Summer Has Collapsed Into Fall

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” This quote by Oscar Wilde has certainly proven true out here on the Iowa prairie, and we are all suddenly thinking about winterizing our homes and cars, and making cold-weather-plans for our four-footed friends. It may be true that some breeds tolerate the cold better than others, but few dogs do well left outside for extended periods of time in cold, damp weather.

We discourage caregivers from keeping dogs outside all of the time in any weather, but the risk is certainly worse when the temperatures drop below the freezing mark. And remember that temperature is not the only factor to consider; wind chill makes conditions even more dangerous for animals.

If, for some reason, you do not want your dog in the main part of your home, surely there is a heated porch, an entryway, or even a corner in the garage that could be made into a cozy spot for her. If you accepted the responsibility of caring for an animal, you must also recognize the importance of finding a warm, comfortable place for her to stay. If she has behavioral issues, the solution is not to banish her to the back yard, but to spend the necessary time to train her. Dogs are smart and eager to comply to human rules, but they must be taught what the rules are.

Perhaps one of the most important considerations to prepare your pet for winter is nutrition. A high quality nutritionally balanced diet is essential. To find out how different foods rate, you can go to which rates all of the major dog foods. Check out the food you are currently using—you may be surprised at what you find. All dog foods are not created equal and with all the clever marketing techniques used, it is difficult to sort out what is good and what is simply advertising hype.

Every year dogs die from ingesting traditional ethylene glycol-based antifreeze. It smells and tastes good to them, but it is very toxic. Never keep antifreeze where curious dogs (or children) can reach it, and remember that antifreeze sometimes collects on driveways and roadways. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, at least 10,000 dogs drink antifreeze every year because of the pleasant sweet taste. It takes only a small amount of traditional antifreeze to cause serious problems to the dog’s kidneys, and most dogs who drink it will die.

With winter just around the corner, don’t think that the fleas have all gone south. Most of us don’t associate fleas with dropping temperatures, but the fact is that fleas are more prevalent now than at any other time of the year. Throughout the summer, flea populations have increased and are peaking in the fall. They are also seeking out warm bodies and other warm places to feed and exist, so it is important to continue using flea preventatives well into the winter. A little extra prevention is better than having to deal with a flea infestation.

The use of rodenticides increases in the fall as rodents seek shelter from the cooler outdoor temperatures by attempting to move indoors. Rodenticides are highly toxic to pets, so if you use these products, be careful to put them in places inaccessible to your pets.

Don’t use cooler weather as an excuse to skip walking the dog…an exercise-deprived can get a serious case of cabin fever, which often leads to frustration-induced behaviors such as destructiveness and hyperactivity.

We are surrounded by potential dangers for our four-footed friends, but with a few extra precautions, you can keep your pet safe and healthy during these crisp, cool autumn months.

Fall is in the Air

Fall is in the air now… time to .say good-by to summer. Birds are migrating; trees are changing garb, with leaves transforming from golden to brown. Hopefully fall will bring calm after all the summer storms, but fall also brings many hazards for your pets:

  • Antifreeze—antifreeze typically contains ethylene glycol, an odorless but sweet-tasting chemical that is toxic to pets Ingesting just a small amount can potentially lead to kidney failure, seizures, and even death for your animals. The ASPCA Poison Control Center reports that every year thousands of dogs die from ingesting traditional ethylene glycol-based antifreeze. Do not keep antifreeze where dogs (or children) can reach it, and remember than antifreeze sometimes collects on driveways and roadways. We recommend that you check out propylene glycol-based antifreeze. It is more expensive, but is less toxic and tastes somewhat bitter, making it less attractive to dogs.
  • Rodenticides—the use of mouse and rat poisons increases in the fall, so it is imperative to make sure that none remain within reach of your pets. Many common products such as grain-based pellets or wax blocks are highly toxic to pets and can be fatal if even a small amount is ingested.
  • Mushrooms—mushrooms have been abundant this fall because of the wetter weather. It is difficult to differentiate between poisonous and nonpoisonous…they look very much alike and often grow together. Make sure that your pet is kept away from all mushrooms, and if you think your pet may have eaten one, contact your veterinarian right away.
  • School items—school backpacks are filled with pet dangers—glue sticks, crayons, and markers, and although they may not be extremely toxic, they can cause stomach distress and pose choking hazards. Lunch leftovers, medications, and sugar-free gum (which may contain zylitol) are also potentially dangerous items that a curious pet my find in an open backpack. Keep all school items in closed backpacks or areas where pets do not have access.
  • Decorations—fall decorations with corncobs can cause intestinal blockage, and if your dog has access to an outdoor play yard, be sure to check for any corncobs that the squirrels may have carried into the pet area. Your decorations may look like toys to your pets, so be cautious with the types of decorations you use. Avoid strings or ribbons dangling enticingly from the decorations.
  • Outdoor grilling—Barbecues can be a dangerous place for your pets. They may ingest skewers, or they may get into potentially toxic foods or alcohol Most pet caregivers are aware that chocolate is toxic to pets, but bones, raw bread dough, grapes, raisins, and onions can also present health problems. Hard candies, candy wrappers, lollipop sticks also pose choking or intestinal blockage threats.
  • Fatty foods can lead not only to an upset stomach but also to inflammation of the pancreas which can be quite dangerous. Pancreatitis can cause severe pain, lethargy, and vomiting, and in some cases can be life-threatening. If your dog shows these signs, you need to call your veterinarian right away.
  • Household medications—Be sure to keep medications out of reach of your pet’s reach. Acetaminophen can be toxic, and decongestants can cause elevated heart rate, possibly leading to seizures. Many pets will happily lap up any pills that may be dropped, and if a pet has ingested medication meant for humans, or something potentially toxic, don’t spend time trying to decide what to do. Call your vet right away.

Prevention is always the best approach. Be alert to dangers that may be encountered, and pet-proof your home from these hazards, so that you can safely enjoy the fall season with your dog. Vigilance is the key to keeping your pet safe this season and all year round.


Beat the Back to School Blues

As we enjoy the last days of summer, and prepare for fall changes, it is possible that pet caregivers may not think about what it means to the family dog. Dogs thrive on routine; it makes them feel secure, and they don’t understand why the kids go back to school, and aren’t around for playing and giving extra love and snuggles. College students leave, and older adults may be preoccupied with missing the kids and reorganizing their own lives. The result can be a lonely dog who just mopes around and sleeps more than usual, or becomes destructive. A little planning can forestall most problems.

  • Maintain routine as much as possible. Although your dog’s caregiver may change, her routine shouldn’t. Plan to eat, walk, and play at the same times, but avoid spending all your time with the dog. Gradually accustom her to your absence by leaving her alone for short periods, and then work on up to being gone for several hours If your dog has been clingy to the kids all summer, regularly interrupt her shadowing them around the house by baby-gating her into another room for brief periods.
  • Keep comings and goings low key. No huggy/kissy, “I’ll miss you” scenes that will often fuel anxiety in your dog. Ignore your dog for a few minutes before you leave and after you return to help lower his excitement level, and reduce the tension level he feels.
  • Those old T-shirts you were planning to throw out can serve a new purpose—leave an item of your clothing in your pet’s bed while you are away. Your familiar scent may comfort her.
  • EXERCISE. EXERCISE. EXERCISE. A tired dog is a good dog—for good reason. A dog who has gotten some serious exercise will seldom get into much trouble.
  • Leave the television or radio on, or better yet, play the heartbeat music therapy CD, Canine Lullabies, which is available from Terry Woodford. For more information, visit www.caninelullabies. This amazing CD actually does reduce anxiety and settles hyperactivity.
  • Provide diversions. Every dog deserves at least a couple Kongs. These toys are uniquely shaped of durable rubber and have hollow centers which can be filled with “good stuff.” Unstuffing Kongs can keep dogs busy for hours as they go for the nuggets stuffed inside. A simple stuffing can be just a little peanut butter rubbed inside the Kong, some kibble, a few doggie treats, and maybe a couple small chunks of cheese. If your dog has never had a stuffed Kong, make it easy to remove the stuffing at first, so they succeed at their removal work. Gradually make their job more challenging by packing the stuffing tighter. For creative ways to stuff your Kong, go to Most dogs love raw baby carrots, so you might hide a few around the house for him to play “Find It.”

Help your dog beat the back to school blues, and if problems arise, remember punishment for anxiety or inappropriate behavior is NEVER appropriate. A dog misbehaves because he is anxious or upset, not out of spite or to get even. No matter what he does while you are gone, punishment will only intensify the problems. Good caregivers know that positive reinforcement, persistence, and patience can correct just about any difficulty.

Autumn Dangers Lurk

Cooler weather is setting in, and the leaves are changing colors. Autumn is a favorite time of year for many of us, but it can be a dangerous season for pets, with many potential health hazards.

Our lives are often so hectic that we yearn for an extra hour in the day, so losing an hour of daylight when Daylight Savings Time kicks in means that many of our daily activities take place when visibility is poor. We end up walking or exercising our canine companions in the darkness of early morning or evening. Reduced light makes it more challenging for drivers to see either humans or canines, resulting in injuries being suffered after being hit by a car during daybreak or twilight hours. Be sure your dogs wear up-to-date tags and reflective wear is helpful for both you and your dog. Maintain close observation and control with a short leash attached to his chest harness. I never recommend extendable leashes, but they are especially dangerous in low light situations.

Dogs love to play in piles of leaves, but leaf piles quickly accumulate moisture, which promotes mold and bacterial growth. If your dog ingests these microorganisms, the result can be digestive tract upset, and burning leaves can irritate your pet’s eye, nose, throat, and skin, so the best practice is to keep your pets restricted from your yard work.

Mushrooms abound all over this time of year, and fortunately most mushrooms are non-toxic. However, differentiating a toxic from a non-toxic mushroom is difficult for most of us, so it is best to prevent consumption of any mushroom. Poisonous mushrooms contain dangerous toxins, and can cause severe liver toxicity if ingested.

Cooler temperatures motivate rodents to search for shelter from the cold, and rodenticides are often used to deter vermin infestations, but these poisons also cause life-threatening toxicity to dogs. The active ingredient in D-Con and most common rodent poisons is Brodifacoum, and is an anti-coagulant that inhibits Vitamin K’s normal function in blood clotting, so within several days, blood fails to properly clot. Other mice and rat poisons contain Vitamin D3, which causes kidney and liver failure, failure, muscle weakness, seizures and death. If you use these products, put them in places that are totally inaccessible to your pets, and where you are sure that mice and rats cannot transport chucks of the poison to areas your pets can reach.

There are many fall blooming plants, such as the Chrysanthemums, Saffron, and Clematis that can trigger toxicity if ingested. Ingestion of these plants can result in stumbling, drooling, skin inflammation, diarrhea, and vomiting. If you are not sure what fall plants are the most poisonous, go to,

Many people begin preparing their vehicles for the colder weather, so be aware of any antifreeze or other coolant product that may have spilled onto the ground. These chemicals can be deadly to your dog if they are ingested.

Free standing heaters can be tipped over by rambunctious pets so be sure you close off doors on your fireplaces, and block off any fire pits. Be sure to turn off any portable heater in your home whenever you leave the house.

Fleas can be more prevalent in the fall than at any other time of the year, as they are seeking warm bodies to feed and exist, and ticks can survive very cold weather. Be diligent in the consistent use of flea, tick and heartworm prevention products.

Crisp mornings walking the dog as the sky blushes with russet light crisp days, walking the dog with leaves blowing in the wind, crisp evenings to get in some quality bonding with your dog. Keep safe and enjoy the sights and smells of autumn!


Beat Those Back To School Blues!

“Well, I knew summer vacation was over this morning when I heard the alarm.

I fell out of bed, hitting the floor with my arm

and I knew one thing for sure…

I have the back to school blues.

I have my brand new back pack loaded up,

and brand new threads to head off to school.

My cell phone will be banned, so I will have to text from the can…

I definitely have the back to school blues.”

