said. “Heatstroke is most often caused when pets are left in a confined space with little or no ventilation during periods of warm temperatures and high humidity.”

The signs of heatstroke can include:

  • Uncontrollable panting
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Tongue and gums that turn from bright red to blue to gray
  • Capillary refill time of more than two seconds

PSI suggests the following five survival actions if a pet is suffering from heatstroke. 

  • Restrain the pet. Muzzle only if absolutely necessary. If muzzled, cool the pet because it will not be able to pant and cool itself.
  • Bathe or hose the pet with cool water (not cold) until its temperature subsides. You can also place the pet in a cool, well-ventilated space and wrap it in a wet, cold sheet or towel.
  • Prepare to treat for shock. This includes placing the pet on its side with head extended. If the pet isn’t muzzled, open its mouth and cautiously pull the tongue past its teeth with your fingers. Keep the tongue extended to keep the airway open. Slightly elevate the pet’s hindquarters.
  • Monitor the pet’s temperature with a digital thermometer.
  • Transport to the veterinarian or emergency animal hospital.


May 2012

Veterinary Q&A: Outdoor plants and your pets

Borrowed From:

LiliesPosted by Neena Pellegrini

Lilies are highly toxic to cats. It is safest to avoid all lilies -- both as cut flowers as part of a bouquet or as a garden plant.

Dr. Denise Petryk, an emergency medicine vet and co-owner of the Animal Emergency Clinic / Puget Sound Veterinary Referral Center in Tacoma, answers this week's question.

Question: What spring yard plants are safe -- and not safe -- for our pets?

Answer: Spring in our Pacific Northwest is so beautiful. With a little careful planning, it is very easy to create a pet-safe garden. There are two main factors to consider when putting together our spring plantings:

-- Which plants? Which mulch? Which fertilizers? Which bug and slug deterrents?

-- What is the nature of our pet or pets? Are they chewers, eaters and sniffers?

Foxglove - ToxicAVOID the 10 most dangerous, most toxic plants:

-- Castor bean (Ricinus communis) -- oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure, convulsions, death.
-- Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), pictured right -- vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, cardiac failure, death.
-- Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata) -- tremors, difficulty breathing, vomiting, seizures, death.
-- Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum) -- vomiting, seizures, depression, trouble breathing.
-- Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) -- vomiting, heart trouble, disorientation, coma, seizures.
-- Lily (Lilium species) -- kidney failure in cats -- ALL parts of the plant, even in small amounts.
-- Morning Glory (Ipomea sp.) -- vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, tremors, disorientation, ataxia, anorexia.
-- Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) -- drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, slow heart, weakness.
-- Oleander (Nerium oleander) -- diarrhea, trouble breathing, tremors, collapse, incoordination.
-- Precatory Beans (Arbus precatorius) -- severe vomiting and diarrhea, tremors, fever, shock, death.

The 10 most common plants that can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea -- AND if ingested in larger amounts -- more serious health problems:

-- Hydrangea DangerousHydrangea, pictured left
-- Azalea
-- Boxwood
-- Daffodil
(bulbs are more toxic than leaves and flowers)
-- Tulip
(bulbs are more toxic than leaves and flowers)
-- Rhododendron
-- Iris
-- Elephant's ear
-- Clematis
-- English ivy

The 10 most surprising problem plants:

-- Apple (the seeds contain cyanide)
-- Plum, cherry, apricots and peaches (the pits contain cyanide)
--Onions, chives and garlic (cause anemia)
-- Potato and rhubarb plant leaves (vomiting)

There are some wonderfully safe annuals and perennials:

Begonias - ok!--Astilbe (Astilbe sp.)
--Bee Balm (Monarda sp.)
--Begonia (Begonia sp.), pictured right
--Bugbane (Cimifuga racemosa)
--Butterfly flower (Schianthus sp.)
--Calendula (Callendula sp.)
--Catmint/catnip (Nepeta sp.)
--Coleus (Coleus sp.), pictured right
--Columbine (Aquilegia sp.)
--Coleus - ok!Coneflowers (Echinacea purpura)
--Coral Bells (Heuchera sp.)
--Cosmos (Cosmos sp.)
--Goat's Beard (Aruncus dioicus)
--Impatiens (Impatiens sp.)
--Nasturtium (Tropaeolum sp.)
--New Guinea Impatiens
--Petunia (Petunia sp.)
--Phlox (Phlox sp.)

