Some Toys are Downright Dangerous!

Toys…toys…toys…. Your dog may have some favorites, but one thing is for certain — if he is like most dogs, he loves to play with toys, and it is important to choose toys wisely, because not all toys on the market are safe for your dog. Pet toys are not regulated, so they can be made with virtually any material (including those that contain toxic chemicals), and since there are no safety-testing requirements, most are cheaply made, and many of them contain BPA and phthalates, toxic chemicals that can harm your dog’s health. Other toxins sometimes found in dog toys include heavy metals (lead, etc.) and formaldehyde, and research has determined that old or weathered toys (such as those left outside) leach even higher concentrations of harmful chemicals, so the wisest option is to discard them. .

The safest toys are unbreakable, resistant to chewing and rough play, interesting to the dog, and do not have parts that can break off and be swallowed. Choose those made in the U.S, out of l00 percent natural rubber, organic cotton, or non-toxic materials, and always give them a sniff test: toys should have no smell…if the toy smells strongly of chemicals, it is NOT a good choice. Some are downright dangerous..

If you are a parent of two legged children, you probably learned to rotate your children’s toys. By stashing some of them out of sight for a while, and rotating them, even old toys seemed new. The same holds true for dogs—they can tire of the same-old toys, so the novelty factor is huge in maintaining their interest—toys that are in good condition can be brought back to life by putting them on rotation. Leave out two or three toys and put the rest away. In a couple days, swap them out and watch your pet’s new interest. Just washing the toys can also pique their attention…and toys need to be cleaned regularly anyway, and if they crack or start to come apart, they should be discarded.

Toys should always be appropriate for your dog’s size, chewing abilities, and activity level. VetDepot offers these tips:

  • Tug toys: Most dogs love a good game of tug, but use restraint, and if your dog has any neck or back problems, play with this type of toy should be limited.
  • Squeaky toys: Removing the squeaker from a squeaky toy is usually the goal for most dogs, so these toys should be allowed only under close supervision and the squeaker picked up as soon as it is detected.
  • Balls: Make sure that any ball isn’t small enough for your dog to swallow. Also, the fuzz on tennis balls can be overly abrasive on the teeth, and obsessive ball chewers can actually puncture the surface, leaving a tooth impaled in the ball.
  • Rawhide chews: Dogs love them, but they are definitely NOT good options. Most rawhides are processed in other countries using toxic chemicals, and even USA made rawhides are not easily digested. They can cause obstructions if large pieces are swallowed, and vets document that bacterial infections can be caused from them. (If you insist on giving your dog’s rawhides, close supervision is essential.)
  • Stuffed toys: Be sure to give your dog toys meant for canine use—no children’s toys which have eyes and other parts that can be chewed off and swallowed. If your dog starts pulling the stuffing out, remove the stuffing immediately.
  • Safe fun: two words that often collide in a dog’s world. As long as the toy industry is an unsupervised playground, it’s up to loving caregivers to keep their eyes on the ball… and squeaker…and stuffing, and…and…and…

Companies that make toys worth a woof include::

  •  Kong Company is based in Colorado, and sadly they are outsourcing some of their products, but the original Kong is a treat-holding, nearly indestructible object with a tantalizingly odd bounce, and is made in the United States. This tops my list for favorite toys for dogs. A couple stuffed Kongs can occupy a dog for hours!
  • Planet Dog, a Maine company, offers a full spectrum of fetching, nontoxic, recyclable U.S.-made toys. They offer something for every age dog.
  • West Paw Design focuses on environmentally friendly toys including the “Zogoflex,” a tough, yet flexible material that utilizes l0 percent post-industrial waste, and is non-toxic. Their dishwasher-safe Tux has an inner lip for hiding treats, adding an extra layer of fun and challenge.

 FINAL WORD: Remember that no toy is a substitute for personal interaction. Your dog will appreciate you more than any toys!

