Tips & Training

Beyond Belly Rubs and Bowls of Food

Keep your pet happy, safe and healthy with these training tips...


  • Rabies Vaccine
  • DA2+CPV+CV/VANGUARD 5-Vaccination that protects against CanineDistemper, Adenovirus Type 2, Puppy Parainfluenza, Parvovirus, and Coronavirus.
  • CPVVB-Bordatella Vaccine- Protects against Kennel Cough and upper respiratory infections.
  • Fecal exam and de-worming if necessary Heartworm Test- (Blood test)- for all dogs six months or older

*Dogs should be on heartworm preventative spring through fall, if not year round.

*Highly recommended: Microchipping- for easy identification

Dog-to-Dog Introductions

Animals that live in groups, like dogs, create a hierarchy in the pack to establish dominance. This hierarchy maintains order, reduces conflict, and promotes cooperation among pack members.

To introduce your resident dog to your new dog:

  • Choose a neutral location away from your yard or house (anything your dog considers its territory).
  • Use two people with each dog on a leash.
  • Let the dogs sniff. It is a common canine greeting. Use positive reinforcement and praise them as they sniff nicely.
  • Do not let them sniff for prolonged periods of time, as this may escalate to an aggressive response.
  • Be aware of body postures. A play bow is an invitation to play where the dog’s front legs are bent and on the ground and its rear legs are fully extended.
  • Mounting, “standing over” a dog by placing paws on other dogs neck or shoulders, lip licking, or rolling onto their back are all behaviors associated with establishing dominance.
  • When dogs are tolerating each other’s presence, you can take them home Canine Rivalry.
  • Canine rivalry occurs when instability exists in the hierarchy, when the ranking of each dog is not clear.
  • Do not attempt to influence the dogs’ rankings. The social hierarchy is dynamic and complex. The dogs should be allowed to determine control of resources, such as toys and favorite sleeping place, amongst themselves.
  • Most importantly, MAKE SURE YOU ESTABLISH YOURSELF AT THE TOP OF THE HIERACRHY. Control all the resources, and if your position as leader is clear, it will help the dogs sort out their lower places in the social structure.

Ongoing canine rivalry can be dangerous for both the animals and the humans involved. Seek professional help from an animal behaviorist who is trained to observe, interpret, and modify animal behavior if the problem continues.

Dog-to-Cat Introductions

The introduction process

Step one: Separate the animals

  • Across a few days, rotate which animal has freedom and which is confined so both can have plenty of time to investigate each other’s scent.
  • Crate the dog or confine him/her to a room- if the dog excessively digs at the separation barrier or barks at the cat for more than a day or two, the introduction most likely will not work without proper training.
  • When no one is home, the dog or cat must be securely confined so unsupervised interactions are not possible.
  • Once the dog and cat are calm, and the cat is eating and using the litterbox normally, then you can move to the next step.

Step two: Make leashed introductions

  • Allow both animals to be in the same room at the same time, but keep the dog securely leashed.
  • Continue with this introduction until the dog is calm and ignores the cat, and the cat is calm, eating, and using the litterbox normally.
  • If there’s any fear or aggression displayed on either animal’s part, stay at step two a little longer.
  • Continue indefinitely until dog and cat seem happy and relaxed around each other.
  • When no one is home, the dog and cat should be securely confined to separate areas so unsupervised interactions are not possible.

Step three: Allow unsupervised interactions

  • Unsupervised time together can occur after the cat and dog have been supervised around each other for a significant period of time (a month or so) and you are positive they will not hurt each other.

Body Language Guide

See our body language guide

House Training Tips

Housetraining a puppy takes patience, time, vigilance, and commitment. Follow these guidelines below to reduce the frequency of accidents. Remember that accidents will occur with your new puppy, and can also occur with your new shelter dog. The dogs have not been allowed to follow a consistent routine living at the shelter, thus their concept of eliminating outside is limited.

Establish a routine

  • Your puppy/dog will do best on a consistent schedule.
  • Choose a designated bathroom spot outside, close to the door.
  • Take your puppy/dog for a walk or play before they eliminate so he/she associates good things with going to the bathroom.
  • Say a phrase like “go potty” while they are eliminating so that in the future you can use the phrase to remind them what he/she is supposed to do.
  • Praise your puppy/dog lavishly for eliminating outside.
  • Put your puppy/dog on a regular feeding schedule.
  • SUPERVISE your new puppy/dog. Do not allow him/her a chance to go in the house. If you see sniffing and circling, take them out immediately.

If your puppy/dog goes potty in the house

  • If you catch your puppy/dog in the process of going to the bathroom in the house, make a loud noise to stop him/her. Take him/her to the bathroom spot outside and let them finish eliminating there.
  • If you’re too late and there’s already a mess, just clean it up. Put the soiled rags or paper towels in the appropriate bathroom spot.

