Featured Care Guides

10 Household Plants That Are Dangerous to Dogs and Cats

Asparagus fern (also called emerald feather, emerald fern, sprengeri fern, plumosa fern, and lace fern) is toxic to dogs and cats. The toxic agent in this plant is sapogenin—a steroid found in a variety of plants. If a dog or cat ingests the berries of this plant, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain can occur. Allergic dermatitis (skin inflammation) can occur if an animal is repeatedly exposed to this plant.

Anal Sac Disease

Anal sacs are a set of glands that are just under the skin near your pet’s anus. The two glands arelocated at the 4:00 and 8:00 o’clock positions from the anus. The anal sacs fill with a foul-smelling fluid that is normally expressed through a tiny duct when animals defecate. Animals may use their anal glands to mark territory or repell aggressors, although a nervous dog or cat may accidentally express these glands when frightened.

AntifreezeToxicosis

Most antifreeze solutions contain high levels of ethylene glycol, an ingredient that, once metabolized, is extremely toxic to dogs and cats. Pets are often attracted to the liquid because of its sweet taste. Even small amounts can be lethal to animals. A cat that walks through spilled antifreeze and then licks its paws may ingest enough to be fatal. As little as 2.5 tablespoons of antifreeze could kill a 20-pound dog.

Aspirin Toxicosis

Aspirin has been considered a safe and reliable over-the-counter fever and pain medication for decades. Because aspirin is considered very safe, some pet owners give aspirin to their pets. There are also aspirin formulations specifically for dogs. However, high doses of aspirin can be dangerous for dogs and even more hazardous for cats. Aspirin toxicosis occurs when a cat or dog swallows enough of the drug to cause damaging effects in the body.

Avoiding Injury: Tips for Interpreting Signs of Aggression in Dogs

While dogs have been domesticated by people for a long time, it is important to remember that they are still animals with a very strong instinct for “fight or flight” when danger is present. When presented with a threat, many dogs will try to escape; however, some dogs will choose to fight against the danger and may bite in response to the threat. It is important to follow certain safety guidelines when working with dogs to avoid injury for you and your dog. Remember, an adult large breed dog may weigh as much as a person, and all sizes of dogs have sharp teeth that can easily injure a person with minimal effort. In fact, small breed dogs weighing less than 25 pounds are more likely to bite than larger breed dogs.

Barking

Barking is one of several types of vocal communication by dogs. You may appreciate your dog’s barking when it signals that someone is at your door or that your dog needs something. However, dogs sometimes bark excessively or at inappropriate times. Because barking serves many purposes, determine why your dog is doing it before attempting to address a barking problem. Does your dog use barking to get what he or she wants? For example, dogs that get attention for barking often learn to bark for food, play, and walks as well. Therefore, training your dog to be quiet on command is important so that you can teach your dog a different behavior (such as “sit” or “down”) for getting what he or she wants. Dogs of certain breeds and dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered may bark more than other dogs; therefore, it can be more difficult to reduce barking in these dogs.

Brushing Your Dog's Teeth

Periodontal (gum) disease can lead to tooth loss and affects most dogs before they are 3 years old. Bacteria from periodontal disease can spread to affect other organs and cause illness. One of the best ways to help prevent periodontal disease is to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis—daily, if he or she will allow it.

Canine Arthritis

Arthritis is a joint problem that can reduce mobility and cause pain. Often seen in older dogs, arthritis can by caused by injury, infection, the body’s own immune system, or developmental problems. The most common form of arthritis is called osteoarthritis (osteo = bone; arthr = joint; itis = disease) or degenerative joint disease. Normally, joints form smooth connections between bones. Osteoarthritis involves thinning of joint cartilage (a protective cushioning between bones), buildup of fluid within the joint, and the formation of bony growths within the joint. Over time, this can lead to reduced joint mobility as well as pain. Osteoarthritis affects one of every five dogs.

Canine Chronic Otitis

Canine chronic otitis is recurrent or persistent inflammation of the ear. One or both ears may be affected. Inflammation of the ear often leads to secondary infection caused by yeast or bacterial overgrowth. This condition can be quite painful. 