With all the confusion surrounding the kids heading back to school, many animal caregivers may not think about what it means for the dog. You may notice behavioral changes such as a sad dog who mopes around or sleeps most of the time…or she may start chewing on things she shouldn’t, but you may not even connect the unacceptable behavior with back-to-school time. Dogs need routine to make them feel secure. They like knowing that certain things happen at about the same time every day, and if the kids have been around all summer, playing with them, and suddenly they’re gone all day, it’s upsetting. Some pets just feel confused and sad, but others feel real separation anxiety and may need special attention to keep them occupied and stimulated during the long hours when parents are at work and the children are at school. It is important to curb unwanted behavior before it escalates into destructive habits.

  1. EXERCISE…EXERCISE…EXERCISE! A dog who has had a good walk in the morning is less likely to get into trouble during the day!  A tired dog is a good dog! After the EVERY morning exercise session, give him something to do while you are gone.
  2. Maintain a regular schedule as much as possible, and keep comings and goings low key. No huggy/kissy “I’ll miss you” scenes that will only fuel anxiety in your dog. Have the kids ignore the dog for a few minutes before they leave, and after they return, to lower his excitement level and reduce any tension he may feel.
  3. “Find it” is a game he can play by himself. Hide a favorite toy or few healthy treats (baby raw carrots are good!) for him to discover. Don’t place them in spots where there are shoes or other items that you do not want him to chew….dogs don’t discriminate acceptable chew items from forbidden shoes or two-legs toys!  Make sure the toys are safe…dogs love squeaky toys, but if your dog is a tenacious chewer, he could remove the squeaker and swallow it….NEVER leave a dog alone with any raw hide chew… I actually recommend NEVER giving rawhides to any dog at any time…they are not healthy treats, and if chewed and swallowed can cause serious blockages that often require surgery.
  4. All dogs should have at least a couple Kongs, uniquely shaped toys of durable rubber with hollow centers which can be filled with “good stuff.” Unstuffing Kongs can keep dogs contentedly busy for hours while they dig for the nuggets stuffed inside. A simple stuffing is just a little peanut butter rubbed inside the Kong, with a little kibble and a few doggie treats and maybe a couple small hunks of cheese added. If your dog has never had a stuffed Kong, make it easy to remove the stuffing at first, so that she will succeed at her removal activity. As she becomes more experienced, you may want to make the task more challenging by packing the stuffing tighter, or wedging biscuits (preferably healthy, homemade ones) inside the cavity using the inside rim of the opening to secure them. For creative ways to stuff your Kong, go to

Never punish your dog for anxiety or inappropriate behavior. If a dog misbehaves, it is because he is frightened or upset; he does NOT behave badly out of spite or to “get even”. No matter what he does during your absence, punishment will only intensify the problem. Good caregivers know that positive reinforcement, persistence, and patience can correct just about any difficult

Autumn Hazards are Lurking

It is definitely Fall, and we welcome a break from the hot, sticky summer weather, but there are many autumn hazards lurking for our companion animals. Knowing what these hazards are, and taking simple precautions will keep your pet healthy through the season.

Fall is notorious for the smell of outdoor bonfires or the crackling of the fireplaces replacing air conditioning, both of which can pose a danger for your pets. Animals are curious by nature, so it is important that you close up fireplace openings or block off any fire pits in order to keep your dog protected.  Free standing heaters like ceramic space heaters can be tipped over by active pets and also pose a fire hazard, so be sure that any heating system is safe for your family and your animals.

The sights and smells of autumn make a great excuse for heading out to the woods for a long walk with your dog, but it is easy to find yourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most mushrooms have little or no toxicity, but a few of them are highly toxic and can cause life-threatening problems in pets. Unfortunately, most of the toxic ones are difficult to distinguish from harmless ones, so it is best to keep the animals away from areas where mushrooms are growing. Foxtails swaying in the breeze are pretty, but keep a wide berth when walking your dog in areas where there are foxtails or sand burrs.  Be aware of the potential dangers if your dog comes in contact with foxtails: irritation, infection, chronic illness, and in some cases, death!

