Pet Advice

Food (And Other Items) That Are Dangerous to Your Cats

As you've probably discovered by now, your cat is an amazingly curious and resourceful hunter of new things to encounter and eat. Our felines will climb on countertops, open cabinets, and be their curious selves adding fun and mischief to our lives.  Unfortunately, some of these new discoveries can be harmful or even fatal which is why it is important to keep most locked up and out of reach.

Below is a list of food and some common household items you need to keep out of your cat or kitten's reach and definitely out of his or her mouth!

Xylitol in sugar free treats can be very harmful to your cat

Xylitol, which can be found in most sugar free gum or low calorie treats, can be very toxic to cats. It can prompt a sudden release of insulin, resulting in low blood sugar, a condition known as hypoglycemia. Signs that your cat may have swallowed a product containing xylitol include a sudden lack of coordination, vomiting, lethargy and, eventually, seizures and possibly coma. Ultimately a cat that eats xylitol may end up with liver failure, which can sometimes be fatal.

Raw eggs whites can harmful to kitties

Raw egg whites contain an enzyme that destroys certain B vitamins. Raw egg yolks are OK as an occasional treat, but they must be separated from the whites.  Cooked egg yolks are also OK and preferred to raw, but not on a daily basis.

cat food dangerous picture

Watch out – I might eat anything!

Raw bread dough can upset your cat’s stomach

Raw bread dough made with live yeast can be hazardous to cats. When a cat swallows raw dough, the warm, moist environment of the stomach provides an ideal environment for the yeast to multiply, resulting in an expanding mass of dough in the stomach. Expansion of the stomach can be severe enough to decrease blood flow to the stomach wall and affect breathing.  All rising yeast dough should be kept out of reach of cats.

Chocolate (especially dark) can be very dangerous to our cats

Most cats don’t have a sweet tooth. However, some will eat foods containing chocolate, such as chocolate candy, cookies, brownies and chocolate baked goods. These and other chocolate-flavored treats can cause chocolate intoxication in cats. The compounds in chocolate that are toxic are caffeine and theobromine, which belong to a group of chemicals called methylxanthines. These compounds cause stimulation of the heart and nervous system. The rule of thumb with chocolate is that the darker it is, the more dangerous it is. Cats showing more than mild restlessness should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Ethanol in alcoholic beverages can also be harmful to cats

Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol and drinking alcohol, can be very dangerous for cats. Due to their small size, cats are far more sensitive to ethanol than humans are. Even drinking a small amount of a product containing alcohol can cause significant intoxication. Cats are often attracted to mixed drinks that contain milk, cream or ice cream. Alcohol intoxication commonly causes vomiting, loss of coordination, disorientation and stupor. In severe cases, coma, seizures and death can occur. Cats who are intoxicated should be monitored by a veterinarian until they recover.

Moldy food (except cheese) can be dangerous to cats

A wide variety of molds grow on food. Some molds produce toxins which can cause serious or even life-threatening problems if eaten. Cats tend to be finicky, but they can eat molds that grow on dairy products, like cheese and cream cheese. The signs of this poison generally begin as fine muscle tremors that progress to whole-body tremors and, finally, convulsions that can lead to death in severe cases. Left untreated, these tremors can last for several weeks. Fortunately, they usually respond well to appropriate veterinary treatment.

Onions and Garlic, especially, can harm your cats

All members of the onion family (shallots, onions, garlic, scallions, etc.) contain compounds that can damage cats’ red blood cells if eaten in sufficient quantities. Garlic tends to be more toxic than onions on an ounce-for-ounce basis, and cooking does not destroy the toxin. While it’s uncommon for cats to eat enough raw onions and garlic to cause serious problems, exposure to concentrated forms of onion or garlic, such as dehydrated onions, onion soup mix or garlic powder, can put cats at risk of poisoning.  Green tomatoes and raw potatoes can cause violent lower digestive symptoms.

Your medication can be harmful to your kitties

Common pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are very toxic to our feline friends. Cats don't have the enzymes needed to detoxify and eliminate these substances, so they can cause liver or kidney failure. Other human drugs that are commonly involved in accidental poisoning include antidepressants, antihistamines, sleeping pills, diet pills, blood pressure medications and vitamins. Alcohol can also be are extremely hazardous to cats.

Some household plants can be dangerous to your cats

A number of common household plants can cause toxic reactions from vomiting all the way to hallucinations, convulsions, and death. Some plants to remove from your house: Dieffenbachia (dumb cane); lilies, daffodils, crocuses or other bulb flowers; ivy; and spider plants.  

I hope that your cat never eats or ingests any of these items; however, if you think that your cat might have eaten any of the above listed food/medicine, contact your veterinarian or local animal hospital animal immediately for further tests.  

 

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What to Feed Your Dog in Today’s Crazy Recall World!

When you first adopt a dog (we hope) or are in the process of trying to transition your dog to a healthier dog food, it can be tough. There are so many different kinds of dog food on the market that it can be confusing to even know where to start. And with so many recalls in the last year, it is sometimes difficult to keep up with what is good for your dog and what isn’t!  The good news is that our dogs, unlike cats, are usually less particular about their dog food and will usually eat all kinds of food. 

Below are some tips on how to find the best food for your dog:

Your veterinarian is always a good place to start

Your dog’s genetics, age, life style and tastes all play a role in how much and what your dog should eat. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations for your dog contingent on your dog’s body size, breed, age and health. There might be a medical issue to take into consideration or if your dog is overweight, it will narrow down the choices.  Once you get a recommendation from your vet, you can then do some research on your own.

Learn how to read the label on your dog’s food

The first ingredient in your dog's food should be a specified meat, not a meat by-product, but the real thing. If the first ingredient in your dog food is a corn, wheat, meat by-product, bone meal or anything but a real specified type of meat, move on to another food. By-products are the leftovers, such as the eyes, hooves, skin, feathers and feet that are not good for your dog.  Watch out for ingredients that do not list exactly what it is, such as words like "animal" and "meat" as opposed to "chicken," "beef," "duck," etc.  

Chicken meal, found in many dog food brands is a combination of the most unfavorable chickens that are left over and then rendered just like byproducts.   Take a look at this great video by Halo Pets on what chicken meal actually is in your food:

 

 

Therefore be aware that if the ingredients read "chicken" first and "corn meal" second, the food may contain more corn than chicken. Corn is a filler that a dog's body does not utilize well, if at all. The corn gets pooped out and the dog must eat more food in order to get enough protein and nutrients that their bodies can use from the other ingredients in the food.

Do your due diligence to see if the dog food you choose has been recalled

If you find a dog food that you think will be a good fit for your dog, you can easily go on-line to see if the food has been recalled.  With so much information at our fingertips, it shouldn’t be difficult to see if the brand or the particular food has been recalled or has unfavorable reviews.

Once you find the dog food that is the right choice, buy it in bulk

When you are feeding your dog a healthier brand, it tends to be a little more expensive.  However, the healthier food that you feed the dog, the more likely your veterinarian bills will go down.   Feed your dog the same type and brand of food every day. Unlike humans, a dog's digestive system cannot handle changes in food. It can cause upset stomach and diarrhea.   If your dog both likes the food that you find, buy a couple cases or in bulk to help bring the costs down.  There are numerous on-line sites that have great deals on different brands of dog food and even coupons.

Each dog is different in their taste and needs

While one dog may thrive eating all wet food, not gain weight and maintain good health, it doesn’t always equate cross the board.  Each dog is different in what works for him or her, so look for a high quality food, with a lot of protein, fewer carbohydrates and your dog should thrive.

Tips to transitioning your dog to a new food

When switching your dog to a new food, gradually transition him to the new food by mixing portions of both foods until you slowly phase out the old food. Your dog may experience diarrhea if his food is suddenly changed.  Once your dog is fully eating the new food, you can follow the guidelines on the dog food package for recommended feeding amounts.

Keep fresh drinking water available at all times. Change the water at least once a day, more for dogs who drool and as always, keep food and water bowls clean.

Make sure to monitor your dog's weight and activity level and make feeding adjustments as necessary.

Human food that is dangerous for your dogs

Keep your dogs, away from avocados, chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, and raw bread dough made with yeast. Also avoid onions, garlic, and chives; milk and large amounts of dairy products such as cheese; alcohol; coffee and caffeine; salty food, such as potato chips; and food sweetened with xylitol, such as gum, baked goods, and candy. Xylitol, also used in products such as toothpaste, can cause liver failure in dogs.

Just as in humans, a dog’s diet can help maintain your dogs’ good health, longevity and help combat allergies or illness. That’s what the goal is, anyway, to have our dogs’ live long, happy and healthy lives.

 

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Why Does Your Dog Chase His Tail?

Puppies love to run around and explore everything in their new world around them.  Everything they encounter is new and exciting for them, even their own tails.  Puppies love to run around in circles after their own tails as it seems like a new toy to them and it is fun to spin around.  While puppies generally grow out of this behavior, some puppies continue to do this as they get older.

For the most part, a dog chasing his tail is a perfectly normal behavior for playful dogs.  They are simply trying to expend excess energy and express their desire for exercise and play.   Mot dogs love the sensation of free-wheeling, happy playfulness in a fun prey-like mode.  Some cats even like to chase their tail.    And, we dog owners, love to watch them and sometimes, for better and for worse, encourage them by laughing at them.