Canine Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is an illness caused by the body’s inability to either make or use insulin, which is a hormone produced and released by specialized cells in the pancreas. Insulin permits the body’s cells to take sugar (glucose) from the blood and use it for their metabolism and other functions. Diabetes mellitus develops when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or when the body’s cells are unable to use available insulin to take glucose from the blood.

Canine Heartworm Testing

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects dogs, cats, and up to 30 other species of animals. It is caused by parasitic worms (heartworms) living in the major blood vessels of the lungs and, occasionally, in the heart. These worms are transmitted (as microscopic larvae) through the bite of an infected mosquito. The scientific name for the heartworm parasite is Dirofilaria immitis.

Chocolate Toxicosis

Toxicosis is disease due to poisoning. Chocolate contains two ingredients that can be toxic to pets—caffeine, and a chemical called theobromine. While dogs and cats are both very sensitive to the effects of caffeine and theobromine, cats are usually not attracted to chocolate, so chocolate toxicosis tends to be less common in cats.

Colitis

Colitis is the inflammation of the colon, which is the last portion of the digestive tract. Under normal conditions, the colon stores feces while absorbing fluid and nutrients. When the colon is inflamed, these functions are affected. Additional fluid is left in the colon, resulting in diarrhea.

Common Household Poisons

Your home can hold a lot of unrecognized dangers for your pet. Many common food items or household products can sicken or even kill animals. However, a few simple precautions can help keep your pet safe.

Corneal Ulceration

The cornea is the thin, transparent covering of cells on the front of the eye. The cells that make up the cornea are very fragile, so anything that rubs, scrapes, or irritates the eye can damage this thin layer of cells or rub some of them off. This is called a corneal ulcer. Corneal ulceration can occur if the eye is irritated by chemicals, dust, or inadequate tear production. Trauma, such as scratching, can also cause a corneal ulcer.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture

Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture is one of the most common orthopedic problems in dogs. A dog’s stifle joint corresponds to the human knee joint, and the CCL is comparable to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in humans. Just as in humans, a partial or complete rupture of this ligament is debilitating and extremely painful, resulting in lameness and joint instability. Untreated, CCL rupture results in additional degenerative changes in the joint and, eventually, osteoarthritis. CCL rupture can occur in any dog. Risk factors include obesity, existing osteoarthritis or instability in the knee, and a lack of proper conditioning for the activity taking place, such as a normally sedentary dog that suddenly begins vigorous play.

Diarrhea

A pet with diarrhea has looser or more watery feces than normal and sometimes more frequent stools as well.

Fecal Flotation and Giardia Test

Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and microscopic intestinal parasites (like coccidia and Giardia) are relatively common in pets, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t cause serious illness. Young, sick, or debilitated pets can even die if they are heavily infected with parasites. If your pet has parasites, accurate diagnosis, including identification of the parasite(s) present, is important to determine the best treatment and help ensure a full recovery. Fecal diagnostic tests, such as fecal flotation and Giardia testing, are an important part of this process.

First Aid and Your Pet

Dealing with an injured pet can be scary and frustrating. In many cases, you don’t know how bad the injury is, and your pet may not be acting normally. If your pet is injured, the first thing you need to do is try to remain calm. If possible, try to determine how severe the injury is, but remember that caution is extremely important when approaching an injured animal. Any pet, no matter how calm or friendly he or she may usually be, can bite or scratch when in pain.

How to Give Your Dog Liquid Medicine

Liquid medications are prescribed to treat a variety of conditions. Some medicines that are usually prescribed as pills or capsules can be changed (compounded) to a liquid for easier administration. If you have trouble giving your dog pills, ask your veterinarian if compounding is possible for specific medicines.

How to Give Your Dog a Pill

Medicines in pill or capsule form are prescribed to treat a variety of conditions, but many dogs dislike taking pills. Some medicines that are usually prescribed as pills or capsules can be changed (compounded) to a liquid or a powder for easier administration. Some medicines for dogs come in a chewable “treat” form. If you have trouble giving your dog pills, ask your veterinarian if compounding is possible or a treat form is available for specific medicines.

How to Tell if Your Dog Is Sick

Despite the adage about a dog’s nose being warm, cold, wet, or dry, any of those signs may, in fact, be normal. Many other signs can give you a better indication of illness in a dog. For example, any changes such as decreases in energy level (e.g., sleeping more), decreased appetite, or weight gain/loss may signal that your dog is not feeling well.