DO NOT EVER PUNISH YOUR DOG FOR ELIMINATING. DO NOT EVER RUB YOUR PUPPY/DOG’S FACE INIT OR SCOLD HIM/HER. This will only make your animal afraid of you or afraid to eliminate in your presence. If you do not correct your animal while they are in the process of eliminating, they will have no clue why you are disciplining them.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is panic response dogs exhibit when they are left alone. Common behaviors of separation anxiety are digging and scratching at doors in an attempt to reunite with owner, destructive chewing, howling, barking, whining, or urination and defecation (even with otherwise house-trained dogs).

How to treat separation anxiety

  • Do not make arrivals a big deal. Ignore your dog for the first few minutes, and then calmly start petting him/her.
  • Leave behind an article of clothing, preferably something unwashed that smells like you.
  • Establish a safety que that is one word or action which you will use every time you leave to reassure your dog you’ll be back.
  • Consider using an over-the-counter calming product that may reduce fearfulness in dogs.

How to handle a more severe problem

  • Confine loosely, rather than strictly. A small room with a window and distractions rather than a crate.
  • Provide busy toys.
    Have unwashed laundry to lend a calming effect.

What NOT to do

  • Punishment -The destruction and house soiling that often occur aren’t your dog’s revenge for being alone; they are part of a panic response.
  • Another dog -Separation anxiety comes from not being with YOU.
  • Crating -Dogs with true separation anxiety will still engage in anxiety responses. He/she may urinate, defecate, howl, or injure themselves in an attempt to escape.
  • Radio/TV noise -Leaving the radio or television won’t help (unless the radio or TV is a safety cue).
  • Obedience training -While always a good idea, separation anxiety is not a result of disobedience or lack of training, therefore it will not help with this issue.

What to do in the meantime

  • Ask your vet about drug therapy. Anti-anxiety drugs can be prescribed to reduce your dog’s anxiety levels.
  • Take your dog to doggie daycare.
  • Leave your dog with a friend or family member.
  • Take your dog to work with you, if possible.


Vaccines for Cats

Rabies Vaccines

RCPC- Vaccination that protects against feline Rhinotracheitis, Panleukopenia, and Chlamydia Peittaci

Fecal Exam and deworming if necessary
Ear Mites- Check and treatment if necessary

Highly Recommended- Microchipping for easy identification

Cat-to-Cat Introductions

Cats, unlike dogs, are solitary animals. Cats in the wild possess their own territory which they protect from other cats that will potentially hunt their prey and use their resources. So it’s only natural that your resident cat would be weary of a newcomer entering their territory. Here are some easy steps to introducing your new cat to your resident cat successfully.

Days 1-5

  • Keep your new cat in a quiet, separate room equipped with food, water, litterbox, bedding, and toys.
  • Feed new and resident cat on either side of newcomer’s door so that they associate something positive—eating—with each other’s presence.
  • After a few days, prop the door open just enough to allow the cats to see each other while eating.
  • Switch bedding between newcomer and resident cat to allow them to investigate each other’s scent.

Days 6-9

  • When the new cat is eating and using the litterbox regularly, let him/her explore the house while your resident cat is confined to the newcomer’s room. This “territory switch” lets the cats get familiar with each other’s scent without meeting face to face.

Days 9-11

  • Put the new cat in a carrier, in its room, and allow the resident cat and newcomer to sniff each other through the carrier door. Allow them to do this for five minutes at a time.

Days 12-14

  • Allow both cats to roam freely.
  • Supervise to break up any incidents.
  • Mild hissing, spitting, and growling is normal.
  • If a fight breaks out, DO NOT interfere. Throw a towel over each cat, pick them up, and separate them.

Generally cats will learn to tolerate each other’s presence. Contact a professional animal behavior specialist if problems continue.

Dog-to-Cat Introductions

The introduction process

Step one: Separate the animals

  • Across a few days, rotate which animal has freedom and which is confined so both can have plenty of time to investigate each other’s scent.
  • Crate the dog or confine him/her to a room- if the dog excessively digs at the separation barrier or barks at the cat for more than a day or two, the introduction most likely will not work without proper training.
  • When no one is home, the dog or cat must be securely confined so unsupervised interactions are not possible.
  • Once the dog and cat are calm, and the cat is eating and using the litterbox normally, then you can move to the next step.

Step two: Make leashed introductions

  • Allow both animals to be in the same room at the same time, but keep the dog securely leashed.
  • Continue with this introduction until the dog is calm and ignores the cat, and the cat is calm, eating, and using the litterbox normally.
  • If there’s any fear or aggression displayed on either animal’s part, stay at step two a little longer.
  • Continue indefinitely until dog and cat seem happy and relaxed around each other.
  • When no one is home, the dog and cat should be securely confined to separate areas so unsupervised interactions are not possible.

Step three: Allow unsupervised interactions

Unsupervised time together can occur after the cat and dog have been supervised around each other for a significant period of time (a month or so) and you are positive they will not hurt each other.

Litterbox Tips

Most cats have a preference of where they want to eliminate. By following the suggestions outlined inthis handout, you’ll be able to start off on the right foot with your new cat.