If your dog chases his or her tail excessively, than there could be a medical or behavioral issue at hand.

Medical causes

If you think the reason that your dog is chasing his tail could be a medical issue, make sure to go to your veterinarian for a physical.  Some of the medical issues that could cause your dog to chase his or her tail are dermatological, neurological, injury or something with his or her eyes.  Further, this behavior could also be caused by an anal gland infection, trauma to the tail or intestinal parasites.   High cholesterol may be another factor in behavioral problems.

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If your veterinarian has ruled out medical issues, there are some different behavioral issues and/or reasons could be causing your dog to chase his tail.

Your dog chases his tail to get attention

One simple reason which is pretty common in our dogs is that they get a lot of attention when they chase their tails.  A lot of dog owners give their pups attention or even clap or laugh when their dog is chasing its tail because we think it’s funny or cute.  Try not to give your dog any attention if they chase their tails often and simply ignore him or her and just walk away.

Your dog chases his tail because he is releasing pent up energy

Boredom is often expressed as a reason for tail chasing; however it’s usually not boredom but rather an inadequate level of physical activity that’s the cause. If your dog has a great need for aerobic exercise, he or she might engage in tail chasing to exert energy. If this is the case, the behavior should stop once the activity levels increases.

Your dog is chasing his tail because he is anxious

Tail chasing can also be the symptom of an underlying anxiety or psychological issue.  The behavior commonly begins with the dog chasing or scratching at the tail after an injury or irritation. As the behavior is comforting for the dog, it can quickly become a habitual response to all other threats, even after the tail has healed or the irritation has gone. In these instances, the dog is said to have become ‘conditioned’. While difficult to treat, this form of anxiety can be somewhat prevented if recognized and treated early in his life with a behaviorist.

Your dog might be suffering from a compulsive disorder and chasing his tail

As with most compulsive behaviors, it is really difficult to stop the behavior and can sometimes cause your dog to be aggressive to a dog owner. These types of dogs require a full behavioral treatment plan, and in some cases, medication.  Your veterinarian should be able to determine if the frequency in which your dog chases his or her tail is a compulsive disorder.

Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise to help with chasing his tail

As mentioned above, if you think your dog tail chasing is simply to keep himself occupied, make sure to take him for daily walks to expend his energy.  And when your dog does try to chase his tail, give your dog other things to expend his energy.  When he starts to chase his tail, bring him a toy to play with instead to divert his or her attention and hopefully forget about his tail.   Make sure to do this only if ignoring him and additional exercise does not work.  And, of course, praise your pup when he chooses the toy and not his tail.

 

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How to Stop Your Puppy (or Dog) From Biting on Leash

When you start to walk your puppy or new dog on a leash, some puppies or dogs take to it instantly, while other dogs will chew the leash as a way to get attention from you. When your dog is walking calmly on a loose leash, no one pays attention to him, but when he acts out, the focus shifts directly to him. For many dogs, negative attention is better than no attention at all.

Some dogs are over-aroused and the easiest way to release tension is to bite on the leash. The more intense the situation and the more wound up a dog is, the more likely that leash biting will occur as they are trying to get control.  And then other dogs like to carry something in their mouths and the leash acts as a sort of pacifier.   It’s a habit that can be hard to break, but can be done with time and practice. 

Below are some tips to try to get your dog or puppy to stop biting on his or her leash.

When you are ready to take a walk, try to take it down a notch

Just take out the leash as if it isn’t a big deal when you are getting ready to go on a walk. When you take out the leash and make an event out of it or even if just change your tone, you can over excite your dog.  And the result is often a leash that finds its way into your puppy's mouth. Instead of letting your puppy that it's time to go outside, calmly grab his leash, ask him to sit, and secure it to his collar or harness. Don't clap or even say a word.

Stop Your Dog From Biting on Leash

Try to get your pup’s attention when he goes to bite the leash

Grab his attention when he goes in for a bite.  Don’t ever try to yank the leash out of his mouth or try to fight your pup for it,  but give a sharp ‘no’ and tell your dog to sit. This works best if you catch him just as he's snapping at the leash. If he's already fully engaged with the leash, you're going to have a much harder time getting him to listen.

Teach your puppy or dog the ‘drop’ command

Teach your puppy the "drop" command. While this won't stop his little teeth from grabbing on to the leash in the first place, it does give you an easy way to make him spit it out. Start out by grabbing one of your puppy's favorite toys and giving it to him. The second he takes it, whip out a treat and offer it to him. Say "drop." He probably won't be able to resist the temptation of food, so as soon as he drops the toy in anticipation of the treat, give him the treat and tell him he's a good boy. Keep doing this a few times each day until he drops whatever is in his mouth on command.