Human Foods That Are Dangerous for Dogs and Cats

A number of human foods are dangerous to pets. Many of these foods may seem tasty to our pets but can prove deadly if eaten. It can be very tempting to offer pets food from the table, but pets should not be given human food unless recommended by your veterinarian.

Ibuprofen and Naproxen Toxicosis

Ibuprofen is the active ingredient in medications like Advil and Nuprin. Naproxen is similar to ibuprofen but is longer-acting; it is the active ingredient in medications like Aleve and Naprosyn. Ibuprofen and naproxen are widely used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation in people. Unfortunately, these drugs can be extremely toxic (poisonous) to cats and dogs. Toxicosis occurs when a cat or dog eats enough of one of these drugs to cause damaging effects in the body.

Keeping Your Pet at a Healthy Weight

Pet obesity has become a very common problem. Studies indicate that nearly 50% of adult dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese, and that percentage increases among older pets. Obesity increases the risk for other serious health problems, including osteoarthritis, diabetes (in cats), heart and respiratory diseases, and many types of cancers. Overweight pets are also at increased risk for complications during anesthesia if they need to undergo surgery or other procedures. And if a pet already has a health condition, obesity makes the problem that much harder to manage. Being overweight can also lower your pet’s energy level and hamper his or her ability to enjoy an active lifestyle with you and your family.

Medical Causes of Weight Loss

Weight loss can result from decreased intake of calories, malnutrition (inappropriate diet), inadequate absorption or digestion of food (leading to malnutrition), or alterations in metabolism that make the body burn more calories than it is taking in. However, weight loss is not always an immediate cause for concern—it can be normal for pets to lose or gain small amounts of weight from time to time. For example, dogs may gain a little weight in the winter due to decreased activity and then lose those extra pounds when the weather warms up and activity increases. In fact, many pets fluctuate within a range of a few pounds on a regular basis.   

Microchipping Your Pet

It is recommended that you identify your pet even if you don’t plan to let him or her go outside. Even “indoor” pets can get out by accident, and many lost pets are never returned to their owners because they have no identification. Collars and tags are popular, effective methods of identification, but they can come off. Microchips, which are implanted just under the pet’s skin, are one way to permanently identify pets.

Polyuria and Polydipsia

Polyuria (PU) and polydipsia (PD) are the medical terms used to describe excessive urination and excessive drinking, respectively. Because these two abnormalities tend to occur together, the abbreviation PU/PD is commonly used.

Pregnancy in Dogs

Pregnancy is the time between conception and birth when puppies develop and grow inside the mother’s uterus. By day 40, the fetus has eyelids, claws, and hair, and the gender is apparent. While toy breeds tend to have smaller litters of one to four puppies, larger breeds may carry as many as eight to 12 puppies. After 56 and 70 days, or about 2 months, puppies are ready to be born.

Puppy Socialization

Socialization is the learning process through which a puppy becomes accustomed to being near various people, animals, and environments. By exposing puppies to different stimuli in a positive or neutral way, before they can develop a fear of these things, owners can reduce the likelihood of behavior problems in the future and help build a stronger bond between pets and the rest of the family. The critical time to socialize a puppy is during the first 3 to 4 months of its life.

Puppy Training

Like children, puppies need to learn the appropriate behavior for living in a household and interacting with others. Puppies also seek positive reinforcement and are willing and able to learn. 

Pyoderma

Pyoderma is a bacterial infection of the skin. It can occur when the skin’s natural defenses break down, allowing common skin bacteria to multiply out of control (called overgrowth). Bacteria from another source may also take hold when given the opportunity. Other organisms, such as yeast and fungal organisms, can take advantage of the skin changes that occur with pyoderma and establish their own infections. Dogs and cats of any age can be affected by pyoderma.

Pyometra

Pyometra is a severe bacterial infection of the uterus that can be potentially life threatening. The condition is most common in older, unspayed female dogs that have never had a litter, but it can occur in any female dog or cat that has not been spayed. In dogs, pyometra is most likely to happen in the first few weeks to months after a heat cycle.

Ringworm

Despite the name, ringworm is not caused by worms, but by a fungus. Most infections in pets are caused by one of three types of fungi, the most common being Microsporum canis. The fungi invade the superficial layers of the skin, hair, and/or nails. Because fungi thrive in moist environments, these organisms are especially persistent in humid climates and damp surroundings.

Rodenticide Poisoning

Rodenticide poisoning occurs when dogs and cats accidentally eat mouse or rat poison. These products contain a wide range of ingredients that differ in potency and effect. In general, most rodent poisons cause one of three effects in animals:   

Selecting a New Puppy

While a puppy can tug at anyone’s heartstrings, choosing a puppy should be more than an emotional decision. All too often, the cute and cuddly puppy that is purchased on impulse is relinquished to a shelter because it grew up to be a large, rambunctious dog. That’s why it pays to do your homework before you even look at a puppy.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a behavior problem in which a dog panics after (and sometimes before) being left alone. Dogs with this problem may vocalize, pace, urinate, defecate, and/or engage in destructive behavior before and/or after their owner leaves. Escape attempts by affected dogs can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around windows and doors.

Spaying or Neutering Your Pet

Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures used to remove the reproductive organs of dogs and cats. Spaying is the removal of the uterus and ovaries of a female dog or cat. Neutering is the removal of a male dog’s or cat’s testicles. These procedures are also sometimes referred to as “sterilizing” or “fixing” pets.

Traveling With Your Dog

Our pets share so much of our lives that many of us don’t want to consider traveling without them. Whether you are flying, driving a car, or RVing, sharing a trip with a pet can add richness to the experience. Proper planning can make the travel experience better and less stressful for you and for your pet.

Trimming Your Dog's Nails

Nail trimming is an important aspect of grooming your dog. Your dog’s nails should be trimmed when they grow long enough to touch the ground when the dog walks. Dogs that aren’t very active might require weekly nail trimming. Dogs that are regularly walked on sidewalks might never need their nails trimmed. Dewclaw nails need to be trimmed because they don’t wear down from walking. Ask your veterinarian or a veterinary technician to teach you the safest way to trim your dog’s nails.

Understanding Pet Food Labels

Pet owners can be passionate about choosing the best food for their pets, but with thousands of pet food products on the market, how do pet owners make the best choice? Pet food labels are a good place to start. Understanding the label information can help pet owners make informed decisions about the food they feed their pets.

Urinary Tract Disease in Dogs

Kidney failure: Acute kidney failure is the sudden loss of kidney function, which may be caused by a number of factors, including decreased blood pressure, toxins such as antifreeze, ureteral or urethral obstructions, and diseases, such as leptospirosis and Lyme disease. If diagnosed early and treated aggressively, acute renal failure may be reversible. Chronic kidney failure is long-term loss of kidney function that cannot be reversed, but treatment may help slow the progression of the disease.

When to Consider Euthanasia

Euthanasia is the painless, humane termination of life. There are times when medical science has exhausted all of its capabilities and euthanasia is the only way to prevent an animal from suffering needlessly. However, the decision regarding when to euthanize is fraught with medical, financial, ethical, religious, moral, and sometimes legal considerations. Euthanasia is therefore a medical procedure that needs to be discussed (however painful that discussion may be) and considered fully before a final decision is made.

Why Do I Need To Vaccinate My Pet?

Companion animals today have the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives than ever before, in part due to the availability of vaccines that can protect pets from deadly infectious diseases. Over the past several decades, the widespread use of vaccines against diseases like rabies has saved the lives of millions of pets and driven some diseases into relative obscurity. Unfortunately, infectious diseases still pose a significant threat to dogs and cats that are unvaccinated; therefore, although vaccine programs have been highly successful, pet owners and veterinarians cannot afford to be complacent about the importance of keeping pets up-to-date on their vaccinations.

Winter Hazards and Your Dog

As the temperatures outside start to get lower and you prepare for colder weather, it is important to also prepare your dog for the winter. Whether your dog lives indoors or outdoors, there are dangers in colder conditions. Your dog’s health, food, and environment all need to be taken into consideration when “Old Man Winter” approaches.

Xylitol Toxicosis

Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is commonly used in sugar-free gum and candy, nicotine gum, toothpaste, baked goods, and chewable vitamins. Xylitol has been used safely in these human products for many years, but it is toxic (poisonous) when eaten by dogs. Xylitol toxicosis occurs when a dog eats enough of the product to cause damaging effects in the body. