It’s Beginnning to Look Like Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go,  and  the gamut of holiday activities –baking, shopping,  gift wrapping, parties, and house guests—is in full swing.  Busy, busy, busy with many extras vying for your time.   As schedules become frantic, how do our pets fare?  What happens to the daily walk, the game of fetch, and  the quiet snuggle with a favorite human companion?   Taking care of your dog in the holiday season  requires a bit of  caution, because with all the interesting foods and decorations in our homes, there are many hazards.

  • The traditional Christmas tree needs to be placed in an area where it is not likely to be knocked over, and secured well.   There simply are no perfectly pet-safe ornaments, but  glass ones, or easily broken ones should be placed high on the tree.  Ornaments with hooks to attach them to the tree often fall from the tree, and pets may catch their mouths on them , or swallow them.
  • Most dogs (and cats)  are attracted to tinsel, and may try to eat the stuff  which can slice up their gastrointestinal system.   Sweep up the pine needles that drop  to prevent ingestion of needles which  can cause gastric irritation.  Turn the lights on only when you are home because risk is always there with a live tree.   Do not allow your pet access to the tree water to drink.
  • Dogs love to investigate and most don’t understand that the presents are not chew toys.  Inquisitive dogs may tear open wrapped gifts,  and ingest decorative ribbons or strings (not to mention that gifts can be destroyed by a playful pet).  It is wise to limit unsupervised  access to the area.
  • During the holiday season, many lights are displayed, and, with these lights,  come electric cords.  Curious pets can find these cords interesting and fun , resulting in electric shock or burns.
  • Don’t leave lighted candles unattended.  Dogs may burn themselves or cause a fire if they are knocked over.  Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface, out of paws’ reach.  And if you leave the room, put the candle out!  Essential oils are highly toxic and should be also kept out of reach.
  • Fatty, spicy, and no-no-human foods such as chocolate, or anything sweetened with xylitol,  as well as bones should not be fed to your four-legs.  Ingestion of  high- fat foods  or other holiday foods such as yeast breads or fruit cakes with currants and raisins can result in serious gastrointestinal upset.  No alcoholic beverages should be left where an inquisitive dog can reach them.  Make sure your dog doesn’t have access to the trash where you throw away the string or paper used to wrap the turkey or ham!
  • If you have house guests, remind them to keep all their meds zipped up and out of reach.  Handbags typically contain many items poisonous to dogs, including prescription meds, pain meds such as Tylenol, sugarless chewing gum, asthma inhalers, cigarettes, coins, and hand sanitizers.

Veterinarian Pamela Perry  emphasizes that the holiday season is stressful for both humans and canines.  “Your dog should have access to a quiet room where he can retreat if he becomes overwhelmed with all the hustle and bustle.  To keep his stress levels low, maintain his routine as much as possible.  Spend a few minutes –one-on-one  several  times a day, so he knows you  haven’t forgotten him.  It is likely that it will lower your stress level too.”

Dogs are treasures and are worth  making a few compromises and taking a little extra care to ensure a  happy, safe holiday  for everyone.

Commit to your Dog’s Health

October is a busy month, filled with fall activities, and it is also recognized as National Pet Wellness Month, when caregivers are encouraged to re-evaluate your pet’s health and there are many tips to help keep them safe and healthy all year round.

