Cold Weather Safety for Pets

Exposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin, but these aren’t the only discomforts pets can suffer. Winter walks can become downright dangerous if chemicals from ice-melting agents are licked off of bare paws. To help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting your pet’s health, please heed the following advice from our experts:

  • Repeatedly coming out of the cold into the dry heat of your home can cause itchy, flaking skin. Keep your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as he comes inside, paying special attention to his feet and in-between the toes. Remove any snow balls from between his foot pads.
  • Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. If your dog is long-haired, simply trim him to minimize the clinging ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can dry his skin, and don’t neglect the hair between his toes. If your dog is short-haired, consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
  • Bring a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals—and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.
  • Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin. If your pooch must be bathed, ask your vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse.
  • Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can help protect from salt and chemical agents. Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation. Use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible.
  • Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.
  • Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime. Feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide much-needed calories, and making sure she has plenty of water to drink will help keep her well-hydrated and her skin less dry.
  • Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
  • Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside. If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed. In addition, don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.

Adopt a Senior Pet Month

Sometimes forgotten amongst the most known like Alzheimers and Diabetes, November is also National Adopt a Senior Pet month.  The advantages to adopting a senior pet are vast, such as:

  1. Older dogs have manners. Unlike puppies, many grown-up dogs have spent years living with a family and being socialized to life with humans.
    They may have received obedience training and respond to commands like Sit, Stay, and Down. Many are house trained and it takes a matter of hours or a day or two to help them learn the potty rules in their new home.
  2. Senior pets are less destructive. Most older adoptive pets are well past the search-and-destroy phase. You don’t need to worry so much about finding your favorite pair of shoes or a table leg chewed beyond recognition. Chances are your senior kitty has no urge to overturn your potted plant or shred the handmade quilt your grandma gave you.
  3. What you see is what you get. A senior pet holds no surprises as to how big he might get, what color his adult coat will be, or whether his hips will be healthy. A senior pet comes to you with his own history, which makes his future much more predictable than that of an 8-week old puppy or kitten.
  4. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Adult dogs can focus on the task at hand (unlike many of their much younger counterparts). If your adopted older pet needs to learn a few things in her new life with you, not to worry. Enroll her in an obedience class, contact a trainer, or go the do-it-yourself route. Older dogs are more attentive than puppies, and more eager to please their humans.
  5. You can custom order your senior pet. If you’re looking for a short-haired cat, for example, or a kitty with no history of dental disease, you can search until you find an older pet with exactly those attributes. If you already have a cat and need your adoptive dog to get along with cats, again, you’ll have a much better chance of finding an older adoptive dog who is a perfect companion for your family.
  6. You can adopt a purebred pet if you want. If you really love a certain breed of dog or cat, chances are there’s a breed rescue club that can point you in the direction of older purebred pets in need of homes.
  7. Senior pets are great company for senior citizens. Many elderly people find the calm presence of an older pet very comforting. They appreciate having a companion who is also ‘getting up there’ in age, doesn’t mind hearing the same stories again and again, and is content to move through life at a slower speed.
  8. Older pets are relaxing to hang out with. Senior dogs and cats have all the basics down and aren’t full of wild energy to burn. Because you’re not constantly chasing around or cleaning up after your older pet, you have a lot more time to spend finding fun things to do or just relaxing together.
  9. Adopted senior pets are grateful for your kindness. Somehow, older pets seem to know you gave them a home when no one else would. Many new owners form a close bond very quickly with their senior dog or cat, because the pet shows them a level of attention and devotion that is unique to older adopted animals.
  10. You can be a hero to a deserving dog or cat. Almost without exception, people who adopt older animals feel a special sense of pride and purpose in opening their heart to a hard-to-place pet. Doing a good thing really does make you feel good!

