Taurus Tips

Pet and Animal health, safety and well-being


Milk is not a good substitute for water for a cat. Not only is milk not essential for a cat's diet, some cats cannot digest the lactose in cow's milk. Clean, fresh water daily in a steel bowl is far more beneficial. Also, consider a water fountain. Some cats are attracted to the running water and may be prone to drink more from a fountain. Experiment to determine what your cat prefers!

When decorating your home for the holidays, keep these pet safety tips in mind: Christmas tree ornaments and tinsel, gift wrapping ribbons, string, and decorative garlands can be dangerous if swallowed by pets. Be mindful of what you put on the tree and how accessible the gifts and wrapping are, especially when pets are unsupervised in the room. Remember to cover any electrical cords or keep them out of reach of your pets. Some animals love to chew on the cords! 

Out of all the plants that are toxic to your cat, lilies are the most dangerous. It’s well worth a reminder not only at Easter time when Easter lilies abound, but anytime throughout the year when people are purchasing flowers for their home or as gifts. It is simply too easy for a cat to accidentally be put at risk of lily poisoning and certain death when a lily plant is presented by an uninformed person or pet parent. Learn more here: Lily Toxicity and your Cat.

Your veterinarian is the best person to diagnose and treat Leptospirosis, a contagious bacterial disease dogs can develop by drinking, walking through or swimming in infected water. The disease is a challenge to diagnose quickly and may require numerous blood and urine tests. Discuss vaccination with your veterinarian which is key in protecting your dog from this potentially fatal disease. Although cats are potentially at risk, they appear to have natural resistance and vaccination is not recommended.

Rainy days often create an environment where mushrooms spring up overnight. Some can be highly toxic to your pet, so please don't discriminate. If your dog ingests a mushroom, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea in older dogs, but could also be fatal.  Please check your yards daily for mushrooms in the mornings, after heavy rains, and especially before letting your dogs out on walks and in yards. If you suspect your pet may have ingested or even nibbled on a mushroom, it is important that you call a Veterinary Hospital, Emergency Pet Clinic, or Animal Poison Control Center immediately. If possible, collect samples of the mushroom you suspect your pet has been exposed to. Store the samples in a paper bag (not plastic) in the refrigerator or other cool area safely away from pets and people and take the samples to the veterinary clinic with you. Learn more about mushroom toxicity here.

Canine influenza (canine flu) is highly contagious among dogs. Dogs should be protected with a flu shot. The vaccine will protect the dog against the two canine flu types for which dogs have no natural immunity, and the vaccine can save dogs from pneumonia and death. Puppies as young as seven weeks can be vaccinated because it is so safe and effective. Learn more here.

Do you know the difference between a Service Dog, an Emotional Support Dog and a Therapy Dog? Service dogs fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are any guide dog or other animal who is trained to provide assistance to a disabled person.Emotional support dogs help people with symptoms of anxiety or depression by providing comfort. Therapy dogs bring joy and affection to those in hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities. Learn more about these specially trained dogs here.

A Betta fish is commonly known as the Siamese Fighting fish as males housed together will not get along. Keep males solitary in a bowl of their own. They do not require an aerated aquarium because Betta fish breathe at the surface. Female Bettas can be housed together or with other community fish. Water temperature should be 74-82 degrees F. A Betta may become listliss if the water is too cold.

When the temperatures rise, dogs eliminate heat by panting. Their sweat glands in the foot pads only help minimally. If a dog can't keep himself cool enough by panting, his/her body temperature can rise to dangerous levels and prove fatal. Learn the signs of heat stroke in dogs here and how to keep your pet safe.

Do you ever wonder exactly what your Labrador Retriever is saying when he barks? Dogs have a wide range of vocalizations beyond the bark including whines, yelps and that oh so fearsome growl. Canines can actually vary their barks depending on what they are feeling or trying to say. Learn more about Labrador communication at Labrador Training HQ – What Do Different Dog Barks Mean?

The third week in May is National Dog Bite Prevention week. Children are particularly at risk for dog bites and need proper instruction, training and supervision on how and when to approach dogs in a safe manner. Check out a new program designed for kids by Good Dog in a Box called SAFE. It includes a fun animated video, a kids’ e-book, coloring pages, and a wall chart. It's meant to provide an engaging way for parents to teach dog safety. It's just been released in 2016 for National Dog Bite Prevention Week. The goal is to help educate parents and kids on how to be safe around dogs and to help keep family dogs out of the shelter system.