--Primrose (Primula sp.), pictured right
--Queen of the Meadow (Filipendula ulmaria)
--Primrose - ok!Roses (Rose sp.)
--Snapdragons (Antirrhinum sp.)
--Spider flower (Cleome sp.)
--Turf Lilly (Liriope sp.)
--Violet (Viola sp.)
--Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis lutea)
--Zinnia (Zinnia sp.)

The non-plant concerns in the spring include fertilizers, pesticides, slug bait, mulch, and garden tools. Talk to your local nursery about the safest options, read labels carefully and store everything safely in sealed containers or out of reach.

Try natural products like vinegar for weeds, coffee grounds, beer and salt for slugs, and soap and water as a natural pesticide.

Avoid cocoa mulch as it comes from chocolate manufacturing and can contain substances that will cause minor chocolate poisoning (vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity) as well as general irritation to the mouth, stomach and intestines.

Many of our mature dogs (and almost all of our cats) are discriminate -- they might sniff but they are not inclined to eat plants.
Grass is often the exception and in small amounts, common grasses are safe.

Ornamental grasses can be very irritating to the mouth, throat, and nose so if you have a big grass eater, it is safest to avoid these plants.
Remember that puppies and kittens are always an exception. They will generally eat ANYTHING! It still makes most sense however to always pick the safest plants possible for our spring flower gardens and our deck pots.

Horticulturists employed at our favorite plant nurseries are excellent resources for pet safe plants and gardening products. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has a fantastic guide to pet-safe gardening and a wonderful collection of plant pictures and toxicity information here . also has an array of informative articles written by veterinarians about toxic plants and gardening.

The three most common spring garden problems we see in our busy Tacoma pet emergency room include dogs ingesting SLUG bait poison (metaldehyde), dogs ingesting decomposing things out of the compost pile, and Lily ingestion or sniffing by cats.

  • A few bites of slug bait can cause horrible tremors. Quick emergency treatment is critical.
  • A compost pile snack can also cause tremors or it may cause drunk-like behavior or vomiting and diarrhea. Here too, quick emergency treatment is essential for a quick recovery.
  • Lilies are highly toxic to cats. It is safest to avoid all lilies -- both as cut flowers as part of a bouquet or as a garden plant. Potential sniffing of the flower and inhaling the pollen can even be a problem to our cats.

Enjoy your garden but do your research first. Prevention is so much easier than sick animals and treatment.

Dr. Denise Petryk

Dr. Denise Petryk graduated from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1991. Later this year she will complete her MBA at Pacific Lutheran University. For the last 20 years she has enjoyed the fast pace of emergency medicine and enjoys the satisfaction of explaining things clearly to pet owners. At home, she has a family of six -- two hairy dogs, one short-haired monster dog and three perfect cats --- and a big yard full of safe plants!

Photos from The Seattle Times archives


April 2012Aging pets: Dogs (and cats) are having their day

Aging pets: Dogs (and cats) are
having their day

Borrowed from:

By Diane C. Lade, Staff writer/Sun Sentinel

FLORIDA - First came diet foods and treatment plans for fat cats and dumpy dogs, as veterinarians warned about a pet obesity epidemic.

Now there are pet hospices, practices specializing in animal cancer and heart conditions , and products like magnetic dog collars to ease arthritis . There are South Florida psychologists and bereavement groups specializing in pet loss. It's all because the pet population is aging, just like the human one, due to a companion animal longevity boom.

Surveys periodically conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association show about 31 percent of pet-owning households had dogs and cats age 11 or older in 2006, the most current year available. That was a 25 percent increase over 1987.