Keeping Pets Safe This Easter

We are continually bombarded with news of harmful toxins. The most publicized, recent reports concerned the frightening water situation in Flint, Michigan. We are not sure how the toxic water affected the four-legged members of that city, but veterinarians and toxicology experts at Pet Poison Hotline urge everyone to remember that children and pets are among the most vulnerable to poisoning. The Pet Poison Helpline stresses the importance of educating ourselves on how to pet-proof appropriately and avoid the inevitable heartache that so often results when a pet is accidentally poisoned.,and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center just released the list of the top pet toxins for the past year:

  1. For the first time ever, over the counter medications and supplements surpassed prescription medications to take the top spot in toxins most commonly ingested by pets. These medications, including herbal and other natural supplements, attracted the most concern , with more than 28,000 cases reported. This category is amazingly large, encompassing almost 7,000 different products.
  2. Prescribed human medications fell to the second spot on the list, representing more than 15 percent of all cases. The types of medication to which animals were most often exposed correlate with the most popular medicines prescribed to humans, and often carried in purses, pockets, or back packs.
  3. Insect poisons accounted to more than 15,000 cases. If label directions are not followed carefully, these products can be very dangerous to pets.
  4. Pets, especially dogs, who will eat about anything, can get into serious trouble by ingesting onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, alcohol, and xylitol, a popular sweetener that is now being used in many products, including some peanut butters. Almost 15,000 cases in 2015 involved human foods.
  5. Household products found around most homes made up more than 14,000 cases. Most common items in this category include cleaning products, fire logs, and paint.
  6. Overdoses of veterinary prescribed medications represented more than 7 percent of total cases, emphasizing the importance of exercising extra caution even with vet meds.
  7. Chocolate continues to be very problematic for pets. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous since it contains high amounts of theobromine, a relative of caffeine that can be deadly, but all chocolate is toxic to dogs.
  8. Indoor and outdoor plants ranked eighth on the list, and although most of the calls involved cats and houseplants, curious dogs can also get into trouble by ingesting plants.
  9. Rodent poisons can be just as toxic to pets as they are to mice and rats. Depending on the type ingested, poisoning can result in moderate to severe symptoms—anywhere from uncontrolled bleeding, swelling of the brain, kidney failure and seizures. Most of the mouse poisons, unfortunately, have no antidote, so be sure that these products are placed totally out of reach of your pets.
  10. Lawn and garden products, including herbicides and fungicides round out the top ten. It is incredibly important to store all garden and lawn products away from pets (and children )

The best thing a pet caregiver can do is become aware of common toxins and pet-proof your home accordingly. For a complete lists of toxins, go to, and If you suspect that your dog may have ingested something questionable, immediately consult your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline, a 24 hour animal poison control service, at 1-800-213-6680. (There is a charge for this service, but it might be a small price to pay for saving your dog’s life.)

Easter is one of the most celebrated days in the Western World, and, although it is celebrated by different groups in different ways, basically Easter is a Christian holiday. It is considered one of the oldest and holiest times commemorating the resurrection of Christ. Many secular aspects have also become associated with the day, with millions of chocolate bunnies and eggs made each year, and many Help Calls are necessary because Easter candies have been ingested by our four-legged friends. Exercise caution when hiding candies, and keep the Easter baskets up and away from inquisitive pets.

May the glory and promise of Easter bring you joy and happiness as you focus on the true meaning of the Easter season!

It’s Beginning to Look a LOT like Christmas

We are plunging into the cold, snowy months of winter, and it is definitely beginning to look like Christmas everywhere! It is a fun time for humans, but can be quite confusing to our four-legged friends. Dogs thrive on routine, and suddenly things seem to change, as they see the two-legs doing all sorts of weird things. Time management skills often become over-taxed as we rush around shopping, gift wrapping, and going to holiday activities, making it is easy to overlook our pets, so here are a few tips to help safeguard your dog’s happiness during the upcoming weeks of preparation and celebration:

  • Christmas trees are full of potentially deadly dangers. Place your tree in a place where it can’t be easily knocked over by an inquisitive dog. Try to find an area by the wall or in a corner, out of the major traffic flow pattern of the house, and near an outlet so you don’t have to run electrical cords long distances. Choose safe ornaments…there are no totally pet-safe bulbs, as any ornament can be ingested and cause an intestinal obstruction, but fragile or glass ornaments should not be placed on the lower limbs, and hanging edibles on your tree is discouraged , unless you want your canine companion stealing cookies and candy canes while your back is turned. Tinsel and garlands, if eaten, can also cause intestinal obstructions that may require surgery. Dogs love to investigate, and don’t understand that presents are not toys for them. Consider storing the presents in a safe area until right before the holiday, and do not allow your pet access to the tree without supervision. (Some caregivers claim that Bitter Apple sprayed on the lower branches will deter most dogs, but it is better to limit access to the tree)
  • Seasonal holiday plants can cause nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal upset, and even cardiovascular problems…. While serious complications aren’t likely, it is still best to keep them out of paws’ reach.
  • Some popular holiday foods can be quite dangerous to pets, such as chocolate and cocoa, candy and sugarless gums that contain xylitol, yeast bread dough, and fruit cakes with raisins and currants. The fruitcake threat can be compounded if the cake is soaked in rum. Alcohol poisoning can potentially lead to seizures or respiratory failure. It is perfectly acceptable to ask guests to refrain from sharing human food and drinks with your pets.
  • The holidays wouldn’t be the same without candles or menorahs, but remember to keep candles and liquid potpourri well out of the way of exuberant tails and inquisitive paws and noses. Leaving lighted candles and hot wax unattended can quickly become disastrous.
  • Make sure that visitors know you have a dog, and that it is important to keep doors shut so he doesn’t get out. You may just want to provide a special quiet place with cozy blankets and fresh water, and a favorite toy or two when you are having a lot of people coming and going, and the festivities get hectic, just to keep everyone safe, secure and happy.

Santa’s Gift to Me by Jim Ness

What do you mean this isn’t my present…didn’t Santa wrap it for me?

His picture’s all over the paper, as plain as anyone can see.

I am sure it has my name on it, although the writing is hard to read.

And it smelled very familiar so I am sure it is all right for me to proceed.

You know I don’t have much patience; I’ll just peek to see what it is.

I really don’t want to wait til Christmas… I’ve already drooled on the ribbon,

And the paper got a little wet, but I am tired of waiting… Isn’t it Christmas yet?


If you feel overwhelmed with preparations for the holidays, focus on the true meaning of Christmas—Let love, kindness, and joy fill your heart. There will be no room left for stress. As you make time for your loved ones, both two legs and four legs, everyone will be blessed!


Don’t Let Halloween Be A Disaster!

The spookiest night of the year is almost here. Halloween is a fun holiday—for two legs– but this haunted affair can be a disaster for your four legged companions. You know that the scary-looking rowdy crowds who ring your doorbell are just the neighborhood children, but your dog doesn’t. Your dog may be a happy, friendly companion on most occasions, but trick-or-treaters in strange garb can spook him and cause him to dart out when you open the door Stress from a constantly ringing doorbell, knocks at the door, and weird looking strangers at the door create anxiety or fear for most dogs Halloween is the second most common night for dogs to go missing (following the Fourth of July.), so it is important that your dog’s tags are current, with proper identification, just in case there is an inadvertent escape. Please take proper precautions to keep your dog safe on Halloween, as a bite or a missing dog can quickly ruin everyone’s fun.

NEVER leave your dog (or cat) out in the yard. We discourage this any time of year, but especially at Halloween, when pranksters sometimes decide it would be fun to tease an unsupervised animal. Every year there are too many reports of animals that have been terrorized, stolen or even killed. Make a cozy retreat for your dog in a separate room during trick-or-treat hours. Provide a blanket, a favorite toy or two, and play soft music or leave a radio or television on to muffle the holiday noises.

Resist the idea of letting the family dog accompany the kids on their door-to-door begging. Children may have a difficult time handling a pet, and he could get loose, especially if spooked by the strange sights and sounds. Spooky costumes and scary activities can unnerve even the most placid dogs.

Trick or treat candies are not for pets. Candy in general is loaded with sugar and fat, which can lead to serious GI issues and pancreatitis, and all forms of chocolate can be dangerous, even lethal for dogs. Chocolate contains a caffeine-like stimulant substance that, when ingested by your pet, can cause serious problems. ASPCA toxicologists state “Halloween is to veterinarians what April 15 is to accountants. Calls about pets who have become ill after eating candy spike their highest around Halloween.”

Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is showing up in all kinds of products, including sugar-free candy, gum, and mints. It is also found in many other products including some brands of peanut butter, so beware. Even small amounts of Xylitol are toxic to dogs.

Empty candy wrappers smell like what was in them, which can also attract your dog. If your dog eats foil or cellophane candy wrappers, the result can be a life threatening bowel obstruction requiring surgery.

Some people hand out those little boxes of raisins or small bags of trail mix containing raisins, instead of candy. Unfortunately, raisins are toxic to dogs and ingestion of just a few can potentially cause kidney failure. Chocolate covered raisins pose an even bigger risk.

Lighted candles and jack-o-lanterns should be kept out of reach, since dogs (and cats) could easily knock over a candle or pumpkin, causing burn injuries or even a fire.

Dogs will chew just about anything, and streamers and fake spider webs may cause intestinal blockages if ingested, and electrical cords, if chewed, can damage your pet’s mouth, or deliver a potentially deadly electrical shock.

Costumes can definitely be hazardous to your pet’s health, especially when their range of motion, vision or hearing is restricted by a costume, and buttons, bows and other small accessories can be pulled off and choked on or swallowed. If you dress up your dog, be aware of the possible problems.

This is a good time to discuss with your children or young friends the importance of showing respect toward animals. Encourage them to tell you if they see anyone trying to antagonize an animal. A child who is abusive to animals needs professional help.

Give your dog a haven where he can feel, safe, comfortable, and relaxed—tucked away from any Halloween activities so that you can enjoy the ghoulish and ghosties, long legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night. HAPPY HOWL-O-WEEN!

Precautions to Prevent Dog Bites

An estimated several million people are bitten by dogs each year, and most of them are children. Now that school is out, the kids are spending more time outdoors, which increases the possibility of being nipped by a dog,, and it is important to understand that any dog can bite if pushed beyond his limits. Ian Dunbar, a respected animal behaviorist and veterinarian, is quoted for saying, “When dogs are upset or annoyed, they don’t call their lawyer… they bite.”

Dogs rarely bite without provocation, but when a well-meaning, excited, squealing child rushes up to a dog and tries to hug the animal, sometimes even a sweet-natured dog may snap. Although most bites do not cause serious injuries, they are frightening experiences, and the tragedy is that almost all bites can be prevented with proper education. Teach your children to never yell, poke or pull at a dog and to never interrupt a dog that is eating, eliminating or sleeping. Also show them how to stroke a dog from below his head. “Most kids pet from the top down, and they do it quickly, which violates the dog’s concept of personal space,” asserts Dunbar. To avoid dog bites, behaviorists offer these suggestions:

  1. Spay or neuter your dog. Statistics confirm that dogs who have not been altered are three times more likely to bite. Encourage family, friends, and neighbors to get their canine companions “fixed.”
  2. Properly socialize your dog. Safely introduce him to cars, bicycles, veterinarians, loud noises, other animals, toddlers, stairs, water, vacuum cleaners, and strange people and places. Dogs usually bite out of fear, and if they are not afraid (or in pain), they rarely bite.
  3. Teach your children to respect life. Show them how to properly touch and handle a dog. Young children should be discouraged from carrying dogs, because they lack the coordination to properly support the dog and keep him from falling. Children need to understand that dogs are living, breathing, loving creatures. There is a direct correlation between children who abuse animals and those kids, when grown up, abusing people.
  4. Never leave a young child unsupervised with a dog. Never, no matter how well trained you think the child is. If you have toddlers, create a safe place for your dog to go when she doesn’t want to be bothered. If she is not able to get away when she feels threatened, the unfortunate alternative is usually lip lifting, growling or biting. Give the dog a place to go where the child absolutely cannot follow.
  5. Don’t tease your dog or play mindless games that encourage the dog to become aggressive. Encourage your kids to put themselves in the dog’s “shoes” and treat him with the respect and love that he deserves.
  6. Don’t tie your dog out. Tied dogs are frustrated dogs and tend to become hyper and feisty. A child entering an area where a dog is or if a neighbor ties a dog out, teach your children to not go near the dog. It is an accident waiting to happen.
  7. Enroll your dog in obedience classes to establish productive behaviors that will discourage inappropriate actions. Involve the entire family in the classes, so that everyone follows the same rules.

Classes are usually good training for both humans and canines.

Our dogs play an important role in our lives, and they exert a powerful positive influence. They truly are our best friends, and they seldom bite without provocation… usually a human action triggers a negative reaction from the dog. They do not attack out of the blue, but we may not recognize the cause, and unfortunately the dog is usually blamed. Taking common sense precautions is the best way to keep all of us safe and allow us to continue that special human-canine relationship.


Protect Your Animals From Winter’s Chilling Blasts!