Did you know that the Heimlich maneuver can be successfully applied to a pet that is choking? Consider taking a Pet First Aid class where you can learn techniques you can use during a pet emergency such as rescue breathing and compressions according to a pet’s specific breed and size. In the meantime, check out the American Red Cross Pet First Aid app that can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android.

Small pets require environmental enrichment too! Rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, etc. enjoy toys and experiencing different textures. Make sure the toys are safe and there are no loose pieces that your pet might swallow or cause it harm. Rotate the toys every few days for variety and excitement. Supervise your pet during play time, especially when out of their cage so they don’t chew electrical cords or other dangerous objects.

When choosing a substrate for your terrarium, it is best to try to match it to your pet’s most natural environment. Researching your pet’s preferred environment is the first step. For example, desert snakes and reptiles would do best with a fine grain sand. On the other hand, amphibians need a substrate that is mold resistant yet can retain moisture.

Do you know what foods to avoid feeding your pet rabbit? Here's a list: grapes and raisins (could adversely affect your pet's kidneys); onions and garlic (could affect the red blood cell count and cause anemia); chocolate, cookies, cakes and candies (could cause diarrhea, painful abdomen, or affect the heart or central nervous system if large amounts are ingested). Keep your rabbit healthy and stick to the nutritious food treats that are good for them - leafy greens, lettuce, fresh vegetables and fruits which are essential to your rabbit’s diet. Learn more at Pet Poison Helpline.

Did you know that cats sleep an average of 16 to 18 hours a day? Dr. Ward points out that one reason is energy conservation because felines use a special form of sugar to fuel their activity bursts. It takes time to restore this energy, so cats are mindful regarding when and why they are active. Felines are most active at dawn and dusk.

Loud noises and fireworks can cause our pets stress. More pets are lost during the Fourth of July than other times of the year because they become frightened and run. Some tips from Dr. Marty Becker include leaving your dog at home and creating a “safe place” for your dogs and cats in their home environment, playing music and using pet pheromones. 

Acupuncture can be a helpful alternative therapy for many animals. It can aid in the treatment of cruciate ligament disease, arthritis in aging pets, and other degenerative diseases.

Just like for dogs and cats, there are many foods that are toxic to pet ferrets. Included on the list are raisins, grapes, sugar-free chewing gum and candies containing Xylitol, chocolate and avocado.  Keep these foods away from your pet ferret, and call the Pet Poison Helpline and/or your veterinarian or pet care emergency center immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested any of these items.

Gerbils are social pets that are best raised in an environment that can accommodate more than one. It’s recommended to start with two siblings, as they can be territorial toward those unfamiliar. They make desirable pets as they are friendly, rarely bite making them easy to handle, and almost odorless. Make sure you have a family veterinarian who specializes in exotic companion mammals / pocket pets to help guide you with regard to their health care before you bring yours home.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. The AVMA produced a video where Dr. Sheldon Rubin gives easy, step-by-step instructions on how to teach a dog or cat to accept a daily tooth brushing. He also describes healthy treats, and explains the true risks of periodontal disease in pets. Watch the video and discuss with your vet.

Winter brings potential snow storms and ice. Remember that road salt and deicing materials can be toxic to your dog or cat if he licks his paws and ingests the ingredients after being exposed.  Be sure to clean your pet's paws with a damp cloth when you bring him inside, and look out for these clinical signs of toxicity: vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, depression, loss of appetite, disorientation and increased thirst. Seizures and even death can result in extreme cases.  See your veterinarian or immediately if you suspect there is a problem.

Did you know that a ferret can catch the flu from its owner? If someone in the home is ill with the flu, make sure they do not handle the ferret and leave the care and feeding to others. Unlike humans, the flu found in ferrets can sometimes be fatal, especially in senior and young ferrets with weak immune systems. The common flu can also complicate the health of ferrets with secondary bacterial infections and pneumonia. Learn the symptoms to look out for here.

Kitty litter box issues are often misunderstood by pet parents who mistakenly deem their cat spiteful. Spite is a human emotion. If your cat is missing the litter box, first see your vet to rule out medical problems. Next, try to determine the source of anxiety – new pets and/or people, change of litter type, home relocation, and dirty litter boxes are all sources of anxiety. Kitty is trying to tell you something by his/her behavior that you can easily fix with some effort and insight into your individual cat’s needs.  

