Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Top 10 Cat Toxins

While there are well-known substances such as chocolate that are toxic to dogs, feline poisons are sometimes less-known.  Cats are curious and independent, so it is important to know what is toxic in your household in order to keep your cat safe and healthy. Pet Age and The Pet Poison Helpline created this list of items, presented in order of frequency, that caused the most emergency calls to the Helpline in 2013.

1) Lillies: Plants in the Lillum species, such as Easter, Tiger, Asiatic lilies, cause kidney failure in cats.  All cat owners must be aware of these highly toxic plants!

2) Household cleaners:  Most general-purpose cleaners (e.g., Windex, Formula 409) are fairly safe, but concentrated products like toilet bowl or drain cleaners can cause chemical burns. Other symptoms can include profuse drooling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and even organ damage. After cleaning your home, make sure all excess liquid or residue is wiped up or eliminated as soon as possible.

3) Flea and tick-spot-on products for dogs:  Those that are pyrethroid or pyrethrins based (e.g. Zodiac, K9 Advantix, Sergeant's, etc.) cause tremors and seizures that can be deadly to cats. Even more “natural” or “holistic” flea medication can be very dangerous to cats.

4) Antidepressants: Cymbalta and Effexor topped the medically prescribed antidepressant list in 2013. Cats seem strangely drawn to these medications.  Beware, ingestion can cause severe neurologic and cardiac effects

5) Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs):  Cats are even more sensitive than dogs to drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen.  Even veterinary-specific NSAIDs like Rimadyl and Meloxicam should be used with caution.

6) Prescription ADD/ADHD medications:  These amphetamines, such as Adderall, Concerta, Dexerdrine and Vyvanse can cause tremors, seizures, cardiac problems and death.

7) Over-the-counter cough, cold and allergy medications:  Those that contain acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) are particularyly toxic, as they damage red blood cells and cause liver failure.

8) Plants containing insoluble calcium oxalate crystals:  Common houseplants like the pace lily, philodendrom and pothos can cause oral/upper GI irritation, foaming at the mouth, and inflammation when ingested, but severe symptoms are uncommon.

9) Household insecticides: Thankfully, most household sprays and powders are fairly safe, but it's best to keep curious kitties away until the products have dried or settled.

10) Glow sticks and glow jewelry:  Summer is a popular time for glow sticks, but don't become lazy by leaving them around the house. These irresistible "toys" contain a chemical called dibutyl phthalate.  When it contacts the mouth, pain and excessive foaming occurs, but the signs quickly resolve when the cat eats food or drinks water.

All the detrimental effects can easily be avoided.  Keeping this list handy in your household will help all members refrain from leaving these toxins available for your cat to consume! 

Source: Pet Age and The Pet Poison Helpline

Friday, June 20, 2014

Clever Care for your Pet

The key to a good pet-owner relationship is understanding your dog or cat and their preferences as best you can. Learning animal body language is a vital step, but it can’t hurt to have a few handy pet tricks up your sleeve. After doing lots of reading, research and training of our own, here are four unlikely tips that could help as you work to create a great friendship with your pet. 

Earn trust by looking away – A finicky cat, or a hesitant dog, will shy away from direct eye contact, as it can be intimidating, especially when initiated by a stranger. Give the pet time to approach you on their own before meeting their gaze to avoid being seen as “rude” by a cat or a threat by a dog.

Discouraging potty training errors – Rather than pointing your dog’s nose into that pee spot on the carpet and scolding them, you can prevent a repeat incident by making sure you remove the smell completely from your rug. After soaking up the spot (a squeegee works too), a dusting of baking soda or a rub with a baby wipe should do the trick.

New is not always better – When your cat’s scratching post starts to look ratty and worn, don’t jump too quickly to replace it. Cats enjoy a worn-in post more than something new, and may switch to valuable furniture to dig their claws into if you take that away. If the post does need refreshing, adding a few coils of rope can help provide a new scratching surface.  When you need to buy a new toy for your pet, think about making one at home from old fabrics and toys laying around the house.  This will help save money, and keep your pet occupied.

The difference between bribery and reward – Training with treats is an effective way to get your dog (or cat!) to learn tricks and positive behaviors. However, you want to reward your pet with affection, praise, games and petting in addition to the treats. This way, they learn to appreciate your attention along with the snack!

For more on these clever pet care and training tips, visit Petfinder, Dog Breed Info Center or ABC News on Dr Marty Becker’s “Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tips to Remember When Bringing Home a New Dog

Adopting a dog as a new member of your family can be a great experience, but also an overwhelming one. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. and PetFinder provide these initial tips to help smooth the process of bringing a new dog into your home.

Patience, patience, patience. Just because a dog isn’t a puppy anymore, doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have a lot to learn about you and your family. It can take over a year for a dog to truly settle into a new home. Have patience! If there are some rough moments during the transition, don't panic! Compassion, training, and patience usually smooth things out.

Immediately start reinforcement. Train your dog from the first moments at home. Take time to create a vocabulary list everyone will use when giving your dog directions. This will help prevent confusion and help your dog learn commands more quickly.

Re-house train. Just because a dog is house trained in one house doesn't mean that is the case in your home. Treat all dogs, no matter how old, like puppies for the first couple of days. Take them out to potty often and give them instant praise for doing so in the appropriate place. Keep a careful eye on your new dog for quite awhile—just because they didn’t chew on someone else's couch doesn’t mean they won’t chew on yours!

Remember your dog has a past. If your dog came from another home, objects like leashes, hands, rolled up newspapers and magazines, feet, chairs and sticks are just some of the pieces of “training equipment” that may have been used on this dog. Words like “come here” and “lie down” may cause a reaction other than the one you expect.  If your dog led a sheltered life and was never socialized to children or sidewalk activity, this may also contribute to a never-ending series of scrambled communications and unreal expectations that will require patience.

Keep calm. For the first few days, remain calm and quiet around your dog, limiting too much excitement (such as the dog park or neighborhood children). Not only will this allow your dog to settle in easier, it will give you more one-on-one time to get to know each other and your dog's likes and dislikes.

Three is the magic number. Your dog will adjust slowly, so remember the power of threes. Repeating “three days, three weeks, three months!” is a wonderful way to remind yourself that most dogs are in shock the first three days in a new home, need three weeks to begin to show you their true personalities, and three months to begin to understand the family rules.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hot Weather Tips for Your Pets

Summertime calls for more outdoors fun with your pet, but the hot weather must be handled with caution. Take these simple precautions, provided by ASPCA and Animal Care & Control of NYC experts, to have a safe and enjoyable summer for you and your pet.

Visit the Vet. An early summer check-up is a must. Make sure your pets get tested for heartworm if they aren't on year-round preventive medication. Do parasites bug your animal companions? Ask your doctor to recommend a safe flea and tick control program.

Made in the Shade. Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water when it's hot outdoors. Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun. Keep them indoors when it's extremely hot.

Know the Warning Signs. Symptoms of  overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. They can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees. Animals with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively.

These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible. If your pet shows signs of heat distress, cool him down slowly with a cool rag. Do not submerge him in water. Take your dog immediately to a veterinarian for follow up care.

No Parking! Never leave your pets alone in a parked vehicle. "On a hot day, a parked car can become a furnace in no time-even with the windows open-which could lead to fatal heat stroke," says Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital. Also, leaving pets unattended in cars in extreme weather is illegal in several states.

Make a Safe Splash. Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool -- not all dogs are good swimmers. Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure they wear flotation devices when on boats. Rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from his fur, and try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that could cause stomach upset.

Screen Test. Keep all unscreened windows or doors in your home closed and make sure adjustable screens are tightly secured. It is possible for pets to fall out of windows or to escape!

Summer Style. Feel free to trim longer hair.  The layers of dogs' coats protect them from overheating and sunburn. Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat. And be sure that any sunscreen or insect repellent product you use on your pets is labeled specifically for use on dogs or cats.  A clean coat can help to prevent summer skin problems, so keep your dog or cat well groomed. Consult with your groomer or veterinarian to determine whether your pet would be more comfortable with a shorter haircut for the summer. If he has a heavy coat, shaving your dog’s hair to a 1-inch length will help prevent overheating.

Street Smarts. When the temperature is very high, don't let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being so close to the ground, your pooch's body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn. Keep walks during these times to a minimum. If you can’t hold your hand long on the surface, it’s probably too hot for your pet as well.

Avoid Chemicals. Commonly used flea and tick products, rodenticides (mouse and rat baits), and lawn and garden insecticides can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested, so keep them out of reach. When walking your dog, steer clear of areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals. Keep citronella candles, oil products and insect coils out of pets' reach as well. Be alert for coolant leaking from your vehicle. Pets are attracted to the sweet taste of coolant and ingesting just a small amount can cause an animal’s death. Consider using animal-friendly products that use propylene glycol rather than those containing ethylene glycol.

Party Animals. Remember that the food and drink offered to party guests may be poisonous to pets. Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets, as they can cause intoxication, depression and comas. Similarly, remember that the snacks enjoyed by your human friends should not be a treat for your pet; any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments. Avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products with the sweetener xylitol.

Fireworks Aren't Very Pet-riotic. Please leave pets at home when you head out to Fourth of July celebrations, and never use fireworks around pets. Exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns or trauma to curious pets, and even unused fireworks can be hazardous. Many types of fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as potassium nitrate, copper, chlorates, arsenic and other heavy metals.

Source: Animal Care & Control of NYC, ASPCA