Major snow storms, bitterly cold temperatures, and extremely high winds have hit with a vengeance, and as tough as this weather is on humans, it can be even tougher on our dogs. NEVER leave your dog outside in weather like this, and remember, even if the temperature isn’t that low, wind chill can threaten your pet’s safety. If it’s too cold outside for you, then it’s too cold for your companion animal. If your fingers are cold, your dog’s feet and pads are too! They are vulnerable to frostbite and hypothermia in less than an hour’s exposure. It is the responsibility of pet caregivers to keep their dogs safe and healthy through the harsh winter months.

We don’t approve of “outdoor” dogs at any time of the year, because dogs are pack animals and are happiest and healthiest when kept with their human pack, but it is especially dangerous in extremely cold or hot weather. . Why have a dog if he is tethered or confined “out back”? If you don’t want a dog in the main part of your house, surely there is a heated area that could be kid- gated where he could spend his day in warm comfort. If he has behavioral issues, the solution is not to banish him to the back yard, but to spend the time to train him. Dogs are usually willing to comply to house rules if they understand what the rules are. TAKE him out for just a short, brisk walk, or if you have a basement or upstairs, you can exercise him by playing fetch up and down the steps (or even through the halls), and provide him some entertainment if you will be gone for an extended period of time. Popular “puzzle” or “foraging” toys are great!

My very favorite is the Kong which can be stuffed with part of your dog’s meal, or a combination of meal and treats. A few Kongs will keep your dog happily occupied for hours, and will lessen the chances of inappropriate behavior. If you absolutely refuse to let your dog into the house, at least fix up a warm corner in the porch, basement or garage, using plenty of blankets to provide a barrier from the cold floors and build him a warm, cozy “den.” There are many small, safe heaters that can be used to warm his den….don’t keep pets in unheated areas, but use caution to keep any electrical cords out of chewing reach…just in case.

A high quality, nutritionally balanced diet is essential, especially in the winter. To find out how different foods rate, google, an independent company, that rates all 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 slick marketing techniques used, it’s tough to sort out what is good and what is simply advertising mumbo jumbo.

Many dogs need a sweater or coat to protect from the elements, but after evaluating dozens of different brands, we concluded that most of them are worthless. Some are difficult to put on the dog; many are ill-fitting or stretch out of shape quickly, others have uncomfortable bands that do little except irritate the animal, and most of them expose the dog’s vulnerable underside. Premier Pet “Fido Fleece” coats are really designed to keep Fido toasty warm. Made of anti-pilling fleece, they are durable and feature a collar-to-tail Velcro closure for easy on and off, wear like iron, and are super easy to clean— just machine wash and dry. Look up Fido Fleece Dog coats and you will find a wide choice of style and color.

Salt and de-icing chemicals can cause your dog’s pads to become dry, cracked, and painfully sore, so be sure to carefully snip the tufts of hair between her toes to help prevent ice balls from sticking. You can find dozens of dog boots or booties in pet stores and catalogs—most are cute but quite ineffective…and most dogs rebel against wearing them! A thin layer of aloe or Vaseline rubbed onto her footpads will provide a protective coating, and is safe even if she licks her feet. It is important to always clean off paws after a walk, even though the oil helps keep ice and snow from clumping so badly between the toes.

Please get involved if you see a neglected or shivering animal left out in the cold. (Shivering is the first sign of mild hypothermia) Urge people to bring their dogs inside, and as difficult as it is, don’t be belligerent or accusatory. Try to get your point across in a friendly manner. Ignorance is curable by education. However, if you meet with resistance, alert the authorities. Concerned neighbors are often the only hope for these poor animals.

We can judge the heart of a human by that person’s treatment of animals.

—Immanuel Kant


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.

Enjoy spooky music, chocolate treats and scary movies?

For most of us, Halloween is a festive time with spooky jack-o-lanterns, kids in costumes, and plenty of candy, and money conscious marketing experts are promoting the idea of putting the dogs in costume, and millions of Americans are following their suggestions. All the pet catalogs and pet departments are featuring a grand variety of costumes, and many of them are really cute…hard to resist, but the fact is that they are commercial ventures targeted to gullible humans, not for the enjoyment of the dogs. Do you really believe that your dog will enjoy wearing cheaply made, ill-fitting, sometimes dangerous clothing? If you are honest, you will probably admit that your dog would be more comfortable in her “birthday suit” than wearing a costume. Our dogs love us and have a deep desire to please…they will do almost anything to gain their humans’ approval, but who benefits from dressing them in costumes? Dogs are dogs, and most of them dislike the confinement of costumes, and dress up is usually a major mess-up for the animals. We encourage you to reconsider before you rush out and spend big bucks (or even little bucks) on that cute costume.