Pets exposed to extreme, frigid temperatures run the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. The pet’s ear tips and tail are particularly at risk for frostbite. Please bring pets inside in extreme cold, limit activity outside, and offer protective clothing such as sweaters, boots and hooded vests for breeds with thinner fur. Don’t assume your animal with thick fur is immune either. Caution is advised.

Did you know that the caffeine in coffee drinks and alcohol in beer and other alcoholic drinks can cause serious toxicity when ingested by pets? It’s important to keep a watchful eye on pets during holiday house parties, and inform your guests of the potential dangers. Better yet, keep pets in a safe room out of harm’s way. If you suspect your pet has been exposed to caffeine or alcohol, contact your veterinarian or pet emergency center, or call Pet Poison Helpline immediately at 1-800-213-6680.

Happy New Year! Time to make those New Year’s Resolutions. Why not make your pet’s wellness visit or dental checkup a priority for the coming year? Contact your veterinarian and set up an appointment as soon as possible.

As you prepare your holiday meals, please remember not all foods that humans eat are safe for our pets.  Avocados, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions and walnuts are just a few of the items published by the Humane Society of the United States.

FIV is often described as the feline version of HIV or AIDS, but it is not the same disease nor does it transmit to humans. According to Dr. Letrisa Miller, MS, DVM, many cats that are infected with the virus remain healthy for long periods of time and may never show any signs of illness from the virus. Those who do show illness tend to have problems with fighting infections because their immune systems do not respond well to infections and can’t effectively fight illnesses. Read more advice about FIV cats from Dr. Miller at Cat Wisdom 101.

Did you know that Goldfish are temperate fishes and not native to the United States? They are used to temperature fluctuation, but Goldfish are most comfortable in water about 70 degrees. They also like a bit of salt in their water because it helps with transition and stress. Salt can even help ward off some health issues. Learn more about what your pet Goldfish requires to stay healthy from Dr. Greg Lewbart,MS, VMD, Dipl. ACZM, professor of Aquatic Animal Medicine at North Caroline State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in this article Your First Fish: Happy, Healthy Goldfish Require Diligent Care.

Did you know that allowing different species of exotic pets and birds to interact or share cages can create health risks for your pets?  For example, Rabbits and Guinea Pigs each carry a type of bacteria in their respiratory tract that may be harmless to them, but the same bacteria can cause serious, potentially life-threatening infection in each other. Read more advice from Dr. Laurie Hess regarding reptiles, small mammals and bird interactions in your home, and try to follow her advice.

Know what foods to avoid feeding your dog over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Some foods can cause diarrhea, nausea or even prove fatal.  On the forbidden list are chocolate, walnuts, mushrooms and macadamia nuts.  Onions and garlic can be harmful, as well as nutmeg.  Your dog may love turkey meat, but the bones can splinter and the skin can be quite greasy and fatty for a sensitive stomach.  Make sure holiday guests are instructed what is safe to feed your pet so they don’t accidentally treat your pooch to a harmful snack.  If you suspect he has eaten a forbidden food, call your veterinarian immediately.

Leaving your pet at home while you travel over the Thanksgiving holiday? Sensory cues such as playing music or acclimating your pet to the pet sitter before you leave can help decrease separation anxiety. Talk to your vet about more ways you can help ease your pet’s stress while you are away.  Find more tips like this about cats at the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Consider dressing your dog before his/her walk to help ward off ticks. Remember, ticks like to wait in tall grass and grab on to passersby when they sense body warmth. Try altering an old t-shirt to fit your dog's body. This may help deter ticks while at the same time they can be more easily seen. Be sure to use a year round tick preventative to keep your pet safe.

November is National Pet Cancer Awareness Month. The Morris Animal Foundation states that one in four dogs will die of cancer.  According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, cancer accounts for approximately half the deaths of dogs over ten years of age. As always, early detection is critical. Please be sure to schedule regular wellness exams with your veterinarian and follow all recommended advice for your particular pet’s health and well-being.

Please remember to keep all animals indoors October 30th (Goosy Night, Mischief Night) and October 31st (Halloween).  Also make sure you make arrangements to block access to any possible animal escape with your front door opening and closing on Halloween.  Many dogs do not react well to humans in costumes.

During the week of Halloween, calls to the veterinarians at the Pet Poison Helpline increase by 12 percent, making it the call center’s busiest time of year.  They say most often these calls involve pets accidentally ingesting Halloween candy or décor. The four most common food-related Halloween hazards for pets are chocolate, candy overindulgence, raisins and candy wrappers.

Pet rats are intelligent creatures, love people, and can be taught many things. They like working for rewards. Don't overlook a rat if you are considering a small animal for your home. Find a veterinarian who specializes in small exotic mammals to help you look after your pet's health, and you'll enjoy many happy years with your new rat friend. They do best in pairs so consider more than one. Learn more about the care they require here at VeterinaryPartner.com Mouse and Rat Care.

Dogs bite for many reasons; they may be in pain, they may feel threatened, or they may be anxious and over-excited. There are lots of  things you can do to avoid dog bites, ranging from properly training and socializing your pet to educating your children on how and when to approach a dog.  According to the AVMA, information and education are the best solutions. Learn more on their website.

A pet’s bad breath is a signal that it needs a dental checkup. The odor is caused by bacteria in your pet’s mouth which could be a result of dental or gum disease. Diet and dermatological issues can also be contributing factors while persistent bad breath can also indicate serious medical problems including abnormalities in your pet’s mouth, respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, liver or kidneys. Please discuss regular dental exams with your family veterinarian.

There’s a proper way to hold and carry a pet rabbit. The veterinarians at Belle Mead Animal Hospital advise that the rabbit’s head should be tucked into your arms, and your forearms used to support the rabbit along the entire back and beneath the belly. Bundle it in a blanket, which they call a “bunny burrito.”  This will help the rabbit remain calm. Never pick up a rabbit up by its ears. Read more about proper rabbit care here.

Hypertension is one of the most commonly overlooked conditions in pets. High Blood Pressure is known as the “silent killer” because you can’t tell if your pet has it nor can you see the damage it’s causing until it’s too late. If your dog or cat is overweight, have its blood pressure checked by your vet. This simple test can help prevent sudden blindness, heart problems and kidney failure. Treatment is as simple as changing to a low-sodium diet, weight loss, increasing exercise, and medications in more serious cases.

More pets get lost on July 4th than any other day of the year! Please make sure your pet carries the proper ID, is microchipped, and is kept indoors and away from fireworks this holiday weekend.

Because it takes more energy to stay warm when it's cold, outdoor animals eat more during the winter. Likewise, fresh, running water is vital for maintaining your pet's health. Keep an eye on the water bowls and make sure they haven’t turned into a frozen lump of ice.

If you must keep your pet outdoors, just know that your pet’s fur coat isn’t enough protection for your pet during winter. Please provide your dog with a warm, dry, and draft-free shelter outside; the shelter should also comply with any state laws that apply.  The Guardians of Rescue are even distributing free shelters for dogs this winter season.  If you live between New Jersey and Maine, please contact them if you need help.

Pet owners should keep their pets on their normal pet food during the holidays to avoid illnesses and accidental poisoning.  Remember to keep pets away from chocolate, onions, avocados, raisins, bread dough and sweets as these are toxic to pets.

Unplug holiday decorations in the home that are near unsupervised pets. Electrocution is most likely to happen when pets chew on electrical cords. This can cause pain, burns, irregular heartbeat, respiratory distress, impaired consciousness and death. Be safe, not sorry.

Consider using pet friendly deicers on your walkway during ice and snow events. Salt-based walkway deicers can be harsh on pets' paws, leading to irritation and burns. These chemicals can also be highly toxic to your pets if ingested. Be sure to thoroughly wipe your pets' paws when they come indoors to stay safe.

Fleas are tiny, wingless, jumping insects that feed on the blood of your pets and your family.  Fleas can easily go unnoticed by any pet owner and often go undetected in the home for as long as 4 months. In addition to making you and your pets uncomfortable, fleas can cause life-threatening disease.  Anemia and red blood cell parasites are commonly seen in flea-infested pets. Read more about flea control in the Belle Mead Animal Hospital Blog.

Safe Play for Cats and Kittens: It's important to only let your cat play with toys or other objects that are safe. Cat-proof the house by hiding these things: string, yarn, ribbon, dental floss; paper clips; pins and needles; rubber bands; plastic bags (especially drycleaners' bags, the cat could suffocate); anything else that your cat might chew.

Can your senior pet get around without assistance? Consider portable steps and ramps to enable cats and dogs to climb in and out of the car, on and off the bed, or get over the edge of the litter box. Try using a pet stroller to get your aging pet out and about town. Find more ways to help your senior pet here.

There are some things in your back yard that can be toxic to your pets. Mushrooms that are coming up in the fall can cause a wide variety of toxic effects, some of which can be life threatening.  Mulch piles will often grow mold that can cause neurologic signs, most commonly tremors and/or seizures. Consult your family veterinarian or emergency care clinic immediately if you know your pet ingested either of these things.

Puppies and kittens under four weeks of age are susceptible to several pathologic syndromes that can become fatal if you don’t seek veterinary care immediately.  They include hypothermia, dehydration, hypoglycemia, hypoxemia, diarrhea, and septicemia.  Please do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian when raising a litter of new born.  You will be glad you did in the long run.

Keep asthma inhalers away from you dog. If your dog chews on the inhaler and punctures it, he could receive a very large dose of the contents, albuterol, all at once.  According to Dr. Ahna Brutlag, DVM, this massive dose causes toxicity by elevating the heart rate to life-threatening levels and causing very low potassium levels in the blood which, in turn, lead to extreme weakness, in-coordination, and, potentially, death.  Contact your veterinarian immediately.

According to the latest veterinary surveys, over half the nation’s dogs and cats are overweight. According to Dr. Ernie Ward, this means almost 80 million pets are at risk for developing arthritis, diabetes, kidney and heart disease, high blood pressure and many forms of cancer. Read seven tips on how to keep your pet slim and healthy here.

Hip dysplasia is considered to be a hereditary disease and is commonly found in large-breed dogs. Examples are golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, mastiffs, German shepherds, rottweilers, and Old English sheepdogs. According to Pet Health Network, because of this hereditary nature, dogs with hip dysplasia should not be used for breeding.

According to veterinarians Foster and Smith, most pets in the United States are spayed/neutered between five and eight months of age.  The use of lasers is less invasive and results in less blood loss, less swelling and faster healing. There are numerous health and behavioral benefits to the procedure, as well as the control of the overall pet population, especially in the case of feral or free-roaming animals.

Please be sure to vaccinate your pets against rabies. Signs of rabies in animals include loss of appetite, fever, restlessness, irritability, progressing to either frank aggressiveness and/or paralysis and difficulty walking, unusual crying or howling, drooling of saliva, and eventually seizures, coma, and death. The progression of the disease is rapid, with domestic animals usually dying within one to five days of onset of illness. As instructed by the Somerset County Department of Health, at the first signs of any such illness in an animal confined for rabies observation, your local health department should be notified at once.  Follow this advice no matter where you live.

National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day is August 22. Cats are masters at hiding illness, so regular veterinary exams and preventive care are critically important to your cat's health. Talk to your veterinarian about a preventive care schedule that fits your cat's age, lifestyle and medical condition.

Dr. Marc Bekoff, a former professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado and author of “The Emotional Lives of Animals,” has observed dogs for thousands of hours in his career. He concludes that dogs do have feelings of “embarrassment, shyness and humiliation.” Another researcher, neurobiologist Dr. Frederick Range at the University of Vienna, agrees. His studies demonstrate that dogs have other secondary emotions such as “jealousy, guilt and empathy.” Read more about these studies here.

Good news for those who suffer allergic responses to cats. New research by scientists at the University of Cambridge, UK, reveals how the most common cause of severe allergic reactions to cats, the Fel d 1 protein which is found in cat dander, triggers an allergic response. They anticipate that new drugs will be developed to bind the protein and prevent people from having an inflammatory response to cats.  Maybe those of you who shun cats for allergic reasons will one day become a happy cat owner.

Teach your cat to respond to calling.  This is important if an emergency arises.  Practice calling your cat often and make it fun. Reward your kitty each time it comes to you. If your cat does not respond well, try using a clicker, shaker, whistling or clapping as you call its name along with the reward of his/her favorite treat each time it responds.

Massage therapy has been found to be beneficial for animals as well as humans.  By manipulating the soft tissue of the body through a sequential application of stroking, circulation can be increased while muscle tone and range of motion can be improved. Pet massage is a complementary therapy to regular veterinary care and exams.  When choosing a therapist, you can look for membership in the International Association of Animal Massage Therapists to ensure they adhere to a strict code of standards.

Never, ever leave your pet alone in a parked car.  To illustrate how the summer heat can quickly cause a life-threatening situation, watch this video by Dr. Ernie Ward as he demonstrates himself just how quickly the car temperature sours.  Be safe, not sorry.  Leave your pet at home.

Rabbits can overheat just like dogs and cats in the summer, and they may require emergency veterinary care. Here are some things to remember: Rabbits can overheat in temperatures 80F or higher, especially if the humidity level is high. Do not leave rabbits outside in high temperatures and high humidity without a cool shelter.  Do not leave cages unattended in direct sunlight indoors even in the winter, because glass windows can intensify the heat from the sun.  Learn more ways to keep your bunny cool and when to seek emergency care at VeterinaryPartner.com

Are your pets microchipped? With the Fourth of July celebration bringing loud noises and fireworks, remember that cats and dogs can be startled by loud noises causing them to seek shelter in sometimes unfamiliar places or simply run away. Microchipping your pets in addition to collar identification can help expedite the reunion between you and your pet should you become separated. Take precaution.

Dogs are at risk for bee stings in the spring and summer.  They tend to chase bees, wasps and hornets as a form of play.  A dog can easily get stung on the nose, face or feet.  They might even get stung in the mouth.  Severe allergic reactions can become life threatening within minutes.  Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog has been stung.  Signs to watch out for are crying out, running in circles, and salivating. The stung area will swell and the dog may vomit and collapse in severe cases.  Time is of the essence in treating an allergic reaction.

If you find a tick on your dog, it is important to know how to remove the tick properly. Be sure to discuss tick prevention methods with your veterinarian and learn the steps to take if you find a tick on your pet.

Many cats tend to eat small amounts of plants even though they are primarily meat eaters. This is normal.  However, you must make sure your house plants are on the “safe” list, as your cat or kitten just might be looking at your house plants to satisfy their need to chew. Vomiting can result after a cat eats a large amount of grass or plant leaves.  Why do cats eat greens?  One theory is that green plants may provide nutrients missing in their regular diet, but there currently is no scientific evidence to prove this, according to the ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist.  Wheat grass found in your local pet store or online pet supply source can provide a safe alternative to harmful household plants and chemically-treated outside grasses. Choose organic to be even safer.

Please remember that cats can suffer from heat stroke too, so take precautions in hot weather.  Keep your cat indoors as much as possible and never leave it alone in a hot parked car unattended or another area where the temperatures could rise dramatically, like a garage with no ventilation. The signs of heat stroke are bright red gums and tongue; tongue panting like a dog (cats do not normally pant); hyperventilated breathing/heaving; racing heartbseat; lethargy, weakness and/or wobbliness; hot paws; drooling. If you see these signs, call your vet immediately for emergency care instructions and treatment. You might just save your cat’s life.

Make sure your dog does not overheat in the hot weather. Dogs differ from humans; they do not have sweat glands to regulate their temperature throughout their skin.  Because of this, they can overheat easily when the humidity is high and the weather is hot. The sweat glands in dogs are limited to the pads of their feet and the nose leather areas. They cool their body by drinking lots of cool water and panting. Provide clean, fresh water at all times and never leave your dog alone in a parked car.  Parked cars can turn into ovens quickly, and the dog's life will be at risk.

Disaster preparedness is important year round. Please be sure your dog or cat is properly tagged and microchipped with the number documented in the registry. If disaster strikes and you are separated from your pet, your chances of being reunited with your lost pet are greatly increased.

Veterinarians are increasingly diagnosing overweight cats with type 2 diabetes. Overweight cats are at high risk for developing high blood sugar and diabetes requiring twice daily insulin injections. Obese dogs are more prone to a condition known as insulin resistance, a state in which they have dangerously high insulin and blood sugar levels. Both diabetes and insulin resistance have been shown to reduce a pet’s life expectancy in addition to requiring constant medication and treatment. Type 2 diabetes is largely prevented by simply feeding the amount of food to maintain a normal weight.

Did you know that most now say that a cat's purring begins in the brain? According to an article published on WebMD, a rhythmic, repetitive neural oscillator sends messages to the laryngeal muscles, causing them to twitch at the rate of 25 to 150 vibrations per second (Hz). This causes a sudden separation of the vocal cords, during both inhalation and exhalation producing the purring sound. Cats will purr when content, frightened or threatened.  Therefore, pay attention the next time you notice kitty purring to determine just what all that purring is about. Learn more on WebMD.

The chemical ingredients in common lawn and garden pesticides may make your grass look pretty, but these same pesticides can be lethal to your dog.  Dogs will often roll in the grass, dig in the dirt, and absorb toxic chemicals through their skin and paw pads.  Severe health issues can result including seizures, glandular issues, liver and kidney problems, and even cancer leading to certain death.  Please research the chemicals used on your lawn, and if you must choose, then choose wisely.  Use only natural lawn care products in your yard.  Some suggestions include using corn gluten meal as a natural weed killer and fertilizer, and diatomaceous earth and boric acid for pest control. The best way to prevent potential health risks to your pet is to reduce exposure to harmful chemical agents.

Seasonal airborne allergens such as tree, grass and weed pollens can adversely affect your dog or cat.  Other year-round allergens that your pet may be allergic to are molds, mildew and house dust mites.  When dogs inhale these allergens, symptoms include itching of the face, feet and armpits.  Your veterinarian should be consulted for a proper diagnosis.  Treatment may include keeping your pet inside as much as possible when pollen counts are high and using air filters to keep the indoor home environment clean. Allergy shots may be recommended.

Cats can experience stress and anxiety just like humans, and they will display their anxiety in a number of different ways.  Behavior that indicates anxiety include: excessive grooming or not grooming at all; refusing to eat; aggression, hiding and pacing; excessive meowing; chewing inedible objects like cloth; and not using the litter box.  Some of these behaviors can also indicate illness.  It is therefore important to rule out medical conditions with your veterinarian.  Once kitty is given a clean bill of health, you must work on determining the source of the stress and anxiety, and work on ways to alleviate the problem.

Heartworm can be deadly to dogs, cats and ferrets. A single mosquito carrying the disease can enter your home and infect your pet. Please discuss preventatives with your veterinarian.

Lilies are highly toxic to cats, and if ingested, can cause kidney failure and certain death.  Keep your home free of lilies, and take your cat to the veterinarian immediately if you suspect it has eaten a piece of the plant or ingested the vase water.

Think carefully before bringing home a live "Easter Rabbit" as a pet.  Rabbits require a 10 year commitment, and many end up being abandoned outside or given up to shelters. Rabbits make wonderful pets for the right home.  Visit Petfinder.com for adoptable rabbits and research their care before bringing one home.

With Spring around the corner, it’s time to think about protecting your dog from ticks and Lyme disease.  Infected adult ticks are the most common source of Lyme disease infection for dogs, and it manifests primarily as acute or sub-acute arthritis.  Symptoms are sudden lameness, signs of severe pain, fever, and depression.  Dogs do respond well to antibiotic treatment, and complete recovery can be expected in many cases.  Please discuss tick protection with your veterinarian.  If you suspect your dog has contracted Lyme disease, take him to your vet for the proper diagnosis and treatment.

If your house cat is showing signs of aggression, the first step to determine the root of the problem is to take him to your veterinarian for a complete physical examination.  Medical conditions that can contribute to aggressive behavior include: dental disease, painful arthritis, central nervous system disorders and hyperthyroidism.  Once any medical conditions are ruled out, you can move on to determine what conditions in kitty’s environment are troubling him.  Contributing factors could be unfamiliar stimuli (people, other pets), unpleasant experiences (trip to the vet), or territory control issues.  Pay attention and be patient with kitty.  You can sort out the problem and eventually correct the behavior.

True food allergy is not very common in dogs and cats, according to Donna Spector, DVM, DACVIM. In her article for Halo, Dr. Spector points out that food allergies account for only 10% of all pet allergies.  Flea allergy and environmental allergies (called atopy) are a much more common cause of itchiness and skin problems in pets.  The only way to truly diagnose a food allergy is to perform a food trial with your pet. You must work closely with your veterinarian when performing the trial to ensure a proper diagnosis.

Cats diagnosed with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) can still live long, happy lives with the proper care. Only 1.5 to 3 percent of healthy cats are infected with FIV in the USA.  The virus is mainly transmitted through bite wounds. Casual, non-aggressive contact does not appear to spread FIV amongst cats in the same household, and the virus does not transmit to humans.  Keep your FIV kitty indoors; feed him high-quality food; supply him with toys, love and attention; and take him to the veterinarian for regular check-ups.  He can remain stable for years with the proper care.  It is the secondary infections due to his impaired immune system that later become responsible for many of the diseases associated with FIV.