  • Pet proofing your home is important whether you have a new pet or have had pets for years. There are many every day products, including medicines, pesticides and some household plants that can prove poisonous to our animal friends. It is a good time to go through your home and make sure that all potentially harmful objects are out of your pet’s reach.
  • Did your dog have a complete wellness check this year? If not, schedule one soon rather than later. It is important that dogs visit the vet more than just when they are sick or injured. A physical can ward off diseases by getting routine vaccinations, and allows your vet to look for any signs of potential health problems which may be effectively treated if caught in the early stages. If you have a senior pet, remember that pets age faster than we do, and therefore need check-ups more often.
  • If your dog isn’t already spayed or neutered, you are missing out on major health benefits. According to the ASPCA, female dogs that are not spayed have a much higher chance of getting uterine infections and breast cancer, and intact males have a higher incidence of testicular cancer.
  • Dental hygiene is an often overlooked area, and dental problems often lead to other health issues, such as heart, kidney, and joint problems. These are serious problems, and it’s worth taking the time to promote oral health. According to veterinarian Brook Niemiec, “The only time that dogs get bad breath is when they have serious periodontal disease, and by the time a problem manifests itself, disease is probably in an advanced state. With some breeds, as many as 90 percent will have some level of early gum disease by the time they are one year old. Taking care of your dog’s teeth is like changing the oil in the car. If you don’t do it regularly, you will have bigger and more expensive problems later on.” It is estimated that about 80 percent of all dogs over three years of age have oral disease, so it is important to perform routine home dental care and schedule regular oral exams by your veterinarian.
  • Most of us really aren’t prepared for emergencies, but it is important to put together a plan to keep your dog safe in case of a health crisis, or a natural disaster. Include a safe pet-friendly place to go, a list of any items you need for yourself, and also for your dog, with medications and contact numbers like your veterinarian or pet hospital.
  • Take a closer look at what you are feeding your dog. Not all pet foods are created equal, and you may need to rethink your pet’s food. Many foods contain cheap fillers that don’t provide your pet any nutrition, and wellness starts by what you give your pet for food. Deciphering a pet food label may be confusing, so, an independent site ranks all of the major dog foods. Click on BRAND and they will rate any specific food, or you may also review all brands A to Z. You may be surprised to learn that many popular foods are not healthy foods. It is also important what treats you are giving your dog. Most commercial treats are not healthy and some are downright toxic. We recommend NO commercial treats, and especially not those that are imported from China.

Here is a very simple, easy to make, healthy treat:

1 egg

½ cup water

2 ½ cups flour (preferably whole wheat flour)

1 teaspoon sugar

½ cup non-fat dry milk powder

6 tablespoons of margarine.


Mix ingredients and knead until the dough forms a ball.

Pinch off small bits and drop on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees…

Note: if you want to make fancy looking cookies, roll to ½ inch thick and cut into dog bones… the dogs don’t care about their appearance, but if they are for gifts, they will be more impressive looking.)


Dogs give their human companions unconditional love and are always there with an encouraging wag of the tail!

They are indeed very special animals.

We need to realize that they depend on us to provide for their well-being.

Dorothy Hinshaw Patent



Is Your Dog’s Food Making Him or Her Sick?

Some pet caregivers still recall the huge 2007 pet food recall for melamine contamination from ingredients imported from China. More than 40 pet food brands, including some of the best known names, were involved in the 2007 recall.  Have things changed?  Not much.  According to Pet Supplies, not a month has gone by in 2013 without several recalls.  Last month both Nestle Purina and Proctor and Gamble recalled products.  The Veterinary Information Network reported health problems linked to sweet potato treats similar to those related to chicken jerky treats (also sourced from China) which they had reported earlier this year.  The seemingly endless list of recalls leave people worried that the items they bought on Monday will be recalled on Friday. How do you determine which foods and treats are safe for your dog?  Read the labels carefully, and PLEASE don’t buy ANY treats sourced in China. Not chicken jerky treats, chicken tenders, chicken strips, chicken treats, or sweet potato treats. Buying only food and treats made in the U.S. won’t remove all risk of winding up with a tainted product, but it will certainly improve your chances of keeping your pet safe.  I recommend not feeding any commercial treats. Most of them are NOT healthy, and there are many great easy-to-make recipes for homemade treats.

Pet food/treat packaging usually has a toll free number listed on the packaging. Take the time to call, and be prepared for vague, unsatisfactory responses.  Be polite but insistent about the source and origin of ALL ingredients, and locations of production facilities.  (Being imported from a responsible place does not mean that they were not sourced in China, shipped to another destination, and then sent to the U.S. pet food companies.)

Human grade ingredients means that meats and everything, including the grains are USDA inspected. …ask for authentication of this claim. There are few regulations as far as the ingredients in pet food, and commercials show fresh chickens and whole grains. Realize that the green nuggets are NOT green vegetables…they are nuggets that are dyed green with very little vegetable content. Same with other colored kibble or treats.   With much confusing, misleading info in pet food labeling and advertising, bear in mind that most of the ingredients in most pet foods, including meat by-products and meat meal, are at the low end of the food chain, and are NOT human grade: they come from whatever remains of the animal parts not deemed fit for human consumption.