Fewer hours of daylight mean that dog caregivers often end up walking or exercising their canine companions in the darkness of early morning or evening. Reduced light makes it difficult to see animals and people, so it is important to wear reflective clothing and maintain close observation and control.

Autumn is the season when snakes who are preparing for hibernation may be particularly cranky, increasing the possibility of bites to those unlucky pups who want to play with the slippery critters. It you know where snakes are most likely to be found, keep your dog away from those areas!

If you have school age kids, you probably have school-related supplies lying around that your dog may decide are chew toys. Glue sticks, magic markers, and pencils are low in toxicity, but plastic shards from a chewed marker or wood splinters from chewed pencils can harm a dog’s mouth or innards.

Most antifreeze/coolants contain ethylene glycol which is highly toxic, but because of its sweet taste, animals are attracted to it. It is very fast acting and ingestion of just small amounts result in kidney failure and death. Consider switching to newer products that contain propylene glycol which are much safer. Always store new antifreeze in its original container, out of reach of pets and children, and dispose of old antifreeze in a sealed container; don’t hose it down the driveway. A thirsty pet may relieve his thirst with antifreeze that is left out or hosed down the driveway.

Fall’s cooler temperatures drive rodents in search of shelter, so the use of rodenticides increases, and if these poisons are ingested, the results can be fatal. If you must use these products, use extreme caution and put them in places inaccessible to your pets, realizing that mice and rats can transport chunks of rodenticide from a container to a location that is accessible to other animals.

If you move your plants inside for winter, be aware that there are many plants that are poisonous to pets, including amaryllis, aloe, lilies, carnations, chrysanthemums, daffodils, daisies, philodendron, some palms and grasses, poinsettias, holly and common herbs.  For a complete list of poisonous plants, check or

Our companion animals who depend on humans to keep them safe, healthy and happy will enjoy a wonderful fall if we just follow a few guidelines

Fall has Arrived

It’s official… fall has arrived, and after an unusually hot, dry summer, most of us welcome a break from the heat, and enjoy the changing season. However fall is a time of many potential dangers for our four-footed companions. Our dogs may show signs of health problems, and just like humans, mild illnesses may resolve on their own, but we need to be alert to signals of health problems and act appropriately BEFORE the illness spirals out of control.

It is important to remember that fall is party time for fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes! When these pesky critters appear in the spring, responsible pet caregivers immediately begin to use pest protection programs for their animals, but many feel that once the weather has had a few cold days, the flea problem disappears. The fact is that fleas are more prevalent in the fall than at any other time of the year.

Throughout the summer, the flea population has increased, and as the weather cools down, they instinctively seek out warm places to survive and lay eggs. Unless flea preventatives are used well into the winter, problems associated with flea infestations including flea-bite dermatitis and possibly tapeworms may develop.

Ticks have been abundant this summer, and they are still alive and well! These pests are tough and can hibernate and survive very cold weather. Then there are mosquitoes which are more than just inconveniences, as they pose serious health risks! Unlike fleas and ticks that live on your dog, mosquitoes drop by for a quick meal, and then are gone, but they have the potential to transmit life-threatening diseases such as heartworm.

We encourage pet caregivers to be diligent in the consistent use of vet approved flea, tick and heartworm prevention products. It is easier to expend a little extra energy, time, and money to prevent these problems than it is to treat them!

Fall provides some of the best walking weather. Most animal caregivers underestimate their dogs’ exercise needs, but with this beautiful Fall weather outside. Grab a leash and a friend and hit the sidewalks or trails with your furbaby.

Remember that destructive behavior may lead to a diagnosis of separation anxiety or other behavioral problems, and while these conditions do exist, in many cases the behavior is actually the result of an energy surplus. According to animal trainer, Jenna Stregowski, before you blame your dog for inappropriate behavior, ask yourself if she is getting enough exercise. Many dogs need at least one or two hours of exercise EVERY day, and with everyone’s hectic lifestyle, most are lucky to get fifteen minutes. Because dogs cannot talk, we must rely on the signs that they give us when it comes to analyzing our dog’s health.

So get out there and get walking!