Monthly Archives: September 2013

Five Ways to Celebrate Halloween with Your Dog

halloween-dogs

Halloween is celebrated for being the scariest day of the year, but celebrations designed to scare can only be enjoyed by those who are in the know. Since our dogs are not clued in to the symbolism of the day it is up to us to keep them as scare-free as possible. So how do you have a not so scary Halloween while still having fun?

#1 Host a Dogs-only Costume Party

Invite some of the friends your little Ella has made at dog class and at the dog park over to your house for some good music and good eats, with everyone dressed in their favorite costumes. For favors, use paper lunch bags decorated with Halloween stickers and stuffed with dog candy — bone biscuits and jerky treats, of course.

#2 Arrange a Neighborhood Halloween Pet Parade

If you’re lucky to live in a neighborhood with lots of dogs and you all haven’t held a pet parade yet, then it is long overdue. Put up signs on the community boards, go door to door; the more participants there are, the more fun there will be. You might even want to think big and get your whole town involved, with a parade down Main Street or in the local park. Idea: Ask local businesses to donate a few prizes for “best costume” contests.

#3 Host a ‘Scary Dog Movie Night’

This one really gets into the spirit of the day. Pick a scary movie, set a room up as a home theater with lots of comfy pillows, a self-serve concession stand with bone cookies  and other treats, bowls or paper filled cones of unbuttered, unsalted popcorn, and decorated bottles of water. Be sure to schedule an intermission for “bathroom” breaks. Buy, print-out, or e-mail invitations along with printable movie tickets for your guests.

#4 Get Out of Town

Maybe Halloween just isn’t your cup of cider. You and your dog really can’t handle the over excitement and would rather get away from home for the night. If we’re lucky, it will still be just warm enough to grab a tent and get out to the campgrounds for a quiet night. Most campgrounds require reservations, so plan ahead. Or, if you have friends in the country, now would be a great time to take them up on that invite. And then there are always out of the way, pet friendly hotels where you can treat yourself and your pup to a night of room service and on-demand.

#5 Keep it Mellow

It is possible to have a no-Halloween night at home. Put up a gate at the kitchen door, put a bowl of candy out front for the treaters (or leave all the front lights off), and make cookies and pumpkin soup for yourself and your dog — maybe even invite a friend over for a quiet fall-themed dinner.

What Does Made in the USA Mean for Pet Food?

animals-eating

We take extra care when planning meals for our families, but what about our pets’ food? From manufacturing and labeling to understanding ingredients, it’s important to inform yourself about where your pet food is made and what’s in it before picking up your next bag or can of food.

The Basics

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates “Made in the USA” claims or labels for all products human and pet related, according to Mindy Bough, vice president of operations for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and head of the ASPCA’s Pet Nutrition Services. She is also a founding member of the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians.

For a product to carry a “Made in the USA” label, it must be made from all, or virtually all, products from the United States. For pet food, that includes the packaging, ingredients, and production of the food, Bough said. If a company uses a “Made in the USA” label but sources products from another country, they must have a disclaimer on the packaging (e.g., “Made in the USA with lamb from New Zealand”). For the FTC to investigate a potential concern regarding food labels, a complaint must be filed, said Bough.

Pet Food Labels

Because manufacturers know consumers look for specific ingredients when purchasing pet food — like the words “chicken” or “real beef” — they incorporate these names into their labels. Fortunately, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has specific rules when it comes to the percentages of named ingredients in a product and pet food labels sold in the USA.

Manufactured “By” vs. “For”

A label or statement that says something is “manufactured by” identifies the party responsible for the quality and safety of the product and location, according to the FDA. A label that says “manufactured for” or “distributed by” indicates that the food was manufactured by a company other than the one selling the product. This is a common practice with private label pet foods. A pet food company that uses their own facilities versus co-manufacturing or manufacturing off-site allows for better quality control as it relates to ingredient sources and processes, Bough said. Pet food companies that use their own manufacturing facilities are also able to set higher quality control standards (e.g., isolating raw ingredients from contact with dry products) and are better equipped to deal with quality control issues.

Limiting the Dangers of Pet Food Recalls

There are a number of reasons pet foods are recalled, including contamination with inappropriate ingredients, incorrect ingredient or nutrient amounts, and food borne pathogens like Salmonella. This is another reason why many experts recommend choosing an American-based food manufacturer that uses specific quality control measures to assure the consistency and quality of the pet food. It reduces the likelihood that the pet food company will have to issue a recall, and even enables them to hold products at the factory and wait until test results confirm that they are safe before shipping the products.