People are inclined to put the litterbox out of the way to minimize odor and loose particles of litter in the house. Often this leads to the box being placed on a cold basement floor near loud appliances or a furnace. These locations for the litterbox may be undesirable to your cat. The litterbox should be in a spot that affords your cat some privacy, but is also conveniently located for him/her.

Type of Litter

Cats generally like fine-grained litters because they have a softer feel. However, high-quality, dust-free, clay litters are relatively small-grained and may be perfectly acceptable to your cat.

Number of Boxes

The number of litterboxes you have should be the equal to the number of cats you have. Then, if the box is ever being occupied, another one is available. If you have multiple levels in your house, it is wise to put a litterbox on each level also.

If your cat is not using the box

  • Rule out medical problems - Cats with UTIs will avoid the litterbox because they associate the it with pain.
  • Clean soiled areas - Animals are highly motivated to keep soiling in an area that smells like urine and feces.
  • An aversion to the litterbox - Your cat may decide the litterbox in an unsuitable place to eliminate in if:
  1. The box is not clean enough
  2. Has experienced painful urination or defecation in the box
  3. Has been startled by a loud noise while using the box
  4. Has been ambushed in the box by another animal or child
  5. Associates the box with punishment

What you can do

  • Keep the litter box extremely clean.
    Add a new box to a different location.
    Make sure the box isn’t near an appliance.
    If ambushing is a problem, create more than one exit from the litterbox.
    If you have multiple cats, provide a litterbox for each cat.

Preventing Destructive Scratching

Why do cats scratch?

Cats will scratch to:

  • Remove dead outer layer on claws.
  • To mark territory by leaving visual mark and scent. Cats have scent glands on the pads of their paws.
  • To stretch their bodies and flex their feet and claws.
  • To work off energy.

The answers to the following questions will help you determine your cats scratching preferences:

  • Location-Where does your cat like to scratch? Objects close to sleeping areas, or entrances to a room are popular places.
  • What texture do they have?-Are they soft, coarse, or carpeted?
  • What shape do they have? - Are they horizontal or vertical?
  • How tall are they? At what height does your cat scratch?

Provide your cat with acceptable scratching objects

  • Rope-wrapped posts
    Corrugated cardboard logs
    Carpeted cat trees

Cover inappropriate objects with materials your cat will find unappealing

  • Double-sided sticky tape
    Aluminum foil
    Sheets of sandpaper
    Plastic runners with pointy side up

NEVER PUNISH YOUR CAT FOR SCRATCHING. It is a natural behavior for them. Discipline with only be effective if you catch your cat in the act of scratching, stop them, and then provide them with something acceptable to scratch.

The Fearful Cat

Your cat might be feeling a little shy when you first bring him/her home. Threatened cats typically respond in three ways: flight, fight, or freeze. The tips listed below will help you understand your new kitty as he/she is getting comfortable.

Your cat may show the following behaviors when he/she is fearful:

  • Hiding
    Aggression (spitting, hissing, growling, piloerection, swatting, biting, scratching).
  • Loss of control over bladder/bowels.
    Freezing in place.

The urge to comfort your new cat is normal; however it is not necessarily the best thing to do from your cat’s point of view. It is common for cats to feel insecure and fearful in a new environment. Your cat will probably hide for the first few days after you bring him/her home. Keep in mind that just because you know the person or animal approaching has good intentions doesn’t mean your cat feels safe.

If your cat is still feeling fearful after a few days:

You will have to investigate to determine the trigger of your cat’s fearful behavior. The trigger for fearful behavior could be anything. Some common triggers are:

  • A particular person
  • A stranger
    A child
    Loud noises

What you can do:

  • First schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes for yourcat’s fearful behavior. Common symptoms that your cat is ill are: aggressiveness, hiding, and eliminating outside the litterbox.
  • If your cat is healthy but hiding, then leave him/her alone. Your cat will come out when he/she is ready. Forcing him/her to come out will only make them more fearful. Make sure that food, water, litterbox, and bedding are all accessible to your cat’s hiding spot. Check to make sure the cat is using the litterbox, eating, and drinking.
  • Keep any contact with the fear stimulus to a minimum.
  • Introduce the fear stimulus at a distance, while feeding your cat tasty treats and praising him/her.
  • Slowly move the fear stimulus closer, while praising him/her and giving treats.
  • If at any time during the process, your cat shows fear, then stop immediately and start from the beginning.


A Guide to Basic Bunny Behavior

Bunny hop or dance - A sign of pure joy and happiness. The bunny’s “dancing” can include leaping, spinning, and racing around.

Bunny flop - A bunny flop is very comical and indicates a content, tired bunny

Chinning - Rabbits rub their chins (which contain scent glands) on items to get their scent on them. This behavior indicates that the items belong to them and also defines their territory. The scent is undetectable to humans.

Thumping or stomping - The bunny is frightened, mad, or sensing danger (real or imagined).

Teeth Grinding - Rabbits mays softly grind their teeth when they are content (such as when you’re petting them). Loud teeth grinding, however, can indicate that the rabbit is in pain or is ill. Take your bunny to a vet if you hear loud teeth grinding.

Circling your feet - This usually indicates sexual behavior (even when your rabbit is neutered) but basically means “I love you.”

Playing - Rabbits like to push and toss objects around. They may also race madly around the house; jump on and off the furniture, and act like children who have had too much sugar. Rabbits love toys and will play with a favorite toy for hours.

Grunting - If your rabbits grunt, it means he/she is angry and possibly feels threatened. Grunting sometimes is followed by a nip or a bite. Some rabbits do not like when their cages are rearranged as you clean. They are creatures of habit, and once things are just right, they like them to remain that way.

Nipping/biting - A nip is gentler than a bite. A rabbit might nip to get your attention or to politely ask you to move out of their way. Rabbits generally do not bite, but if one does it does not mean he/she hates you. Rabbits can bite if you grab him/her by surprise. Your rabbit might accidentally bite while tugging at your pant leg. Lastly, a rabbit might bite because they have poor vision, and could mistake your finger for a predator.

If your rabbit bites let out a shrill cry. Your rabbit does this when they are hurt. Since it was probably not his/her intention to hurt you, they will stop the behavior immediately.

Spraying - Unneutered males will mark female rabbits and their territory with urine. Unspayed females can also indulge in this behavior.

Territorial droppings - Droppings that are not in a pile, but scattered about, are signs that this territory belongs to your rabbit this behavior occurs when the rabbit enters a new territory or another bunny enters the home.

Shrill scream - This is an indication that your rabbit is hurt or dying. Please seek immediate medical attention.

10 Facts about Rabbits

Ten fun facts about rabbits that will prepare you for your journey with your new companion!

  1. Rabbits may live eight to twelve years, so make sure you are ready for that kind of commitment.
  2. Rabbits need daily care. If they are not handled gently and often, they may not be comfortable
    with being picked up and cuddled.
  3. Rabbits love the company of other rabbits. If you have one bunny, think about getting him or
    her a companion.
  4. Rabbits are intelligent and curious, and consequently a bored rabbit can be a destructive and
    unhappy rabbit. Digging and chewing are among their favorite pastimes, so whether he/she is
    inside a cage or out, your rabbit needs plenty of toys to keep busy.
  5. Rabbits have fairly delicate digestive systems; to obtain necessary nutrients, they must be fed a
    varied diet
  6. Rabbits prefer gentle, quiet environments so they may not fit in well with a hectic family life and
    rowdy pet dogs and cats.
  7. As with any family pet, your rabbit will need to see a vet for regular checkups.
  8. Rabbits should also be spayed or neutered to make them happier, healthier pets. Rabbits can be
    taught to use a litter box, especially if they are spayed or neutered.
  9. To control the temperature of the environment and to keep them safe from predators, rabbits
    should be kept inside.
  10. If kept outside, rabbits must be in a predator-proof area and must be kept cool during hot
    weather. They must not be able to dig under fences and they need to be protected from air attacks by birds, not to mention all the other predators.

Vaccines for Rabbits

Myxomatosis Vaccine - all rabbits, including indoor rabbits should receive their first vaccines beginning at six weeks old. An annual booster shot is required.

Myxomatosis causes swelling which makes it difficult for your rabbit to eat, drink, or see.

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) Vaccines - the VHD vaccine is first given at 10 weeks old. An annual booster shot is required.

VHD has no obvious symptoms and causes internal bleeding. Most animals die quickly of the disease with no obvious signs of illness

Rabbit Diet

Contrary to popular belief, rabbits eat more than just carrots and lettuce! Here’s a list of some other tasty, delectable foods your rabbit will love!


Hay is the primary source of food for the wild cousins and ancestors of the domestic rabbit. It should be provided around the clock, which is called “free-feeding” for your rabbit to graze on. Rabbits under one year can be fed alfalfa hay, but as they get older should be switched to grass hay—timothy, orchard grass or a blend of grasses—especially if they are also being fed alfalfa pellets.


Rabbits count herbs and veggies among their favorite foods. Most greens found at the supermarket are safe for rabbits with a few exceptions. Feed carrots and vegetables in the cabbage family like broccoli once a week. NEVER FEED YOUR RABBIT POTATOES, CORN, BEANS, SEEDS, OR NUTS. They are difficult for your rabbit to digest and can cause serious digestive problems. Some yummy suggestions are carrot and radish tops, broccoli leaves, kale, endive, red, green, and romaine lettuce, and dandelion greens. Rabbits love fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, basil, parsley, and dill. Rabbits can eat fruit, but feed only two tablespoons a day as it is very sugary.

Feed your rabbit a cup for every 3-4 pounds of the rabbit’s weight daily.


Rabbits under a year can be free fed alfalfa pellets. As they age, the amount of pellets to feed in one quarter to one third cup per 4-5 pounds of the rabbits weight. As rabbits reach their senior years the amount of pellets may need to be increased.

Safety & Prevention Tips

Cold Weather Safety

Keep all cats indoors. Cats kept indoors live longer and healthier lives than those that go outside. Outdoor cats have an average lifespan of 2 – 4 years while indoor cats live 14 – 16 years on average. Winter conditions pose a threat to your cat’s health beyond the diseases, cars, and wildlife that already endanger them.

Never let your dog off lease on snow or ice because dogs can easily lose their scent trail and get lost. Make sure your dog is always wearing ID tags, especially in winter months when more dogs are lost than any other season.

Wipe your dog’s legs and belly when they come indoors to remove any ice, road salt or antifreeze. Ice stuck between their paw pads can cause pain or bleeding.

Make sure your dog is completely dry after a bath before they are allowed outside. Never shave down a long-haired dog in the winter as their long fur keeps them warm and consider getting a coat for short-haired breeds.

Just as in summer months, don’t leave your pet alone in the car during winter weather. Extreme cold temperatures can be just as deadly as extreme heat.

Puppies are not as resistant to cold temperatures as adult so housebreaking may be more difficult in the winter months. Consider paper trainer your puppy if he is sensitive to the cold. Consider a dog’s age, breed and health when deciding how much time they should spend outside.

If your dog loves to play outside in the winter, increase his food and water supply because keeping warm requires a lot of energy. Make sure your dog gets plenty of protein in his diet to keep his coat thick and warm.

Avoid Antifreeze leaks and spills as it is a deadly poison. Make sure it is stored out of reach of your pets. Use antifreeze made with propylene glycol since it is not harmful if swallowed in small amounts.

Dog Bite Prevention

Kids can be empowered to prevent dog bites by learning how to act safely around dogs. The ASPCA reports that 50 percent of all children will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday. Even the friendliest, sweetest dog may bite if it feels threatened, scared, or too excited. Most dog bites are from a pet, a neighbor’s dog, or a friend’s dog.

Talking about the Dos and Don’ts below with your child, can help them know what to do if they en- counter a strange dog, are frightened by a dog, and what behavior is safe around dogs. This list was developed by West Virginia Extension Service Families & Health & 4-H Youth Development Pro- grams, and American Humane.


  • Ask the dog’s owner if it is OK to pet the dog.
  • Let the dog smell the back of your closed hand.
  • Pet the dog gently under the chin (not on the head).
  • If you see a loose dog, tell an adult right away.
  • Be Calm: take in a quiet voice or whisper (no shouting) and take a “time out” if you feel angry orfrustrated.
  • Be Slow: use slow movements, set things down carefully, and don’t run when you’re around dogsbecause this makes them excited and they may accidently hurt you.
  • Be a tree if a strange dog comes up to you. Stand straight with your feet together. Keep your handsglued to your sides like a tree trunk. Watch your roots grow by staring at the ground. Do not make eye contact with the dog.
  • Be a log if you are knocked down by a strange dog. On the ground, curl into a ball with your legs together. Keep your face down. Cover the back of the neck with your sts. Put your arms over your ears. Stay quiet and still until the dog goes away.


  • Don’t tease dogs: never hit, kick, or bite a dog or pull on its ears, tail, or paws.
  • Don’t stare into a dog’s eyes.
  • Don’t go near dogs chained up in yards.
  • Don’t run or scream if a loose dog comes near you.
  • Don’t touch a dog when it is sleeping, eating, or playing with a toy.
  • Don’t hug a dog.
  • Don’t bother service dogs alone while they are working.

Borrowed from “Family Health Handout: Safety. Be Safe Around Dogs.” Developed by West VirginiaUniversity Extension Service Families & Health and 4-H Youth Development Programs. See the full handout at: Information was also taken from the American Humane


Halloween Safety

Be sure to approach your pets with caution if you or other family members are wearing costumes. Your pet may not recognize you right away and may become frightened by your appearance.

Make sure your pets are wearing identification at all times. Doors are opening and closing constantly for trick-or-treaters and partygoers so pets may slip outside undetected.

Pets should be kept in a quiet, safe place on Halloween. They may become frightened by the presence of strangers, particularly because of scary costumes. Pets stressed by the unusual activity of the holiday can bite out of fear or even become physically ill. Pets should not be taken trick-or-treating. Black cats are particularly vulnerable to tricks and abuse on this holiday and should be kept inside.

Keep candy and holiday decorations out of your pet’s reach. Chocolate, tinfoil, cellophane, candy wrappers and decorations all pose hazards to your pet. Make sure they cannot chew or grab decorations that pose a choking or poison hazard.

Keep candles and lighted decorations out of your pet’s reach. Pets can become burned by exposed flames or knock over candles.

If you decide to dress your pet in a costume, make sure it is not annoying or unsafe. Make sure it does not restrict movement, vision, hearing or their ability to breathe and bark. Be sure there are no small parts they could chew off and possibly choke on. Pets in costumes should be supervised at all times.

Heartworm FAQs

What is Heartworm?

Heartworm is a potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms that live in the arteries of the lungs and sometimes in the right side of the heart in dogs, cats and other types of mammals. Dogs are most susceptible to infection, but other pets that go outdoors are also at risk.

How do dogs get Heartworm?

Heartworm larvae are transmitted by mosquitoes that have bitten an infected animal. The mosquito ingests Heartworm larvae in the infected blood and passes the larvae to the next animals it bites. It takes a little over six months for heartworm larvae to turn into adult worms. Heartworm can not be transmitted through saliva or other bodily fluids.

What are the symptoms?

Signs of heartworm in dogs include mild, persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after little activity, lack of appetite and weight loss. Signs of heartworm in cats are not as specific and can easily be misdiagnosed as feline asthma or other lung problems. Infected cats may experience vomiting, gagging, difficult or rapid breathing, lethargy and weight loss.

Can Cats get Heartworm?

Cats can get Heartworm, but they are more naturally resistant to it than dogs. Cats that go outside should be on Heartworm preventative. There is currently no product available to cure Heartworm in cats. Cats are often able to clear the infection themselves, but often experience a life-threatening shock reaction to the dead worms exiting their bodies. Heartworm prevention is imperative for any animal that goes outside. There are several types of heartworm preventative that are available from your veterinarian. The type you use is not as important as whether you stick to your plan and keep your pet protected at all times. Heartworm prevention in cats is more important than ever since infection in cats has been on the rise and even indoor cats have become infected.

I live in a cold climate. Does that mean my dog is safe?

Heartworm is present in all 50 states, but is most prevalent in areas that have more moisture and mosquitoes present. Living in a colder climate does not mean that your pet will never become infected.

How often should my pet be tested?

The best way to diagnose Heartworm is through a simple blood test at your veterinarian’s office. Dogs must be tested for heartworm before going on preventative because giving preventative to an infected dog can be harmful or even fatal. Since it takes up to seven months for larvae to mature, tests may not appear positive until the heartworms have matured. Animals should be tested for Heartworm annually.

Isn’t it cheaper just to treat the Heartworm than to pay for preventative?

While Heartworm is treatable, the treatment is expensive, potentially fatal, and unpleasant for the dog. It is far more economical and convenient to instead keep your dog and any other pet you allow outdoors on a Heartworm preventative schedule. In dogs, the onset and severity of the infection is dependent on the number of adult heartworms present, how long the dog has been infected, and the activity level of the dog. The more adult worms that are present and/or the more active the dog is often increase the severity of the disease. A less active dog can have more heartworms present and have fewer ill effects compared to a more active dog that may have fewer or the same number of adult worms present.

Can I get Heartworm?

Humans are not natural hosts for Heartworm. There have been a few cases where a human has been infected. According to medical reports over half of infected people only had one or two worms and never experienced
symptoms. Usually, the larvae die before they mature into adult worms and the person's body produces scar tissue around it.

Holiday Safety Tips

Keep Human Food Away from Pets – If you feed your pet a little turkey, make sure it is bone- less and well-cooked. Make sure platters of food are out of reach and that guests don’t leave discarded plates or napkins within reach. Fatty, spicy, and food with bones should not be fed to pets. Avoid giving your pet poultry skin, beef or pork fat. These high sodium, fatty foods can cause in amation of the pancreas.

Other foods to avoid: macadamia nuts, turkey bones, sage, chocolate (all forms), onions, nutmeg, grapes, raisins, moldy or spoiled food, salt, coffee (all forms), products sweetened with xylitol, and sweets. See more information at

Keep Holiday Tree and Decorations Secure – Dangling or stringy decorations are attractive to pets, but can lead to cuts from broken glass, digestive problems or bowel obstructions from ingested parts. Stagnant tree water breeds bacteria and you pet may experience diarrhea, vomiting or upset stomach if ingested. Securely anchor your tree to it is not easy for climbing cats or curious canines to knock it down.

No Tinsel for the Cat – Tinsel is just too shiny and stringy for cats to resist so make sure any used in decorating is well out of your kitty’s reach. If swallowed it can obstruct their digestive tract, create vomiting, dehydration and a potential need for surgery.

Secure, Hide or Cover Electrical Cords – Tape down your electrical cords for lights or other decorations so pets don’t chew them and get an electrical shock.

No Garbage Pickers, Please – Pets love to see if you’ve thrown away something fun, so make sure un- wanted food scraps, gift wrapping, and packaging from opened presents are disposed of safely. Make sure small pieces from toys or gifts are placed out of reach of curious pets. Cooked poultry bones are hollow and break or splinter easily creating a choking hazard or may block or tear intestines.

Supervise Pets around Candles or Open Flame – Pets can knock over lit candles creating are hazard or may burn themselves on open flames. Place candles in stable holders on  at surfaces and put them out when you leave the room.

Beware of Holiday Plants – Mistletoe, Holly, Poinsettias and Lilies are all toxic to dogs and cats and can create nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if eaten. Certain plants affect different animals and breeds differently. See a full illustrated list of toxic plants at

Update Your Pet’s ID Tags and Vaccinations – Make sure your pet’s ID tags and vaccines are current. While this should be done year-round, it’s important during the holidays due busy households. A house full of strangers may stress your pet and they might run out the door or be accidentally let out by a guest.

Put Medications Away – Ask guests to make sure their medications are safely packed away. Even a small dose of pain killers, cold medicine, antidepressants, vitamins, diet pills or other humane medications can
be lethal to pets. See a list of top 10 human medications that poison pets at poison-control/top-10-human-medications-that-poison-our-pets.aspx.

Create a Safe Haven – Place a blanket over a pet crate and put it in a quiet corner of the house or make sure no one goes in the room where your pet hides under the bed. Pets don’t always adapt well to change or too much noise. You now your pet best, so create a plan so they have a comfortable place to take a break from the bustle. This is particularly important on New Year’s Eve during  reworks displays or other noisy celebrations.

Keep Emergency Phone Numbers Handy – Post the phone numbers for your veterinarian, a 24-hour pet hospital and the Animal Poison Control Center (

Garden Hazards for Pets

Top 10 Garden Hazards for your Pets

1. Poisonous Plants - Many outdoor plants are toxic to cats and dogs. Sago Palm and other Cycad Family plants and mushrooms can cause liver failure. Rhododendron, azalea, lily of the valley, oleander, rosebay, foxglove and kalanchoe affect the heart. See a full illustrated list at

2. Fertilizer - Ingesting large amounts of fertilizer can give your pet stomach upset that can result in a serious gastrointestinal obstruction. Follow fertilizer instructions carefully and make sure you wait an appropriate amount of time before letting your pet on the grass.

3. Cocoa Mulch - This mulch smells great and looks fantastic, it’s toxic to dogs. These cocoa bean shells are a by-product of chocolate production and attract dogs with their sweet smell. Depending on how much your dog ingests, like with regular chocolate, they can experience a range of clinical signs - vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, elevated heart rate, hyperactivity or even seizures. Shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark are less toxic alternatives, but dogs should always be supervised where mulch is present.

4. Insecticides - Herbicides, insecticide baits, sprays and granules keep your garden healthy, but are toxic to your pets. The most dangerous are: snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait withzinc phosphide and most forms of rat poison. Always store insecticides out of your pet’s reach and read manufacturer’s labels carefully.

5. Compost - Composting is great for the planet and your garden, but your pets can get their paws on toxic foods in your compost pile. Coffee, moldy food and certain types of fruits and vegetables are toxic to dogs and cats so make sure you keep harmful foods out of their reach. Visit to see a list of toxic people food.

6. Fleas and Ticks - Fleas may cause excessive scratching, hair loss, scabs, hot spots and tapeworms as well as anemia from blood loss in both dogs and cats. Ticks can have similar effects and lead to a complications from tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease. Keep your lawns mowed and trimmed an apply a topical treatment available at any pet store to avoid infestation.

7. Bee Stings - Position plants with sweet nectar (most likely to attract bees) in areas your dog cannot access. For wasp and hornet stings, scrape the area with a credit card to remove venom, pack the area with ice and use an anti-itching cream like calamine lotion or Benadryl cream. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog shows anaphylactic symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing, trembling, chills or collapse.

8. Sharp Decorative Edging - Steel edging is common in garden design to separate sod and mulch or stone. Although a safety cap is available they are not always installed and they can pop off in harsh weather, exposing a sharp edge. If you have steel edging, make sure you install a safety cap or use a roll top edging instead.

9. Escape - We’ve all seen the flyers for lost dogs or cats and maybe felt a little relief our pet is safe at home. It can happen to anyone and you can take some simple measure to prevent escape. If your dog likes to dig, sink chicken wire or chain link horizontally under the fence to prevent burrowing. Also, pounding vinyl lattice two feet down into the ground can help. Make sure your fence is secure and replace missing or loose areas. If your dog is trying to jump at or over the fence to see outside, consider installing a window secured with chicken wire.

10. Sunburn/Sunstroke - Dogs and cats are just as sensitive to heat as people and pets with light skin pigmentation or with little fur are susceptible to sunburn. Dog sunscreen can be purchased from a veterinarian or pet store. Check your dog after sun exposure and contact your vet for treatment of the sunburned area. Your dog may have heatstroke if you notice collapse, heavy panting, drooling, or temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure your dog has plenty of water available and takes breaks from the heat. If you believe your dog has heatstroke, wet his ears and feet to begin cooling him and call your veterinarian immediately.


Hot Weather Hazards: Pets in Hot Cars

How Hot is too Hot

If the outside temperature is above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, a car left in the sun can become an oven very quickly. Any car left in the direct sun, no matter the temperature can heat up quickly.

Despite the risks, staying in the car is not always a death sentence. Parking in the shade in temperatures in the mid-60s is much less of a risk than parking in the sun in the mid-70s. Running into a gas station for 30 seconds with the air conditioning running is not as bad as going into the grocery store for a half hour. A cloudy day is less dangerous than a sunny day. You really have to use your discretion to evaluate the situation and see what your best option is.