Now for another fact: I realize that many pet parents are going to ignore my suggestion, (some have already purchased the outfit), and so here are a few tips:

  •  Think safety, not cuteness…the costume should not restrict the animal’s movement, vision, or his hearing, and should not impede his ability to breathe or bark. I browsed through some really cute costumes in several pet departments, and almost all of them had small, dangling, or easily chewed-off pieces that the dog could choke on. Buttons, tassels, and ribbons can cause serious intestinal blockage, and poorly fitted outfits can get twisted or caught on external objects.
  • Does your dog have sensitive skin? The synthetic materials found in most of the costumes, besides being uncomfortable, can generate allergic reactions, which will result in an evening of uncomfortable scratching and skin irritations, even with non-allergic dogs.
  • Don’t wait until the BIG NIGHT to try on all costumes…you need to have several dress rehearsals, and if your pet seems distressed or shows abnormal behavior, pay attention. If he starts to lick or chew at himself or the costume, it is likely that he is stressed. Sure he looks cute, but forcing him to do something that he does not want to do can result in bad behaviors and future conflicts. Is the “cuteness” worth the price? Wouldn’t he honestly be happier going “au natural”? And if you can’t resist parading her in a costume, never leave her alone. Ridiculously cute can quickly become downright dangerous.

It really is fun browsing through the catalogs and pet departments to see all the unique costumes, but ask yourself what your real motivation is…will your dog be happier with or without a costume? My advice is FORGET THE COSTUME! Your dog will appreciate a decision to settle for a festive collar or a cute bandanna.

Your dog has one aim in life—to bestow his heart… and he asks for little in return.

He may well be the most memorable friend in life,

one who loves you even when you aren’t very lovable.

Without a choice, without a voice,

your dog depends on his humans to make the best decisions for him.

—J.R. Ackerley


Autumn Safety Tips

Many people consider Fall their favorite season of the year…. brisk Autumn temperatures, the aromas of drying crops, and the variety of colors as the trees begin to lose their leaves, but although the seasonal changes have great appeal for people, they also present many potential health hazards for our dogs.

The pleasure of watching the colors of fall sometimes disappears because of the tedious job of cleaning up the seemingly endless supply of leaves. The noises created by leaf blowers may spook your dog, causing him to hide or even run away. Additionally, gas powered devices can leak oil or fuel, and create a source of toxicity if your pet licks a substance from the ground or on his paw and ingests it.

Piles of leaves remaining on your lawn quickly accumulate moisture, which promotes mold and bacterial growth which could cause digestive tract upset if swallowed, and burning dried leaves definitely can be become a fire hazard to both humans and pets.

Antifreeze works wonders in your car as cold weather comes, but it is a very dangerous toxin for dogs. Thousands of dogs are poisoned each year by ingesting antifreeze that drips onto garage floors and driveways, or is left in easy-to-open containers. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that makes it attractive to pets, and a dose of less than half a teaspoon per pound of body weight is a lethal dose. Most antifreeze products are almost all ethylene glycol, a potent alcohol that is readily absorbed once it is ingested. Some newer antifreeze products use 50 percent or more propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol, making them safer than older products, but they can still cause alcohol poisoning, so it is important to exercise caution with these products, and minimize exposure your dog may have to them by carefully cleaning up any spills, and keeping your eyes open for any suspicious looking puddles when taking a walk.

If you move your plants indoor during the winter, be aware that many plants are poisonous to pets. Just a few include amaryllis, aloe, lilies, carnations, chrysanthemums, daffodils, daisies, philodendron, some palms and grasses, poinsettias, holly and common herbs. For a complete list, go to

Seasonal allergies can kick in for dogs in the fall, and although these are usually evidenced by skin allergies, they can also be allergic rhinitis, evidence by sneezing, loud snorting or snoring, and discharge from the nose. If your dog shows evidence of allergies, a vet visit is advised.

Ah, October…the month when the little mice start moving in from the fields. If you use poisons or traps to keep unwanted critters from taking residence in your home, be aware that any poisons that kill these little nuisances will also sicken or kill your dog, and accessible traps can injure a curious pet by snapping shut on an inquisitive paw or nose. There are no safe rodenticides, and whether out of hunger, boredom, or curiosity, your dog may consume these products, so it is important to keep any poisons in places that are inaccessible to pets and children.