The proper selection of a scratching post for your indoor cat will not only save your furniture from destruction, it will give your cat a positive outlet to satisfy his natural instinct to scratch.  Cats should not be deterred from scratching.  They scratch in order to remove the dead outer layer of their claws; they scratch to stretch their bodies while flexing their feet and claws; and they scratch to mark territory.  A good choice is a scratching post made with sisal rope.  Experiment with vertical and horizontal type posts, and watch what your cat prefers to use.  Provide your feline friend with what he needs, and you will both live much happier together.

Dogs bark to communicate.  But have you ever really listened to his bark to determine what he is trying to say?  His tone will change based on whether he misses you, is not feeling well, is alerting you to danger, or trying to get attention to play.  K9 Magazine published 10 Dog Barks Translated to help you determine what your dog is trying to say.

It is important to groom your dog regularly in the winter in order to keep him properly insulated.  Consider a sweater or coat for your short-haired or course-haired friend. Long-haired dogs have a different problem.  Excess hair around their toes and foot pads make it harder to remove snow and clean their pads, so trimming excess hair is essential. Be extra careful if you do it yourself, and consult a groomer for proper procedures.

Cats can catch colds just like people.  The medical term is feline upper respiratory disease and is caused by a virus.  If your kitty displays any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian as treatment is in order: excessive sneezing; nasal discharge; ocular discharge; ulcers on the eyes, nose or in the mouth; fever; loss of appetite; open mouth breathing with congestion. 

There are several factors that affect your cat’s hair growth and shedding cycle.  These include breed, age, nutrition, temperature and sunlight.  Shorter daylight hours influence the growth of a heavier undercoat, especially if the cat is living outdoors.  Indoor cats are exposed to artificial light, and therefore their brains lose track of seasonal sunlight patterns that affect the hair growth and shedding cycle.  An indoor cat will tend to shed hair throughout the year rather than seasonally.

The size of your guinea pig’s cage should be determined by the number of pets in the cage.  Each guinea pig should have room to sleep and groom by themselves in a clean area.  Make sure there is room for toys and a place for each to hide.  Also make sure their home is placed away from direct sunlight and drafts.  Extremes in temperature can be harmful to your pets.

Cats are masters at hiding pain. In order to assess how a cat is feeling, one must be observant of their body language and note any changes in behavior.  According to Dr. Karas, DVM at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the key turns out to be not so much what a cat is doing, but what he is no longer doing. Please let your veterinarian know if you notice significant changes in jumping, running, playing or energy level. Your cat may be suffering from a condition that only your veterinarian can diagnose.

Never leave your pet behind in the case of an emergency evacuation.  Make sure your evacuation plan is in place well ahead of time and you are fully prepared on how to transport your pet in the case of emergency. Find out more on the American Red Cross website.

Many foods that people enjoy eating are very dangerous if ingested by pets.  Foods include chocolate, Macadamia nuts, and avocados. If you suspect your pet has eaten a food on the dangerous list, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the humane and effective approach for stray and feral cats. Now in practice for decades in the United States after being proven in Europe, scientific studies show that Trap-Neuter-Return improves the lives of feral cats, improves their relationships with the people who live near them, and decreases the size of colonies over time.

A dog’s shedding is influenced by light and temperature fluctuations, according to Dr. B. Sweeney. Dogs that live outside are subjected to nature’s cycle of natural sunlight and will shed heavily in the spring before the summer heat sets in.  Indoor dogs tend to shed year round in smaller amounts because they are exposed to a more constant temperature and consistent light source.  A dog's shedding cycle may also change as the pet ages or becomes sick, so it is wise to pay attention to any changes in cycle and contact your veterinarian for advice.

Puzzle toys are fun for both dogs and cats.  The toys give your pet a mental workout and a way to focus energy, especially while indoors.  Cats and dogs do get bored without enough stimulation or play, and many times a behavioral problem can be reduced or avoided by adding puzzle toys to your pet's exercise routine.

Taurus Tips Archive

Medical Disclaimer: All advice offered on this website is general, and Gemini Universal is not responsible for any problems arising from the use or misuse of the information. Since each animal and each situation is unique, we recommend that you contact your family veterinarian or animal emergency center for help with any health or behavior problems with your pet. All pets and farm animals require regular veterinary care, and there are wildlife management centers with expertise in the care of injured animals.