Ammonia Risks From Cat Urine

Ammonia (NH3) is an invisible compound gas. When a cat’s metabolism breaks down urea, it produces ammonia as a toxic waste eliminated through urine. A small amount of ammonia exposure to humans is common, as ammonia is also found in cleaners, textiles, woodworking, soil, air, water and other animal waste. Cat litter is absorbent enough to contain ammonia in clean litter boxes, but larger quantities that accumulate in unkempt conditions can pose some risk, especially to the elderly and young children, and persons with compromised immune systems or already developed respiratory ailments, like asthma.

Health Risks

The risk of ammonia to human health depends on the concentration and duration of exposure. Significant risk is more common in industrial situations, when persons are exposed to large concentrations of ammonia over long periods of time. While a cat may live upwards of 20 years, thus exposing its owner to years dealing with a litter box, concentrations of ammonia in clean litter is minimal. Nevertheless, knowledge of symptoms will help minimize risk.

Respiratory exposure is the most common route of ammonia exposure. If inhaled, ammonia can cause acute symptoms such as headaches, coughing, sore throat, dizziness, runny or burning nose, and a burning respiratory tract. Higher concentrations of ammonia exposure can cause bronchial conditions (such as shortness of breath, pneumonia and asthma), pulmonary edema, and in severe cases, death. If exposed, move to a well ventilated area. Eye exposure to ammonia fumes can cause itching, burning and tearing, and in severe cases, blindness. If exposed, rinse eyes well with water. Skin exposure can cause itching, burning, and stinging, and in severe cases, blistering and frost bite. If exposed, wash area thoroughly with water and soap. Ingesting ammonia can cause damage to the stomach, mouth and throat, and can cause systemic poisoning. If exposed, drink water or milk to dilute the concentration of ammonia. If significantly exposed or just concerned, contact a medical professional for further medical help or information.

Pet Safety for July 4th

For many people, nothing beats lounging in the backyard on the Fourth of July with good friends and family—including furry friends. While it may seem like a great idea to reward your pet with scraps from the grill and bring him along to watch fireworks, in reality some festive foods and activities can be potentially hazardous to him. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center offers the following tips:

  • Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them.Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets. If ingested, the animal could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma. Death from respiratory failure is also a possibility in severe cases.
  • Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.
  • Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your pets’ reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing—or even kidney disease in severe cases. Lighter fluid can be irritating to skin, and if ingested can produce gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression. If lighter fluid is inhaled, aspiration pneumonia and breathing problems could develop.
  • Keep your pets on their normal diet. Any change, even for one meal, can give your pet severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals who have more delicate digestive systems and nutritional requirements. And keep in mind that foods such as onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes, raisins, salt and yeast dough can all be potentially toxic to companion animals. Please visit our People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets page for more information.
  • Do not put glow jewelry on your pets, or allow them to play with it.While the luminescent substance contained in these products is not highly toxic, excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation could still result from ingestions, and intestinal blockage could occur from swallowing large pieces of the plastic containers.
  • Keep citronella candles, insect coils and tiki torch oil products out of reach. Ingestion can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression. If inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia in pets.
  • Never use fireworks around pets! While exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of curious pets, even unused fireworks can pose a danger. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.
  • Loud, crowded fireworks displays are no fun for pets, who can become frightened or disoriented by the sound. Please resist the urge to take them to Independence Day festivities, and opt instead to keep them safe from the noise in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area at home.

Top 5 Reasons to Adopt

Beginning the search for the most perfect pet can be overwhelming, but one thing is definitely a very simple choice to make: adopting a pet is a much better idea than purchasing one. There are countless reasons to choose adoption over buying from a pet store or a breeder, but here are just a few of them that’ll be sure to convince you.

You’ll Save a Life

A shelter pet is more than one in a million.   2.7 million is the number of adoptable dogs and cats who are still euthanized each year in the United States, simply because too many pets come into shelters and too few people adopt. The number of euthanized animals could be reduced dramatically if more people adopted pets instead of buying them. When you adopt, you save your animal and open up shelter space for another animal who might need it.