The hallmarks of a high quality pet food or treat include:

  • A whole meat source should be listed as one of the main ingredients.  (Primary sources are listed first on labeling)
  • Superior sources of protein. This means either whole meats or single source meats. Generic fats such as “animal fat” can be anything from recycled grease from restaurants to a mystery mix of various fats. What do you think is in “animal digest,” for example?
  • Natural preservatives. No artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors. A healthy product with top quality ingredients shouldn’t need additives or extra sweeteners…

Choices have to be made regarding what to feed your companion animal, and cost doesn’t necessarily guarantee the best nutrition, and “premium,” “natural”, and “gourmet” are simply gimmicky marketing terms which are usually meaningless… To find out how a specific food is rated, go to; you can also request that they notify you of any new food or treat recall.  With literally hundreds of different brands available, navigating the maze of canine nutrition can be overwhelming, but if your dog’s food is negatively impacting her health and well-being, changes need to be made… not easy, but possible!.

Pet Poisons in your Purse

Did you know that your purse or briefcase is a reservoir for items toxic to your four-legged friends?

The source of the top five pet poisons is actually often found in your handbag.

  • Human medications account for almost half the yearly calls to the Pet Poison Helpline because someone’s pet has ingested a medication found in a purse, duffel bag , or book bag. Human pills come in bottles and the sound of a rattling pill bottle is similar to the noise many dog toys make. Common painkillers like Advil, Motrin, and Tylenol, as well as prescription drugs for depression such as Prozac can be toxic to dogs. NSAIDs like Advil, Motrin and Aleve can cause GI ulcers and kidney failure, and just one Tylenol can cause liver failure in a dog. Antidepressants can cause loss of coordination, agitation, tremors, and seizures.
  • Asthma inhalers are commonly stored in purses for emergency use, and if your dog bites into an asthma inhaler, it can cause life-threatening poisoning. These inhalers contain highly concentrated doses of drugs like albuterol and fluticasone, and exposure to just a single does of this powerful drug can lead to vomiting, heart arrhythmia, collapse, and ultimately, death.
  • Cigarettes are not only bad for the health of humans; they are equally bad for your pets. Cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and even stop- smoking gum contains nicotine, and nicotine poisoning causes serious problems, which can be fatal if not treated quickly. Signs of elevated heart and respiratory rates, loss of bladder or bowel control, tremors, seizures, paralysis, and death are often the result of accidental ingestion of nicotine.
  • Sugarless chewing gum and breath mints usually contain xylitol, and xylitol and dogs don’t mix. Most sugarless gums, including some Orbit, Trident, and Ice Breaker brands contain this sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Sugarless mints, toothpastes, flavored multivitamins, and mouthwashes may also contain xylitol that, when ingested, can result in hypoglycemia, a life-threatening and rapid drop in blood sugar. Larger amounts can cause liver failure. Signs of xylitol poisoning include, weakness, difficulty walking, collapse, tremors, seizures and vomiting.
  • In our germ-conscious society, small bottles of hand sanitizer have become common place in purses, briefcases, and backpacks. and most of these products, which are used to kill germs, contain high concentrations of alcohol (ethanol.) If a dog chews a small bottle of hand sanitizer, it is about the equivalent of a shot of hard liquor, which could cause a serious drop in blood sugar, loss of coordination, nervous system depression, coma, and even death.

If you look around, you can probably find a handbag or other carryall bag within the reach of your pet right now. It is important to designate a common “safe place” as the ‘bag drop-off area, a spot that is out of reach of curious pets. Inquisitive pets are eager to explore the contents of just about anything, and unfortunately will eat just about anything. If you put your human medication in a weekly pill container, make sure to store the container up out of reach of your pet, and never store human medications near your pet’s medications…pet poison hot lines receive regular calls from concerned pet owners who inadvertently give their own medication to pets.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested something that may be toxic, it is important to call your veterinarian immediately. If your vet is not available, call Pet Poison Helpline’s 24-hour animal poison center at 800-213-6680. You will be charged a small fee, but it could well save your dog’s life.