A harness might be a better choice for a puppy who bites his leash

If you clip your puppy's leash onto his collar, it usually has a tendency to hang down, often in front of or to the side of his mouth. Instead of giving him the opportunity to chew, try to find a harness that your dog likes as the leash is positioned more toward his shoulders and back. He might still be able to grab it, but he'll have to really make an effort to do so and it is not dangling in front of him.

You can also try coating the leash with a bitter spray as a deterrent

Try coating the leash with a chewing deterrent.  All pet stores carry bitter sprays that many puppies won't even consider touching. Spray a tiny bit on the bottom half of his leash and he may decide it's better to just leave the leash alone and this is a very easy way to fix the problem.

Give your dog a ball or toy to carry while walking until he has learned to stop leash biting

If all else fails, give your dog a toy or ball to carry. A puppy's love of chewing has to do with teething, excitement and not knowing any better. Even if you do everything you can to discourage leash chewing, your puppy might still do it until he eventually outgrows it. Keep a ball or his favorite toy at your side while you go for walks and offer it to him in place of his leash. Even some grown dogs prefer to carry something in their mouths while on walks.

There are many ways to stop your dog from biting his leash.  Only you will know the best method that could work for your puppy.  But, if you curb the behavior earlier rather than later, it will make walking much more pleasurable for both of you.

 

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How to Cat Proof Your Home

When you decide bring (adopt!) a new cat or kitten home, the first and most important task that needs to be done is to cat proof your home.  If you already have a kitten or cat, you probably know the drill and are prepared.  However, if this is your first cat or kitten, there are some things you should consider adjusting in your home to make your home cat-safe!  It’s not that different than kiddy proofing your home for an infant that is crawling or starting to walk.

It’s actually pretty basic, but better to be overly cautious and think of what your cat might want to eat or play with that isn’t safe and get it out of his or her sight!  Simply take a look around your home and think of what might be potential safety hazards for your kitten or cat.   Exposed wires and plugs or opened cabinets where you keep cleaning supplies can be a potential hazard to our cats which they might want to explore.

First you need to figure out a separate room or area for your new cat or kitten

When you first bring your kitten home, designate a safe or separate room for your kitten to stay. Put your kitty’s food dish, litter box, toys, scratching post and bed in it. This will provide your new kitty or cat a place that does not seem overwhelming from the start. Once your kitten or adult cat has had a chance to get used to other room, it will be time to let him explore the rest of your happily cat-proofed home.   It will be less overwhelming for you and your kitty.

How To Cat Proof Your Home

Everything is new and exciting!

Start off on the right paw by putting away items that could break easily

Put away any breakable items that can be accessible to your cat so they don’t hurt themselves and you aren’t left with a broken favorite dish, namesake or other item. Remember that kittens and even adult cats can jump onto shelves and counters so put yourself into the mind of the cat, and look around and remove anything you value.  You could put it on top of a high dresser or cabinet where your cat does not have access to.  But, cats are notorious jumpers so don’t be surprised if they can reach some breakables.

Your furniture and drapes are very attractive to cats

Kittens and some cats will climb on your furniture and attack your drapes. You might think about covering your cloth furniture with a purchased cover, or even with a blanket or bedspread. Drapes should be confined to off-limit rooms as our kittens love to jump all over them with their claws.  Kittens will love to play with the cords from hanging blinds and they can get tangled up in them.  Try to anchor the cords firmly or tie them up out of reach.

Electrical and phone cords are harmful and appealing to our kitties

Our cats’ curious nature often leads them to one of the most dangerously tempting objects in the house: electrical cords and outlets. Computers are a particular hazard with their numerous cords dangling temptingly.  Try to invest in a cord management system or tape the cords together and fasten them out of reach. Do the same with long phone cords. You can also try some non-toxic sprays at pet stores that are a deterrent for your kitties to bite the cords.

Remove any pesticides or mouse traps from visibility

Remove any ant or roach or even mouse traps from accessible areas. If your cat will be an indoor-outdoor pet, make sure that your lawn doesn’t have any ant or snail bait. If you have a pesticide service, make sure they use only animal-safe products, and keep your cat indoors on the day they are spraying.

Rubber bands, paper clips, pencils can even excite a new cat

Rubber bands, paper clips, thumb tacks, even pointy pencils can be harmful to your kitties. Put them away in containers and/or out of reach for your kitty. Think of your kitty as a little infant that wants to get into anything and everything… those tempting or potentially harmful items should be put away.  Every kitty is different and has different likes and/or temptations.  As you watch your new kitty and cat, you will find out what those might be.

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