If you do suspect a problem with your pets’ food, stop feeding them that brand of food immediately and contact the product manufacturer and your vet to report your concern.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Pet food manufacturers should not be afraid to answer your questions, least of all a manufacturer that uses a “Made in the USA” label on its pet food. Who formulates your diets, and what are their credentials? Where are your diets produced and manufactured, and can this plant be visited? These are just some of the questions you should be prepared to ask a pet food company you are currently buying from or are considering buying from.

Tips for Pet Food Shopping

The best way for most pet owners to provide adequate nutrition for their pets is to feed them high quality commercial food, such as those offered in veterinary offices and pet supply stores, Bough said. The ASPCA generally doesn’t recommend a generic or store brand as a first choice.

It’s important to feed your pet a diet based on its age, breed, activity level, and weight or health condition, Bough said. Your vet will be the best option for getting advice on how to best feed your pet and what specific products to try.

5 Exercise Tips for Arthritic Cats

arthritic-cat

Just because your cat has arthritis doesn’t mean they are necessarily incapable of exercising. Staying active actually helps many arthritic cats that suffer from achy bones and joints. It is, however, vital you follow these five exercise tips before you begin an exercise routine with your cat.

1. Consult Your Veterinarian First

A veterinarian will be better able to assist you in combining of exercise, diet, and medications or therapies which are targeted for your cat’s individual needs. A veterinarian can also help monitor your cat’s progress and identify any serious changes in health.

2. Go Low-impact

Light activities such as walking help strengthen muscles, keep ligaments and tendons flexible, prevent obesity and circulate blood to stiff joints. Keep them short but regular — 15-30 minutes of activities five days a week is a great start. Not a fan of walking or swimming? Your cat can also participate in short sessions of gentle play. Just remember to avoid activities in which your cat has to leap, jump, turn quickly or run. They can cause damage to your cat’s joints.

3. Warm Up

A minute or two of walking or gentle playing before initiating low-impact exercise activities will help cats with arthritis move easier. It also helps reduce sprains, cramps, and muscle injuries as well as gradually increases their heart rate. If your cat is reluctant to start moving because of aching joints, try a little incentive like a small healthy treat or positive affection (petting, hugging, etc.). A positive exercise experience is a happy one.

4. Cool Down

Cool down periods are just as important as warming up for activities. As your cat completes the exercise routine or game, they may be all wound up — jumping, running, or rough-housing. This is not good and can in fact be harmful. Try to calm them down and gradually reduce their heart rate to an optimal resting place. Cooling down also reduces stiffness and soreness by assisting the removal of lactic acids in the body. Massaging during “cool downs” improves the stiffness and muscle pain associated with arthritis too.

5. Watch for Signs of Exertion

Be sure to watch for heavy panting, pain or other signs of overexertion. If they do occur stop the activity immediately and consult a veterinarian. Pushing forward with the exercising can cause injury, especially if your pet isn’t accustomed to a lot of activity.

8 Questions to Ask Before Giving Your Pet Treats

dog-bone

If used correctly, pet treats can be a great asset. However, there are important things to consider before offering your cat or dog a treat. In addition to discussing the best practices for treat-giving with your veterinarian (who will have a detailed medical history of your pet), we’ve asked an expert to answer some of the more common questions regarding pet treats, as well as some guidelines before you open up the treat jar.

1. What ingredients should I look for in a treat?

Just like you do with your pet’s everyday food, you may want to consider providing your cat or dog treats which are “complete and balanced.” These treats will have the combination of nutrients and vitamins your pet needs to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. You should see this wording on the label of a particular treat, says Louise Murray, DVM, DACVIM and vice president of the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animals Hospital, and you can look at the ingredient list to determine how healthy it is. Treats that aren’t complete and balanced should not make up a significant portion of your pets diet (often the recommendation is that pet treats should account for no more than 10% of a pet’s total daily calorie intake), as these will dilute your pet’s daily nutrient intake. You should also be on the lookout for treats with high amounts of salt and sodium, as they may cause trouble for your pet.

“We see dogs and cats come in because they’re urinating in the home or drinking way too much water because they’re being given very salty treats,” Dr. Murray says. “[The appropriate amount of sodium] all depends on the dog or cat, but watch out for treats with salt and check to see if your pet is drinking too much water.”

2. Can certain treats help with health conditions?

While some treats claim to be good for your pet’s teeth by reducing tartar and preventing gingivitis, Dr. Murray suggests reaching out to your veterinarian for recommendations on the best treats for your pet’s teeth. There are, however, certain commercial foods designed to help prevent or manage certain health conditions in your pet. If your dog or cat is on a therapeutic food or follows a special diet, it’s important to make sure that their treats follow the same dietary guidelines as their dry or wet foods. According to Dr. Murray, pets with allergies will also need their treats to be monitored in the same ways their food is, particularly those who have severe skin or gastrointestinal reactions to certain foods.

“Even a small amount of what your pet is allergic to can cause a reaction, [so] look for hypoallergenic treats” says Dr. Murray. “If your pet has any kind of medical condition or special diet, [you] should also check with their vet before giving any kind of treat or people food because it may worsen the condition or negate the effect of the special diet.”

3. Is there a difference between ‘natural’ and ‘generic’ treats?

According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) the term “natural” is any feed or ingredient “derived from plant, animal or mined, unprocessed or subject to physical, heat, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not subjected to chemically synthetic process.” The term “organic”, according to the AAFCO, refers to a formula feed or a specific ingredient within a formula feed that has been produced and handled in compliance with the requirements of the USDA National Organic Program (7CFR Part 205).

If this seems confusing your best bet is to read the ingredient label carefully and speak your veterinarian. He or she can help you determine if the dog or cat treat is what you’re looking for, and make other recommendations if it isn’t. For instance, “if there is a lot of sodium, coloring, and artificial flavors on the ingredient label,” Dr. Murray says, [you] will see that [the treat] is not very healthy.”

4. Are there any treats that can be dangerous?

Treats with excessive levels of sodium or fat may be dangerous for your cat or dog. Another type of pet treat to be wary of is jerky manufactured outside the United States, as these have been known to cause major kidney problems in pets.

“I don’t recommend purchasing treats that aren’t produced in the U.S. because there have been serious toxicity issues,” Dr. Murray says. “Owners have to be vigilant to keep an eye on the news and FDA recalls.”

5. Is ‘people’ food okay?

A common mistake people make when treating their pets is to give them items that are fatty, spicy and unfamiliar to their gastrointestinal tract. These rich foods can cause inflammation of the pancreas in addition to other serious conditions, Dr. Murray says. You should also steer clear of garlic, onions and grapes when feeding your dog, as they can be harmful and even deadly. Dr. Murray recommends only treating your pet with bland food, similar to what you’d feed a toddler, and be sure to discuss feeding your pet human food with your veterinarian, especially if they have food allergies or a special diet.

6. Is it possible to give a pet too many treats?

“Overfeeding our pets with too many treats is the number one mistake owners make,” Dr. Murray says, and can lead to obesity. It can be easy to lose track of how many treats you’re feeding your pet, particularly if there are multiple family members in the home caring for your pet at different intervals throughout the day. “Keep track of the number of treats you give your pet by setting aside a certain number of treats per day and talk to your vet about the amount of treats your pet should have on a daily basis and stick to that amount, regardless of when their daily allotment is reached,” Dr. Murray says.

7. What’s the best way to give a pet a treat?

According to Dr. Murray, treats are extremely useful for modifying your pet’s behavior, training them to learn something new, reinforcing good behavior, or helping your pet overcome their fears. When using treats to modify behavior and reward a job well done, be careful about the number of treats you’re giving your pet. Break large treats into small pieces and give them to your pet throughout a training session, says Dr. Murray. This will keep them engaged in their task and prevent them from eating too much at one time. It’s also good to keep in mind that a reward for your animal doesn’t always have to be centered on food.

“If you’re training your dog and want to limit the number of treats they get, you can use other ways to reward behavior like verbal praise and physical attention like petting,” Dr. Murray says.

8. Is there anything to avoid when using treats for training?

For training sessions with treats to be truly successful, you’ll need to make sure that the reward you’re giving your pet is a “high stakes” or “jackpot” reward they love to eat. Experiment with and learn about the treats your pet goes crazy over and keep them handy for getting your pet’s attention and rewarding their training successes. “You’ll also need to make sure your treat-giving happens at the same time as the behavior,” Murray says, “as a time delay will cause them to lose the association between the treat and good behavior.”

5 Steps for Saving a Homeless Pet

homeless-dog

While adopting from a shelter is a great deed, it’s also likely that you have a stray or homeless pet in your neighborhood who could use your love and care. If you’ve decided to take the animal in, there are a few steps to ensure the safety of you and the animal. (If you have any indication that the pet may harm you or anyone else, call an animal control organization and leave this to the pros.)

1. Approach Cautiously

You will need to approach the pet slowly and talk to him in low, quiet tones, says Dr. Shults.

“As you get close to the pet, extend your hand and crouch down to his/her level,” she adds. “Never bend over the pet as they may interpret that as dominant behavior and bite.”

2. Have a muzzle handy

Use extreme caution when putting a slip leash over their head or picking them up, Dr. Shults adds. “Muzzling them may be a good idea before attempting to put them in the car.”

3. Collecting samples for the vet

Dr. Rossman suggests collecting a stool and urine sample from the animal for examination by a veterinarian, if possible.

4. Visit the vet asap

“Take them to the vet immediately to test for any diseases, especially zoonotic diseases,” says Dr. Shults. Testing will be done for hookworms, ringworm, sarcoptic mange, giardia and leptospirosis. “Always consult with your veterinarian immediately when you save a homeless pet to make sure they are being fed properly and have the appropriate care.”

5. Do your research

“It’s always a good idea to read some reference books, available at your local library. You can also use online resources to give you as much information as possible,” says Dr. Rossman.

“Local pet rescue agencies typically have guidelines for rescued, stray or homeless animals available on their web sites.”

What to Expect with an Older Dog

bulldog

All dogs get older. And like us, dogs age at distinctive rates, especially dogs of different breeds and size. For example, giant breed dogs like Great Danes are generally considered to be a senior by roughly 5-6 years old, whereas a smaller breed dog like a Chihuahua would probably only enter the senior stage between 10-11 years. Pay close attention to following signs and issues associated with aging, and visit your veterinarian regularly (many vets recommend twice a year for senior dogs) so that these issues do not become an insurmountable problem as your beloved dog enters his senior years.

1. Vision Loss and other Eye Problems

Has your dog begun bumping into things, falling uncontrollably or displayed signs of eye discomfort (eye redness, cloudiness, etc.)? He may be suffering from vision loss or an eye disorder. Deteriorating eyesight is part of the normal aging process for dogs. There are, however, certain things you can do to help your dog adjust. Ask your veterinarian for tips on handling dogs with vision loss and to rule out treatable eye diseases such as cataracts, dry eye syndrome, or conjunctivitis.

2. Increased/Strained Urination

Increased urination or strained urination may be an indicator of kidney disease or urinary tract infection, both of which are more commonly seen in middle-aged to older dogs. Fortunately, urinary incontinence and strained urination can often be alleviated with medication or dietary changes. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect a problem.

3. Bad Breath, Bloody Gums and other Oral Problems

If you haven’t been diligent on brushing your dog’s teeth or bringing him into the vet’s office for a professional cleaning regularly, he’s probably beginning to display the signs of oral diseases (bad breath, excessive drooling, gum inflammation, and loose teeth). Dental hygiene, after all, is primarily about good maintenance. However, it’s not too late to start. Take your dog to a veterinarian and discuss how you can resolve the issues and prevent them from occurring in the future. It’s all worth it for a pearly white smile and fresh doggy kisses.

4. Lumps, Bumps and other Skin Problems

Your dog may encounter skin and coat issues at any age, but he is more susceptible to them as he gets older. This may exhibit itself as rashes, lesions, swelling, lumps, dry skin or hair loss in dogs. Fortunately, there are often things your veterinarian can do to help alleviate the symptoms (such as make dietary changes) or even cure the underlying cause of the issue.

5. Gaining/Losing Weight

Some older dogs have difficulty maintaining their weight and may need a diet with a higher calorie content or better palatability, while other dogs tend to gain weight and may need a diet for less active dogs. Neither being overweight or underweight is ideal for your dog. Overweight and obese dogs, for instance, have a higher incidence of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, even cancer. Discuss with your veterinarian when it would be appropriate for your dog to switch from an adult to senior diet, and ask him or her about the benefits of therapeutic diets, which can provide key benefits to help manage conditions commonly associated with aging dogs. In addition, devise an age-appropriate exercise routine with your vet. A proper diet and exercise plan can be important in delaying the signs of aging and increasing your dog’s longevity.

6. Difficulty Moving

It may be hard for you to see your once active dog having difficulty getting around the house or playing fetch like before, but joint issues such as arthritis and hip dysplasia are common in older dogs. Discuss with your veterinarian if dietary changes (such as the addition of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids) as well as ramps and orthopedic beds can help your dog get around easier.

7. Behavior and Memory Problems

Changes in your dog’s behavior may be a normal part of aging or a symptom of a disease like dog dementia (Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome). Therefore, it’s best that you consult your veterinarian should he exhibit signs of confusion, disorientation, memory loss, irritability, unusual pacing, or other personality changes.

Pet Guide to Going ‘Green’

spaniel

Just because you have a Toyota Prius, compact fluorescent light bulbs in your home or an organic garden in your backyard doesn’t mean you should stop exploring more ways to reduce your carbon footprint. And for the rest of us, it isn’t too late to start either. There are plenty of things you can do as a pet owner to show your dog or cat that you care about the environment. Here are six simple ways to get you going. After all, it’s their planet, too.

1. Reduce

It might seem obvious, but buying pet food and other pet products in bulk saves you extra trips to the store and avoids needless plastic packaging or cardboard boxes that end up in the local landfill anyway. Reducing shouldn’t end there, though. Every year millions of cats and dogs are euthanized around the world. This is the devastating reality, but it’s also avoidable. Having your pet spayed or neutered is the best way to avoid sending an unwanted puppy or kitten to the local shelter, many of which are never adopted.

2. Reuse

If you’ve ever seen a cat with a ball of yarn, or a dog chase a stick, you know that it doesn’t take something with a $10 price tag to entertain an animal for hours. Try seeing what you have in the garage or in the attic. There may be a treasure trove of forgotten items your dog or cat can play with — just make sure they are safe and don’t have parts that can accidentally get swallowed.

3. Recycle

When shopping for your dog or cat, look for items that use the most recycled materials. Many companies now offer products made from natural fibers, such as hemp or organic cotton, and some are even packaged in Earth-friendly materials like biodegradable cardboard or recycled paper (the higher the percentage of “post-consumer” materials, the better). Buying these products supports environmentally aware manufacturers, encouraging more companies to move towards sustainable packaging and natural pet products.

4. Get a ‘Green’ Lawn

Most of us know that plants and trees are great for absorbing the nasty (and destructive) carbon dioxide churned out into the atmosphere every day by our cars and power plants. What you may not know is that there are plants and herbs that you can use for landscaping, many of which are pet-friendly and healthy for them to eat.

5. Donate Print Newspapers

For sanitary reasons, animal rescues and wildlife rehabilitation centers use discarded newspapers to line their cages. This is both cheap and efficient. Contact the Humane Society,ASPCA, or SPCA International to see if there are any shelters of rehabilitation centers in your area in need of old newspapers. If nothing else, the puppies at the shelter get a chance to catch up on their Marmaduke.

6. Adopt a Pet

This may be a strange way of looking at it, but cat or dog adoption is the ultimate way to recycle. Not only will you get a loveable best friend that cares for you, but you save at least one animal from being euthanized. Find a reputable animal shelter in your area and save a life.

Digestive Problems in Pets: Causes, Signs and Treatments

dog-cat-table

It’s not uncommon for your dog or cat to suffer from different types of digestive disorders. Fortunately, acting quickly can prevent issues from worsening. Here, we take a look at the causes, signs and treatments for digestive disturbances in pets.

Common Causes of Acute Digestive Disorders in Pets

  • Dietary indiscretion, which is caused by your pet eating something he shouldn’t have (garbage, table scraps, etc.), says Dr. Tony Johnson, DVM, DACVECC, clinical assistant professor, emergency and critical care, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine West Lafayette, Ind.
  • Viruses, such as parvovirus or coronavirus, which commonly spreads through exposure to feces from an infected dog.
  • Bacteria, such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli, Clostridia, which can be contracted via food poisoning and may be passed on from animal to human.
  • Parasites and worms are typically transmitted when a pet eats the stool of an infected dog or cat.
  • Pancreatitis, caused by an inflamed digestive gland, by medications or consuming something that’s difficult for the pancreas to handle, such as a meal high in fat.

Common Causes of Chronic Digestive Disorders in Pets

  • IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), which still has an unknown cause, Johnson explains. “It is manageable but not curable. Dogs with [IBD] have periodic flare-ups when you have to intensify their therapy.”
  • Hemorrhagic gastritis, which induces profuse vomiting and bloody diarrhea, is caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites; it can also be due to a bad reaction to certain medications.

Common Signs of Digestive Disorders in Pets

The good news about digestive disorders is that they’re pretty easy to recognize. “The simplest signs are vomiting and diarrhea,” says Dr. Johnson.

Other signs to look for: Loss of appetite; abdominal bloating; or colitis. According to Dr. Johnson, constipation (when a dog strains to poop but nothing comes out) may be another sign of GI disease in cats, but is unlikely to demonstrate in dogs. Flatulence is typically not a sign of digestive distress. However, all pets can be a bit “gassy”, even pets which are not suffering from digestive distress. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get more prolific—or stinky—with GI problems.

Common Treatment Options

“In general, diarrhea has to run its course,” says Dr. Johnson. It’s important, however, to consult with your veterinarian on how to treat the signs and the underlying cause. He or she may recommend some of the following:

  1. Provide your pet plenty of fresh water to keep him or her hydrated.
  2. For three to five days, offer a therapeutic pet food (which can often be obtained at your veterinarian’s office or at pet supply stores) formulated for GI problems.
  3. Slowly introduce an ever-increasing amount of the previously given “regular” food over a period of three to five days (or based on the instructions of your veterinarian) until your pet is back on his or her “regular” diet.
  4. If your pet should begin vomiting at any point, consult your veterinarian immediately.

Under the direction of your veterinarian, oral steroids like prednisone can also be given to dogs with long-term IBD.

Consult Your Veterinarian

“Most importantly, make an appointment with your veterinarian,” says Dr. Johnson, “especially if your pet is vomiting, which can be a sign of something really serious in both cats and dogs.”

 

Ten Ways to Stop Fleas from Biting Your Cat

cat-bath

There are lots of reason to celebrate the arrival of spring and summer, but the return of fleas is not one of them. Not only are these blood-sucking parasites unsightly and creepy, they can also cause some serious diseases. So, how can you keep your cat tick-free this season? Here are a few ideas to consider:

1. Spot-on Treatments

While spot-on medications seem like they would only work on the spot they are applied to (in the same way a collar works), they are actually very effective at covering the cat’s entire body. The drops work by a process of translocation, by which the medication is spread over the body by way of the oil glands, and by the cat’s natural habit of cleaning itself (i.e., wetting its paws to clean its fur). Spot-on medications are not affected by bathing, swimming, or rain, and will kill and repel fleas for several weeks before reapplication.

2. Oral Medications

Once a month flea control pills (in small tablet form) work to disrupt the life cycle of fleas, but do not kill adult fleas on contact. Some are flavored to be more like treats so they are accepted gladly — or at least easier to hide in your cat’s food. With the oral medication, you won’t have to be concerned about small children coming into contact with the cat immediately after administration, as you might with spot-on treatments.

3. Flea Shampoos

Bathing your cat with a special medicated shampoo that kills fleas and/or ticks on contact can be an inexpensive (though labor-intensive) method of protecting your cat during flea season, or year round. You will need to repeat the process more often, about every two weeks, as the effective ingredients in these shampoos don’t last as long as a spot-on or oral medication.

4. Flea Collars

Another option is to use a collar that repels and kill fleas. Their effectiveness may depend on how invasive the fleas are in your cat’s environment, and the collar needs to make contact with your cat’s skin in order to transfer the chemicals onto the fur and skin. When adjusting the collar around your cat’s neck, make sure there is just enough room to fit two fingers under the collar. Cut off any excess length of collar to prevent your cat from chewing on it, and watch for signs of discomfort (e.g., excessive scratching) in case an allergic reaction to the collar occurs. Make sure you read labels carefully when choosing a collar to make sure it is size and age appropriate; this is especially when choosing a collar for cats. If your cat is particularly active or goes outdoors, you should avoid any kind of collar that does not have a quick release latch, since cats are prone to getting collars caught on fences and other objects and suffering choking injuries as a result.

5. Flea Dips

A dip is a concentrated chemical that needs to be diluted in water and applied to the cat’s fur with a sponge, or poured over the back. This is not like a shampoo bath, so you will not rinse your pet off after applying the dip product. These chemical products can be very potent. Misuse can lead to toxic reactions, in both cats and in the people treating them, so they are generally only used for severe infestations, and only infrequently. Make sure to read the labels carefully before use to make sure that it is appropriate for your cat and to make sure that you apply it exactly as stated.

6. Powders and Sprays

Flea powders and sprays are relatively inexpensive methods of repelling fleas for cats. Be cautious when applying these products, however, as the spray or fine powder can be irritating to the mouth and lungs if breathed in (for both animals and humans). Also be sure to use caution around the eyes, nose, and mouth. Because these products will wear off the skin faster than a spot-on treatment, you will need to reapply them more often. Always read labels carefully before using flea powders or sprays.

7. Clean House

For any level of flea infestation, light or severe, you will need to do a thorough house cleaning, and you will need to clean daily until the situation is under control. Vacuum in every corner and along the baseboards, and throw out the vacuum bag when you are finished. Wash all of your cat’s bedding and toys with warm soapy water and vacuum out the car too. Removing the majority of flea eggs and larvae present will help reduce the population of adults hatching in your home.

8. Household Sprays and Foggers

Sprays and foggers will kill the adult fleas as well as the larvae and eggs as they hatch. Care must be taken when using these products, however, as they can be toxic to fish, birds, cats and children. Read labels carefully and ask for advice from your veterinarian before attempting to use these products. To be safe, you may need to remove all of the animals from your home for 48 hours (or more), so that the pesticide chemicals from the spray or fogger has a chance to dissipate. In the face of a severe infestation, you may want to hire a professional exterminator to spray the house properly.

9. Flea Traps

You can purchase ready-made “flea traps” from your local hardware store, or you can make your own. Sticky pads (some with lights attached) are laid on the floor, where the fleas become attached to the sheet while jumping around. This will help eliminate some of the adult fleas from the environment, but not the eggs or larvae. A homemade light trap can be made by setting a small dish of soapy water on the ground near a light source at night (such as a small lamp or night light). Fleas are attracted to the warmth and light and will jump into the water, where they will drown.

10. Clear the Yard

Keeping your lawn, bushes, and trees consistently trimmed back will help reduce the population of fleas in your backyard. If you still have a problem, consider using one or more of the various yard sprays or granular treatments. Or, you might consider hiring a pest control service for regular yard treatments. Just be careful when using these products, as they can be harmful to pets, fish, and humans (you may want to warn your neighbors before each yard application so they can protect themselves from incidental contact with the chemicals).

What to do if Your Pet is Poisoned

dog-pills

When a pet is poisoned, quick and appropriate action is vital to your pet’s outcome. But do you know what to do? Here are four simple steps that may help save your pet’s life someday.

Step 1: Evaluate

Identify what toxin your pet was exposed to or ingested. Find the label, active ingredients, and the quantity ingested or exposed to. Remove any additional toxin out of reach. Evaluate your pet’s symptoms. Even if your pet is acting normal, toxin exposure may still have occurred.

Step 2: Call the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680)

Once you have gathered, contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680. They can determine if the exposure is considered toxic, and if additional treatment is necessary. For ingested toxins, induction of vomiting is commonly performed, but can be contraindicated in some toxins (such as with hydrocarbons, batteries, corrosives, etc) or in some conditions (neurologic symptoms, respiratory difficulty, etc). For contact toxins, bathing with liquid dish soap is often necessary.

Step 3: Do NOT give anything unless instructed to

Many people will think they are helping their pet by giving home remedies they may have heard of before, such as milk, salt, aspirin, etc. Adverse reactions to these home remedies can sometimes be more significant than the toxicity itself. Stay calm and do not give anything to your pet unless instructed to by a veterinarian.

Step 4: Get Help

If further treatment is required, transport your pet to your veterinarian, or the closest veterinary emergency facility. Have someone safely watch your pet while driving in order to prevent distraction.  Some special guidelines may be necessary to prevent human exposure to certain toxins, such as zinc phosphide or flammable materials.