When to Call the Police

If the animal in the car is displaying symptoms of heat exhaustion, call the police to report it immediately. Symptoms include:
- Heavy panting
- Dizziness or weaving while walking

- Sudden Collapse - Gasping for air
- Unconsciousness

If you are unsure if the owner is in danger and you aren’t ready to call the police you may consider staying near the car to observe the animal or report it to the store. Be careful about confronting the owner because they may not be educated about the danger to their pet and might become offended and angry.

Lost Pet Tips

Lost Pet Prevention and Pet Recovery

Do you have a plan for your pet?

An unlatched gate or broken collar can turn a fun time outside in the yard to a terrifying search for a lost pet. Bad things can happen to even the most responsible pet owners.

Any family will a four-legged family member should have a plan for
what to do if their pet is lost and know the best methods to follow to get pets back safely.

Always supervise pets while they are outdoors. Pets can be stolen from backyards or jump fences.

Keep ID tags with current information on pets at all times. Make sure your pet is always wearing a tag with your current contact information. If your pet is found, current tags will get your pet home and speed up the process.

Microchip your pets. Collars can break and fall off, but microchips are embedded just under the skin. They are about the size of a grain of rice and are painless. Microchip contact information must also be kept current and pets with microchips should still wear ID tags.

Act fast and be vigilant about locating missing pets. Most animal control facilities and shelters honor a three to five day holding period for stray animals. After that time, an animal is typically put up for adoption or euthanized. Make sure to contact as many places as possible within the first three days.

Email or take a picture and description of the lost pet to all local animal shelters, police stations and veterinary clinics. These are the most common places a person will take a pet they found.

Have proof of ownership available. Most shelters require some form of proof of ownership before they will return a lost pet. Make sure photos of the animal, veterinary records and licensing information is easily accessible at all times.

Tips for finding Lost Pets

General Tips

Make your flyers neon and larger than a standard size piece of paper or people won't notice it.

For skittish dogs or indoor-only cats, consider using feeding stations with baited humane traps to catch the lost pet.

Consider using window chalk to write information about your lost pet on your car windows making a moving sign.

Searching for Lost Dogs

People tend to pull over to help a lost dog so you are usually trying to find the person who found the dog, and not necessarily the dog. Focus on ways to get your dog's information out to as many people as possible.

Dogs with a more fearful temperament may hide for several days before they allow themselves to be seen while a more outgoing dog will likely be picked up by a person right away. If your dog is shy, try searching local areas that make good hiding spots in addition to posting information publicly.

Consider trying to use an "intersection alert" where the pet owner and friends use four giant, florescent "Reward Lost Dog" poster to "market" the lost dog by standing on a street corner, holding the signs. This method is most effective for lost dogs, not cats.

Searching for Lost Cats

People are less likely to try to catch a lost cat than dog. Cats are also more likely to hide in fear if lost, so finding a lost cat involves searching every nook and cranny in the area surrounding your home. Cats don't often travel far on their own when they are lost.

Since cats hide, handing flyers and telling people that your cat is lost probably won't help. You will need to ask neighbors if they will allow you to search around their property for your cat.

Remember that "a panicked cat will hide in silence." Calling your cat's name or rattling a treat bag may not be enough to coax them out of a hiding place. You will have to get on your hands and knees and search. Even confident, outgoing cats will probably hide for several days.

The best advice for people searching for a lost pet is don't give up!

Thanksgiving Safety

Table Scrap Rules If you decide to feed your pet a little nibble of turkey, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. Don't offer her raw or undercooked turkey, which may contain salmonella bacteria. Make sure she doesn’t have any poultry skin, beef or Port fat. These high sodium, fatty foods can cause inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis is a potentially life-threatening condition.

Other Foods to Avoid: Turkey skin, macadamia nuts, turkey bones, sage, chocolate, onions, nutmeg, grapes, raisins, and sweets.

No Bread Dough Don't spoil your pet’s holiday by giving him raw bread dough. According to ASPCA experts, when raw bread dough is ingested, an animal's body heat causes the dough to rise in his stomach. As it expands, the pet may experience vomiting, severe abdominal pain and bloating, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring surgery.

Secure Your Trash Make sure trash is securely tied up and out of reach. Cooked poultry bones are hollow and break and splinter easily. Sharp pieces can be accidentally swallowed and can choke the dog or block and/or tear the intestines.

A Quiet Refuge If you have a house full of relatives at the holidays make sure your pet has a quiet place to get away from the bustle. All of the activity can be stressful, especially if your home is normally calm. You can give your pet a Kong filled with a little bit of turkey and gravy or peanut butter to keep them busy.

Fresh Water Make sure you check your pet’s water bowl frequently.

Candles Beware of where you place candles as these can be especially tempting to cats and kittens. Your pet can be badly injured or knock over a candle and cause a house fire.