Welcome to Winter!

Cooler weather should not be used as an excuse to skip walking the dog. An exercise-deprived dog usually develops a serious case of cabin fever, which escalates to frustration-induced behaviors such as hyperactivity and destructiveness. Dogs (as well as humans) need DAILY exercise to keep physically and emotionally fit!

If the weather is really uncooperative, making it impractical to exercise outdoors, a treadmill can be a great tool to help your dog stay active. Most dogs adapt to treadmill exercise if they are introduced to it slowly, but it is important to be patient and never push the dog…if she gets spooks, she may never get comfortable enough to enjoy using it, and NEVER leave a dog on the treadmill unsupervised. With a few extra precautions, you can keep your pet safe and healthy during these crisp, cool autumn months!

Winter does pose one serious risk to our furry friends. Most people winterize their automobiles in the fall. Traditional auto antifreeze is lethal to animals, and dogs are attracted to it because of the sweet-salty taste. Suffering is a horrific part of antifreeze poisoning and as little as a ¼ teaspoon ingested from a puddle on the garage floor can kill an animal.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, at least 10,000 dogs drink antifreeze every year, and most die! Mindy Bough of the ASPCA Poison Control Center stresses that just a few licks can cause kidney failure—even a small amount that may be licked off a paw. Propylene glycol-based coolants are available, and although they are less toxic than the traditional ethylene glycol-based coolant, it is important to not allow even a drop of any antifreeze to remain where your pet has access to it.


FDA Warning – Dog Treats from China

Warnings on chicken jerky treats imported from China were first issued in 2007, after more than 70 complaints were received involving almost l00 sick dogs, and by the end of the year that number grew to more than 150. A year later the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) issued an update that included chicken jerky products from China. Updates have been released on a regular basis and just last week another warning was issued, and according to the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) there are new reports of health problems linked to sweet potato treats that are also imported from China. There are also suspected problems with imported pork treats.

Symptoms may show up within hours or days after a treat is eaten and include decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and increased thirst and urination. Please do not feed your dogs ANY treats made in China, and keep in mind that although the problem treats are usually identified as “jerky” treats, they also go by many other names, including strips, chips, twists, and others. One of the biggest frustrations for pet caregivers trying to avoid poisoning their dog is that many pet treat package labels claim the product was made in the U.S., when in reality one or more ingredients were imported from China. On close inspection of some chicken jerky treats labeled “Made in the USA, the small print shows that the chicken actually came from China.

Country of origin labeling laws require only that products be put together here to make the made-in-the-U.S. claim. As long as ingredients are cooked, mixed, or otherwise processed in this country, the food can be legally identified as being made here. Needless to say, this marketing ploy to instill confidence in consumers has had some absolutely tragic results. To protect your own dog, avoid feeding any pet food or treat made in China, and this goes for any treat you aren’t l00 percent sure originated ENTIRELY in this country.

We suggest that you don’t buy any commercial treats…. most of them are unhealthy. Instead make your own biscuits!

If you want to offer chicken jerky, make your own:

  1. Buy some boneless chicken breasts and slice them in long, thin strips—the thinner the better.
  2. Place the strips on a greased cookie sheet and bake them for at least three hours at 175 degrees.
  3. The low temperature dries the chicken slowly and the strips wind up nice and chewy.
  4. After the strips have cooled, store them in plastic bags or airtight container, or freeze them.

Consider making your own sweet potato treats at home also.

  1. Wash the sweet potatoes (or yams) thoroughly, and then slice them nice and thin.
  2. Arrange on greased baking sheet, and bake in a 300 degree oven for about 45 minutes.
  3. Let them cool, and store in airtight container.

Both of these homemade treats are easy to make but no matter what the treat, it should be fed occasionally, never as a substitute for a balanced, appropriate diet for your dog. Please play it safe. Buy only food and treats made entirely in the U.S. This won’t remove all risk of winding up with a tainted product, but it will certainly improve your chances of keeping your pet well!.