The association guidelines suggest pet "seniorhood" starts at age 7, although lifespans can vary greatly among dog breeds and individual animals. Under that standard, almost half of the nation's 154 million dogs and cats qualify for AARP cards.

Credit modern medical technology, better medications, more pet food tailored to medical conditions — and the fact that more "pet parents," as marketers sometimes call them, view their animals as family members.

As Randi and Craig Burger, of Davie, watched their very elderly 13-year-old Great Dane Marmaduke struggle daily with severe arthritis, their discussions could have been about any aging relative: Would advanced treatments give her a better quality of life? Was she comfortable? When would they know it was "time"?

Sometimes, Craig would circle Marmaduke's bed late at night, to check if she still was breathing. "We love her. We want to treat her the way we would want someone to treat us when we get older," he said.

The Burgers decided to try a new care alternative when they couldn't get Marmaduke, weighing 130 pounds, into the car to go for a needed check-up because she wasn't strong enough to walk. They called in Lap of Love, a veterinary hospice, started by South Florida vet Dr. Mary Gardner and a Tampa colleague in 2010.

A hospice call is $150, with extra for nights and weekends — about twice the price of a standard vet office visit, Gardner said. But demand has been so high that the practice now has consulting vets in six states.

Pet hospice works pretty much like human hospice. The care focuses on keeping the animals comfortable at home with medications, nutritional supplements and pain management vs. lots of trips to the vet.

The hospice staff also teaches pet owners home modification tricks. With Marmaduke, it involved creating a path of throw rugs so she could keep her footing on the tile as she walked to the door, substituting a waterproof baby mattress on the floor for her dog bed, and hooking a towel under her back-end to gently help her rise.

Lap of Love also helps owners prepare for the inevitable — and when it comes, can euthanize their beloved pets at home. Or any number of places. Gardner has eased creatures into the beyond at the beach, in a car overlooking a dog's favorite lake.

"One woman told me her cat loved to be out in her front yard. So I said, 'Let's do it there,'" Gardner said. "I never have felt more appreciated."
Dr. Stephanie Correa, a board-certified veterinary medical oncologist working in South Florida, said the average lifespan of a large breed dog 40 years ago was about 7 1/2 years. Now it's about 11 1/2 years, she said, close to 75 in human terms.

Correa and her husband opened their first Animal Cancer Care Clinic eight years ago, and now operate six across three counties. The main facility in Fort Lauderdale features some of the same advanced medical testing and services used on people: a CT scanner, a linear accelerator for radiation treatments, human chemotherapy drugs.

More veterinarians are opening specialty practices where their animal patients are likely to be older, geared toward oncology, cardiology and internal medicine . "It mirrors what is going on with people," Correa said. "Our field is changing dramatically."

There's no senior discount when Fido or Fluffy hits 65, and some goods and services catering to their age group can be expensive. Correa said a treatment course, depending on the type of cancer and if surgery is required, can range from $2,000 to $10,000.

More of her clients now have pet insurance, she said, purchased when they were kittens or puppies.

Lee Schrager, vice president of corporate communications for Southern Wine & Spirits, finally gave up trying to get his pet insurance to pay for melanoma cancer surgeries and treatments for his 14-year-old French briard, Spencer. But Schrager has no regrets about the $10,000 it cost him.

"Spencer has been such a great pet and a great friend. And fortunately, I was in the position that I could do it," said Schrager, of Miami. "I wouldn't want him thinking I didn't do the right thing."

A growing number of veterinarians now specialize in at-home euthanasia., a state-by-state resource directory, lists four in South Florida, along with loss counselors, pet cemeteries and crematoriums, and bereavement groups.

Maryland author and editor Moira Allen said the number of veterinary in-home euthanasia services have grown tremendously since she started publishing the directory 10 years ago, and expects hospice will follow.

Senior products are appearing on South Florida pet store shelves as well. Last year, Quaker Pet Group unveiled its Silver Tails line, carried at local Petco stores. Items include: magnetic therapy collars for arthritis and muscle pain ($5.99-$7.99), infrared hand-held massager ($39.99), holistic bamboo charcoal mats to improve circulation (up to $49.99) and softer senior-friendly dog chew toys (up to $14.99).