Adopted Pets Are Healthy

Most shelters will give their animals vaccinations and health screenings, and it’s common to even spay and neuter pets before putting them up for adoption. It’s a common misconception that pets end up in shelters because there is something wrong with their health or behavior. The reason is usually more related to a person’s circumstance: a divorce, a big move, or financial hardship.

Adoption Saves Money

In addition to having a lower up-front cost than a breeder or a pet store that’s supplied by puppy mills, you won’t have to pay for the vaccinations and other medical costs that shelters take care of for you.

You’ll Help Putting an End to Puppy Mills

You’re too smart to get a dog from a pet store or online seller—you might as well buy direct from a puppy mill. Puppy mills are “factory style” breeding facilities that put profit above the welfare of dogs. Animals from puppy mills are housed in shockingly poor conditions with improper medical care, and are often very sick and behaviorally troubled as a result. The moms of the puppies are kept in cages to be bred over and over for years, without human companionship and with little hope of ever joining a family. And after they’re no longer profitable, breeding dogs are simply discarded—either killed, abandoned or sold at auction. Most puppies in pet stores and sold online come from puppy mills. The dogs are sold to unsuspecting consumers in pet stores, over the Internet and through classified ads. Puppy mills will continue to operate until people stop supporting them. By adopting a pet, you can be certain you aren’t giving them a dime.

Endless Benefits

When you adopt,it immediately allows other to see what you’ve done. This is not only good for bragging rights, but also because it spreads the word to others who may have never heard or thought about adopting and allows them to see how grateful and healthy your adopted pet is. Your adopted pet will have an appreciation like you’ve never imagined, because they truly know that you’ve given them a second chance to live the life they deserve. Many pets from shelters are already house trained, so the weeks of cleaning up messes won’t occur with an adopted pet. You can chose their age, temperament, size, etc. If you have a family, you’ll be setting an example for your children about the importance of adoption and how rescuing a pet is saving it’s life and the lives of many others.

An adopted pet can enrich your life in ways both big and small. The unconditional love and loyalty of a dog or cat can lift depression, ease loneliness, lower blood pressure, and give you a reason to get up in the morning. A kitty asleep in your lap feels warm and comforting. A dog that loves to walk or run outdoors can be just the incentive you need to start exercising regularly. There are countless benefits to pet ownership, and when you know you saved your furry companion from an unpleasant fate, it makes the bond you share that much more meaningful.


My Rescue

IMG_0727On a Sunday I decided to go for a run and had a beautiful day to do it.  It was early May, 70 degrees with a cool breeze that made it perfect to be out, even though I was doing something I really dislike but know has to get done.  Two parks are directly across the street from me and for some reason I chose the furthest one on that day.  As I made my way around the park and was going for the second lap, I jumped as something in a pile of leaves appeared to reach for me.  Upon taking a closer look, what I thought to be a rat turned out to be a ferret.  He was scrawny, dirty and thin.  He looked scared as he slowly made his way over to me and even though I was nervous about handling an animal at that point in my life that I never touched, I picked him up and cradled him in my shirt.  I spent the next hour going through the park and walking up several streets trying to find his owner.  Got him a box and fed him some Honeycombs, because after all I had no idea what these animals ate, and watched him nearly choke because he was eating so fast probably out of starvation.  No one claimed this little ferret, so I went and bought him a three tier cage equipped with everything ferret’s like, bought him the appropriate food and spent nearly the next four years with an animal who absolutely appreciated that he was rescued.  He became apart of our family and was deeply missed when he passed.  It’s nice to go to a pet store and search for the perfect puppy, kitten or other small newborn animal, but remember, there are so many animals who are up for adoption that know you rescued them if given the chance.  You will form a bond with your rescued friend unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.  So, if you’re thinking of getting a new animal, please think of adopting because you’re not only getting a new companion, you’re also saving a life.

-Joe Fiorilli