With the shortened daylight hours, it is likely that you will sometimes be walking your dog during daybreak or twilight, and the best ways to keep you and your pet safe are reflective gear, flashlights or light up collars and leashes….all products that are available at pet stores or on line. Sometimes weather conditions make it difficult to walk outdoors, but regular exercise is important. You can exercise your dog indoors on a treadmill or set up an indoor “agility” course using household objects, such as clothes baskets, broom handles and furniture.

Dogs with short coats or no fluffy undercoat may need a doggie coat or sweater for their walks, but many dog coats are either worthless, difficult to put on the dog, or are obviously uncomfortable for him. Choose for practicality, not “cuteness.”

The fall season is a great time of year to enjoy the sights and smells of the season with your pet, and with just a few precautions, you can keep your pet safe, healthy, and happy during these crisp, cool autumn months!

Water Safety Tips for Dogs

Sharing water activities with your dog provides a wonderful bonding experience, and is a great way to beat the heat, but fun can quickly turn to disaster if you are not careful. Over 4,000 dogs drown every year! Some dogs are not good swimmers, and others simply do not like water, so it is important to consider the dog’s safety and comfort. Heat from the sun is more intense around water, so make sure he has shade… a dog’s sensitive ears and nose can get burned with too much exposure, and suffer from sunburn or heat stroke, and keep him off hot sand as it can blister paws.

If this is your dog’s first introduction to water, start slowly and be patient. Don’t assume he will automatically know how to swim. Let him approach the water and investigate in his own time. Never splash him, or force him to enter the water before he is ready, and never leave him unsupervised around water. Once his caution has turned to curiosity, try going in yourself, and gradually he should be confident enough to join you. If he isn’t interested in water activities, you need to respect his feelings. We have several kiddie pools at the TLC for the dogs to splash in…we assumed that they would jump right in to happily cool off…not so…most of our smaller residents right now simply do NOT like the water.

It might seem convenient to let your dog drink from the lake or the river, but this is not a good idea. Ponds and lakes may be contaminated with parasites and bacteria such as giardia that can make your dog sick. A serious risk associated with stagnant water is blue-green algae, which is very dangerous if ingested. Swallowing too much salt or chlorinated water can also make your dog ill, and many man made pollutants are found in many lakes and rivers, so be sure to always take along a separate supply of safe drinking water for your dog.

Dogs who enjoy swimming may not enjoy boating. Keep in mind that dogs are used to surfaces that are still and stable, and regardless of the kind of boat you have, let her get acquainted with the boat while it is still tied up. Keep her first boat trips short, and watch for any signs of motion sickness. BEFORE you go out in the boat with your dog, buy her a life jacket AND USE IT. Accidents happen, and cold, deep, choppy water can challenge the strongest swimmer… even dogs that swim well can tire very quickly because they don’t understand the concept of resting or treading water…they just swim and swim, until they can’t anymore. Never let your dog swim too far away from you because he could get into trouble very quickly, and make sure he wears a life jacket when playing in water that gets deep farther out, as well as on a boat. Make sure the jacket fits him properly and allow him a chance to get used to wearing and swimming with it before taking him out in deep water or on a boat.

Take a careful look at the variety of the life jackets for dogs that are available on the market….many of them are junk. Kyjen, the maker of Outward Hound life jackets for dogs, is a leader in outdoor and travel gear for dogs, and has a good lightweight jacket which boasts high visibility colors, multiple reflective strips, easy-grab handles, quick release buckles, and outstanding flotation. It is affordable, easy to fit, durable, and most of all, comfortable on the dog. Outward Hound jackets may be found in most pet stores or on

Another good life jacket is made by Henry and Clemmie’s, a relative new comer in the outdoor dog apparel market. Their products are made of sturdy nylon weight material across the yoke, and are made to last. Look for these at specialty stores introducing this new product at prices competitive with those of the Outward Hound life jacket. For more information, go to

Considered the Cadillac of canine outdoor equipment products, EZYDOG is the leader in agility harnesses and customer product reviews consistently give this life vest 5 star ratings. It is sturdy, well made, and comes in attractive designs. The cost of this jacket is higher than the other jackets, but if you are interested, check it out on

Water activities can enrich the lives of both you and your dog, as long as you keep safety and comfort in mind!