When Michael Delemma took over Animal House, an independent pet store in Fort Lauderdale, six years ago, "there was very little for senior pets," he said. Now he carries nutritional and calming gels for older animals, plus several varieties of senior or weight-loss pet food — although not all brands offer a geriatric selection.

"I've seen a growth in what's available," Delemma said. "But every product today should have a senior version."

March 2012

High-priced dog foods:
Are they worth the money?

Borrowed from:

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Talk about choices. Man's best friend has never had more when it comes to what's for dinner.

"It's a huge market, billions of dollars a year and a ton of competition," Veterinarian Dr. Lisa Lindesmith said when it comes to the topic of dog food.

In 2010 Americans spent more than $48 billion on pet products, that's three times as much money as we spent in bookstores.
To say dog food is big business is stating the obvious. But, what we all really want to know is: do we have to break the bank and buy the most expensive dog food to better a dog's health or is the cheap stuff just as good?

"You can spend a lot, you can spend a little, with a few tools you can learn what to look for in a bag and make a few choices to help you do a great job at feeding your pet," University of Minnesota Veterinary Nutritionist Dr. Julie Churchill says.

Tool number one agreed on by all of our experts is to make sure the dog food you give your pet has the American Association of Feed Control Officials nutritional adequacy statement listed on the dog food bag.

There are two different types. The first says on the bag that the food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by AAFCO.The other says that animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that the food provides complete and balanced nutrition.

These statements are the industry standard but what doesn't make sense is that these statements can be anywhere on the food bag, in any font and any size. Too often it's too hard to even find. But by law it must be there.

"They are legally bound to have that claim on the bag," Dr. Churchill said.

"If they don't have an AAFCO statement for sure run away," Dr. Lindesmith stated. After finding that claim determing what is best food is murky.

"There is a lot of middle ground, it really just depends on what you are comfortable with. There are a lot of good healthy foods out there and they don't have to be $80 a bag," Jimmy Mallard, manager of Chuck & Don's Pet Food Outlet in Minneapolis said.

Yes, the price on dog foods varies widely. A 30-40 pound bag can range anywhere from about $15 to as much as $80 or $90. Why that is also varies. But one reason is quality of ingredients.

Another one is marketing; fancy packaging and heavy advertising of a dog food can jack up a price. Tricks of the trade right now are negative claims. Using phrases like "grain-free" and marketing all protein as better for dogs is common, but it is not a universal truth. While dogs do need twice as much protein as humans they also need carbohydrates and those are found in grains.

"Dogs are omnivores like we are so they can use plant proteins biochemically in the body just as well as animal proteins. Nothing wrong with grains in food or carbs or anything like that," Dr. Lindesmith said.

This is important to note because many of the higher priced foods fall into this grain-free/heavy protein category and most dogs just don't need that. In fact many of these foods have a calorie count that is three times higher than that in mainstream foods and overweight dogs are the furthest thing from healthy.

Today, more than 35-percent of dogs are overweight and obesity in a dog cuts at least two years off of their lifespan. The fact of the matter is the great foods for your dog aren't hard to find.

"You can go to the grocery store and get a great product," Dr. Churchill said.

You just have to do your due diligence. Check for the AAFCO statement and buy a food made for your dog. If it's a puppy, get puppy food and if it's a big dog that exercises a lot go for a higher calorie count. You should also follow the feed directions on the bag.

But buyer beware, just because it costs a bundle that doesn't mean it does a nutritional bundle.


February 2012

Good Dog TreatsConsumers pamper pets with healthier products

Borrowed from:

DES MOINES, Iowa – Like many pet owners, customers at April Lawrence's pet bakery and boutique in central Iowa want the best for their four-legged family members.

Valentine dog treats are seen at the Bone-A-Patreat store in Des Moines, Iowa.That means high-quality, safe and eco-friendly products, from organic food and treats to BPA-free toys and water dishes. And they don't mind paying extra.

