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Common Household Items Can Be Toxic to Pets: Here's What You Need to Know

March is Pet Poison Prevention Month. Many pet parents are surprised by the number of seemingly harmless items around the house that can cause serious injury or death for cats and dogs. To help you march through this spring and into the rest of the year with a safer home for your animal companions, here are the most common and dangerous household poisons to keep away from your pets.

Chocolate

Most pet parents know to not feed their dog or cat chocolate, but this sweet indulgence still tops our list because sneaky canines can get into their humans’ chocolate stash and wind up in a world of trouble.

Chocolate contains a toxic combination of caffeine and a molecular compound called theobromine. Your dog or cat cannot metabolize these the way humans can, resulting in a racing heart and overstimulated nervous system. While a small amount of chocolate will likely only cause an upset stomach and diarrhea, larger amounts can lead to seizures or a heart attack.

Darker chocolate is more dangerous as it contains more theobromine and it doesn’t take much to reach toxic levels. A 50-pound dog may show serious signs of poisoning if they ingest just an ounce of baker’s chocolate.

Keep your chocolate stash safely stored and educate your kids about how toxic chocolate is to their furry friend. Teaching your kids about the dangers of their favorite sweets can help keep your pets safe.

Xylitol

Xylitol may sound like a substance you’d find on a science fiction movie, but it’s actually a common sugar substitute. Commonly labeled as “sugar alcohol” on an ingredients list, a small amount of something containing it could send your dog, cat, or ferret to the emergency room. Xylitol creates a sudden rush of insulin through your pet’s body, resulting in dangerously low levels of blood sugar, causing shock, seizures, lethargy, liver failure, and potentially death.

Xylitol is commonly used in

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Sugarfree gum
  • Vitamin gummies
  • Baked goods
  • OTC medicines
  • Lotion
  • Sugar-free peanut butter

Typically, dogs are more susceptible to xylitol poisoning than cats, since cats don’t have the taste buds that allow them to detect and appreciate sweet flavors.

Grapes and Raisins

Some dogs can eat grapes while others can be fatally poisoned by just a few. There is currently no conclusive research to explain why grapes can be so toxic to dogs or any “safe” amount they can have, so it’s best to avoid them completely.

Fig bars, granola bars, or other snack bars might include the dried fruit, so be sure to read the ingredients list closely if you’re sharing your snack with your pal.

Hops and Alcohol

We know these may seem obvious but there’s been a recent increase in pet poisoning related to home brewing. If you have gotten into the hobby of fermenting your own wine or beer, carefully store your supplies.

Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medications

Our pets are naturally curious, and while medications often come in child-proof containers, they’re not necessarily pet-proof. Some of the most common ways pets become poisoned is by ingesting medications meant for humans.

Which medications pose the biggest threat to pets?

  • Cold medicine
  • Allergy medication
  • Vitamins (especially vitamin D3)
  • Minerals
  • Ibuprofen
  • Acetaminophen
  • Antidepressants
  • ADD & ADHD Medications
  • Cardiac medications

What You Can Do to Protect Your Pet from Poisons

We all do our best to protect our pets but accidents happen. Familiarize yourself with the common symptoms of poisoning and watch for signs of mischief in your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. Create and regularly review an emergency plan for your pet ingesting something poisonous. Make sure you know the location of the nearest emergency animal hospital at home or on the road.

Save our number, a local emergency vet, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in your phone. If you suspect your cat dog may have eaten something toxic or gotten into a dangerous substance, give us a call immediately. If we’re not open, call the emergency vet or Poison Control at (888) 426-4435. The ASPCA line charges a fee for calls but can give you accurate and helpful advice that may save your pet’s life.

Save any packaging from the product you suspect your pet ingested and bring it with you if you’re directed to bring your pet to be seen by a veterinarian. Do not induce vomiting unless you are explicitly directed to do so by a professional.

When it comes to your pet and possible poisons, you’re always better safe than sorry. Survey your home and make sure the cabinets where you store your cleaners, medications, and dry goods are pet-proofed. Read the label of products before bringing them into your home and only feed your pals treats created specifically for them. If your pet is showing any signs of being poisoned, like vomiting, lethargy, or if you simply find a package with bite marks in it and someone is looking extra guilty, give us a call right away.

 

 

Image credit: Anna Shvets/ Pexels

Sit, Stay, Read On for Tips and Tricks to Teach Your Pet

Are you ready to ring in the New Year with some new tricks to teach your dog or cat? Yes--cats can learn tricks, and they’re rather good at it! January is “Train Your Pet Month”. You can celebrate with your best friend by teaching them a few new moves to impress the neighbors. It’s also a great time to make an appointment with our clinic to work on breaking some bad habits if you’re concerned about new or recurring behaviors that are getting in the way of the bond you share.

Why Train Your Pet?

While performing tricks may seem like fun and games, the training that goes into your pet’s learning has value beyond itself. What are the hidden benefits of training your pet?

  • Establishing a reward-based system is foundational for training your dog or cat to come when called, which can keep them safe or help you find them when needed.
  • Training can help diminish unwanted or destructive behaviors by redirecting your pet’s energy.
  • Training strengthens your bond with your pet through trust and communication.
  • The mental stimulation and challenge of training increase your dog or cat’s mental dexterity while staving off signs of aging on the mind.
  • Your pet will enjoy more restful sleep after spending some time training.
  • Your pet will respond more compliantly when it’s time to visit us for an exam or in case of an emergency.
  • Leash training your dog will make walks more enjoyable and reduce strain on her body caused by pulling.
  • Your pet will enjoy a boost in self-confidence after learning and new trick as you shower her with praise.

Some Simple Tricks to Train Your Dog

Positive reinforcement training or reward-based training is the best method to encourage your pet’s healthy learning and encourage the desire to train more often. We recommend low-calorie treats when learning a new command since it can often take quite a few to achieve the desired outcome.

If your pet isn’t as food motivated as you wish she could be, try high-value treats like those with fish or peanut butter.

1. “Come”

Recall or teaching your dog to come when you call her helps keep her safe. The last thing you want is your dog to ignore you and continue running head-on into a dangerous situation. If your dog or puppy doesn’t know this trick, it should be a priority for you.

  • With your dog on her normal leash (4-foot or 6-foot), let her become distracted or interested in something that she can walk toward.
  • Once her attention is focused away from you, call her by saying “Come” and her name while you jog backward. Keep your tone positive and excited. As she’s walking toward you, slow down, and when she reaches you give her a treat.
  • Repeat this and after she has it down pat, ask her to come then sit, then give her the treat.
  • After you’ve practiced this for a few sessions, you can begin using a longer rope or line. Try a 15 or 20-foot rope.
  • Let your dog gain more and more distance as you call her to come and give her a treat. You can even get one of your kids to walk across her line of vision. Remember to only treat her after she’s come all the way to you and sat down.
  • Eventually, continue working on this trick but in a fenced-in yard.

Coming when called will be one of the most useful behaviors your dog learns. It can also lose its appeal and your dog’s compliance if your dog always receives a response she perceives as negative. For example, if she knows she’s going to get leashed and brought home from the oh-so-fun park, it becomes much easier to ignore her name being called and keeping playing. So, continue to practice this one with treats from time to time even after she comes without a reward to prevent desensitization to “come” over time.

2. Shake Hands

This one comes in handy when we need to trim your pup’s nails or check her paws for cracks or burrs. It’s also pretty easy.

  • Let your pup smell the treat. Then, while your dog is seated, lightly touch or tap your dog’s paw. Be soft and gentle.
  • If your dog picks up her paw, put your hand beneath and lift slightly. Immediately say “shake” and give her praise and the treat.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. Move your hand a little further away and try saying “shake” with your hand outstretched, waiting for hers. When she places her paw on your palm, praise and treat her like the rock star she is.

3. Give Me a Smooch or “Kiss”

This one may seem cutesy, and it is, but it’s super simple. All it takes is a few treats and the desire to receive a sweet smooch from your pooch.

  • Start by letting your dog smell the treat. If she already knows how to sit, give her this command followed by the treat.
  • After she smells the treat, place the treat on your cheek and when your pup leans in to lap it up, say “kiss” and let her take the treat.
  • After a few rounds of this, try pointing to your cheek while saying “kiss,” and if she gives you a lick, give her a treat. And don’t forget to blush.

4. Spin

People find this one quite impressive, and your pup can enjoy a bit of the dizzy-spins. To teach your dog to spin:

  • Let her smell the treat and continue to hold it near her nose.
  • When she begins to move forward to take the treat, move your hand away from her nose and toward her tail, this will cause her to spin in a tight circle.
  • Once she’s made a complete circle, say “spin,” praise and reward her.

Two Simple Tricks to Teach Your Cat

Cats also benefit from learning tricks. And they tend to learn really quickly. When preparing to train your cat, choose a calm, quiet area of your home and place your kitty on the edge of a surface like a sofa or bed, facing you.

If you haven’t trained your kitty, here are two tricks to get you started (spoiler: they’ll sound familiar):

1. Sit, Kitty

  • Let your kitty smell her treat. The stinkier the better, usually! Then slowly move the treat above her nose and backward toward her ears and shoulders.
  • Your cat should naturally lower her bottom while keeping her nose pointed at the treat.
  • As soon as her bottom is down, reward her with the treat.
  • After repeating this a few times, begin saying “sit” simultaneously while treating her.
  • After a few training sessions of 5-10 minutes, she will begin sitting on command.

2. Shake

After your cat learns “sit,”’ move onto teaching her this classic trick.

  • Gently touch your kitty’s paw to encourage her to lift it up. If she doesn’t lift her paw, gently lift it yourself.
  • When she does lift her paw, slip your hand underneath and give her a treat.
  • After a few repetitions, begin saying “shake” to build the connection with the command.

Have Fun and Train On!

For better success in your training sessions, give your pet breaks every 10-15 minutes, keep training sessions short, and be consistent. You’ll find these commands can help you with some of your pet parent duties and give your pet the challenge she needs to rest well and feel accomplished.

For any questions you may have, whether what type of treats to use, questions about weight gain during training, or appropriate training for your pet’s life stage, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

 

 

Image credit: ChristinLola / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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compassion of each team member.

 
 
 

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