"The customers are looking at their pets as part of their extended family," says Lawrence, adding that the organic, baked-from-scratch, healthy treats she sells at Bone-a-patreat Pet Bakery and Boutique are especially popular. "They're better than what I eat!"
Many pet owners began looking for safer products after huge pet food recalls in early 2007 that followed the renal failure and death of hundreds of animals, says Leslie May, who operates Pawsible Marketing, a firm that helps pet-related businesses, in Blue Ridge, Georgia.

"It really prompted people to wake up and look at what's in their pet's food and what's around their pet's life, in their environment," she says, adding that there's also a growing awareness of lead in dog toys made in China, and of the dangers posed by some plastics used in many pet products.

Social media sites have provided a forum for people to learn more about pet health, she says, and that also leads to a demand for safe, well-made items.

"You are getting higher quality, which last longer, so you actually come out even or ahead in the end," says May.

For example, a food bowl free of the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, may cost twice as much as an ordinary bowl, but it can last a dog's lifetime.

Brad Weston, chief merchandising officer for Petco, a leading pet-products retailer with more than 1,100 stores, says there's definitely a trend toward healthy, eco-friendly products as pet owners project their own lifestyle choices onto their pets.

"(Pets) are increasingly thought of as family members, so not only are we willing to dig deeper into our pockets for our pets, the choices we make for them are a direct reflection of our personal preferences, values and ideals," he says.

Petco stores include a Natural Shop, featuring natural and organic foods and treats. And the company has introduced a line called Planet Petco, with earth-conscious products that are non-toxic, chemical-free and made from sustainable materials.

No matter if the economy is slumping, Weston expects the trend in premium pet products to keep growing.

"For the most part, as parents, we don't skimp on our kids until or unless we really have to. And same goes for our pets today," he says.
Adrian Hitt, a 27-year-old photographer from Nashville, Tennessee, who creates dog portraits, says she buys pet products only from companies that are trying to be green. Consumers are becoming wiser in general, Hitt believes, and that extends to pet products.

"Overall we're starting to become more educated about what's in our food, our shampoo, our makeup, in our food containers," says Hitt, owners of a 5½-year-old mixed-breed dog named Benny.
May, the consultant, says her research shows that many Baby Boomers who have become empty-nesters have turned to nurturing pets. Also, more couples and individuals are remaining childless and looking for a bond with a pet, and they have the resources to spend on their beloved animals.
"A lot of people, just like me, got a dog to do something with," says May, whose 7-year-old sheltie, Johann, was the impetus for her to get into pet marketing, and start a website and blog, Raise a Green Dog! "He sure filled that bill . the bond — it's so much more powerful than I could ever have imagined."

Erin Riley, whose company,, sells high-quality dog and cat supplies, says business is booming, and she's adding new products every day. Her Saugus, Massachusetts-based company offers a range of BPA-free toys and pet dishware, as well as many products made of recycled material, including eco-friendly pet beds. Organic treats are also popular. Her customers, Riley says, are often well-versed on what products are healthiest.

"They are aware of what the product is made of, where it comes from and how it's made. They're just not willing to take the risk," she says.
Riley, who has a 4½-year-old Shih-Poo named Zoe, feels the same. While there may not be much research on the effect of things like BPA on pets, she believes that "if there's an effect in humans, I think it goes to say there's an effect in pets."

Pet owners who want to create a healthier environment, May says, should focus on finding the best pet food they can afford, using safe products on their lawn and for indoor cleaning, and investing in safer products that pets frequently use, such as food bowls and bedding.
Lawrence, who has been in business nearly eight years in Des Moines, says there's an eco-friendly version of just about any product.

"We don't even sell a line of poop bags that isn't biodegradable," she says. "You don't think people care as much as they do about their carbon footprint, but they do, and they care about their animals' too."

January 2012

Happy Holidays!Business Insurers of the Carolinas and Pet Sitters International Share
Tips to Prevent Common Weather-Related Pet Injuries.

Avoid dangerous and expensive pet injuries this winter.

Borrowed from:

King, NC (PRWEB) December 07, 2011

Winter can be harsh on pets. David Pearsall sees an increase in the number of pet-related insurance claims caused by snow and ice each year. His company, Business Insurers of the Carolinas (BIC), is the largest policy writer for pet caregivers in the United States and serves the majority of Pet Sitters International’s nearly 7,000 businesses.

Lesions on legs from stepping in snow holes, cuts on paws from walking on ice and illnesses from ingesting toxic chemicals are all typical claims that come across Pearsall’s desk each winter.

These are dangers that can easily avoided if pet owners and caregivers are conscientious.

“The most common winter–related pet injuries can easily be avoided by paying extra attention and spending a little more time with pets,” Pearsall said.

According to Pearsall, it’s very common but dangerous for owners to keep pets in the garage where they have access to anti-freeze and other toxic chemicals.

“Before hastily placing your dogs in your garage due to a drop in temperature, take time to assess items within their reach,” Pearsall said.

“Garages often contain cleansers and automotive products like antifreeze that can be fatal if ingested.”

One recent insurance claim handled by BIC involved two dogs who ingested hand warmers. The trip to the veterinarian and subsequent treatment resulted in a $5,000 medical expense.

Potential winter hazards extend beyond danger to pets. Another common winter pet issue occurs when pets are left unattended in the home for extended periods. This often happens when pet owners are unable to return home from the office on time due to winter weather conditions. Even the best trained and most house-broken dog can only hold its bladder and bowels for so long. The result—soiled carpeting or flooring—can be costly.

Add boredom to the equation and the potential for problems increases. If left unattended for extended periods, some pets will destroy furnishings or eat clothing items.

When possible, BIC and Pet Sitters International (PSI) urge pet owners and pet-care providers to consider the following preventive measures for maximum health and safety for their pets this winter:

  • Keep all young, old and short-haired pets inside. These types of pets are more vulnerable to cold weather and should not be left outside for long and without supervision.
  • Provide shelter for any pets that are left outside. Add straw for additional insulation from the cold and provide a snug, warm bed that does not sit directly on the ground.
  • Leave extra food and water in plastic bowls for any pets that are left outside.
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect you pet is suffering from either of these conditions.
  • Clip the long hair on the bottom of your dog’s feet before the snow and ice fall. This will prevent the build up of ice balls which can be painful and difficult to remove.
  • Trim your pet’s nails regularly during the winter. Pets may have a difficult time trying to maintain solid footing in icy conditions with long nails.
  • Find a warm place for your pets to sleep. All pets, including small caged pets need to be kept warm and away from drafts.
  • Place pet-safe wipes by the door. Ice-melting chemicals and salt can irritate and burn the pads of your pet’s paws. Thoroughly wipe off your pet’s paws when he comes inside.
  • Use antifreeze and other household chemicals that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol, which is extremely poisonous to pets.
  • Get in the habit of banging on the hood of your car before starting the engine. Cats and wildlife seek warmth and climb into the engine during cold months.

If winter travel will keep you away from your home and pets, book the services of a professional pet sitter in advance to ensure your pets are safe and comfortable.


Happy Holidays!

Holly and Houseplants Bring Howls and Hisses: Holiday Safety Tips for Pets

Borrowed from Judy & Kate, LongBeach Post

Because our pets are some of our favorite—if not absolutely our favorite—things, we want to emphasize the importance of being especially careful about them during the winter holiday season. During this busy time, we often become addlepated, and little things like keeping the kitten away from the tinsel may slip our minds. At the same time, we covertly slip Aunt Yetta’s fruitcake to the dog, not realizing that the raisins in it may make him ill. Like so many publications online and off, we wish your pets a safe Christmas with the following caveats:

Gift Wrap and Other Christmas Clutter

  • Dogs knock them over and cats climb them, so make the tree as inaccessible as possible, and keep decorations and ornaments, especially the fragile ones, on the high branches.
  • Keep all tinsel and the ribbon from gift packages away from your pet at all times. These things can get stuck in the intestine, and surgery will be necessary. And tinsel and ribbon are—well, catnip to cats.
  • Candles are especially dangerous near animals. Don’t light them anywhere near where your pet will be.
  • Mistletoe, poinsettia, holly, lilies, garlands—not vegetables. In fact, they’re horribly toxic to pets. Keep them out of reach as well.
  • Exposed electric cords can cause electrocution or burns. (Remember that God-awful scene from Christmas Vacation? I know that we’re not the only ones who didn’t think it was funny, and it can happen.) Especially keep the pet rabbits, hamsters and all things great, small and chew happy away from them.

It’s Their Holiday, Too

We find this hard to believe, but not everyone thinks that pets are members of the family. Less unbelievable is that pets don’t like all your friends, either. If there’s a crowd at the house, make sure your cat or dog has a room to cower in or a bed to curl up underneath. Keep the litter box as private as you would your own. Check on your pet from time to time during the event and tell them that it’s all right, that you love them, and the interlopers will be gone in a matter of hours.

If any of the parades pass by your house and your pet freaks out over the drums and tubas, consult your vet for a tranquilizer. They do make earplugs for pets, but neither of us has used them on ours, so we can’t recommend them one way or another. Again, trust your vet for this information.

Do not feed pets from the table.

  • Bones from fowl can splinter and stick in your pets intestinal tract. Don’t feed any to your pet.
  • Leftovers that have been sitting out may have spoiled and can make your pet ill. Toss everything in the disposal or the compost pile.
  • Keep all alcoholic drinks, especially sweet and creamy ones like eggnog, completely out of reach of animals.

Travels with Charlie, or Any Furry Friend

If you’re going to be away, make special arrangements for your pet and include instructions for feeding, socializing and medication (if any). Leaving pets at home with a sitter who can come in is often preferable to boarding, especially for cats. Canines, however, may enjoy the socialization of doggy overnight camp.

Make sure pets wear proper identification, and get them microchipped.

If your travel plans include your pet, there are plenty of pet-friendly campgrounds and hotels available. You also may be lucky enough to be staying with a friend or family member who’s just as nuts as you are regarding animals. Again, be sure your pet wears ID, and a microchip is mandatory. Locate a vet in the area where you’ll be staying, or have someone recommend one.

Your dog may enjoy the wind in his or her ears, but restrain him or her on long road trips to prevent driver distraction and for safety’s sake. You’ll be in an area unfamiliar to both of you.

If traveling by airplane, check the flights to see if you can bring your pet in a carrier in the cabin and not in cargo. It’s one thing to lose your baggage, but having your pet disappear is tragic. Again, see your vet for a tranquilizer, if necessary, and any other necessary medications.

In all cases, provide plenty of food and water, and toys and treats, too!

Ultimate Safety Tip

Pets are not gifts, so don’t surprise anyone with one. Shelters and rescues are full of good intentions gone awry. However, if you know anyone planning to adopt a pet, or if you have promised one to someone in your family, you can make a special “critter coupon” on which you promise to accompany the prospective parent to one of the many aforementioned shelters or rescues.


Get the full scoop here:

The top 10 pet-owner mistakes

Avoid common errors, and keep your four-legged pal healthy and well-behaved.

Mistake 1: Buying a pet spontaneously
Mistake 2: Skipping obedience training
Mistake 3: Being inconsistent with the rules
Mistake 4: Dispensing too many free treats
Mistake 5: Neglecting to socialize your pet
Mistake 6: Skimping on exercise
Mistake 7: Neglecting to keep your pet mentally active
Mistake 8: Leaving a pet alone for too long
Mistake 9: Failing to make your home pet-friendly
Mistake 10: Punishing your pet

Get the full scoop here.





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For Dog Walking and Pet Sitting services contact Patrick Haley at (860) 299-3196 or email

Bonded and fully insured through the Business Insurers of the Carolinas sponsored by Pet Sitters International.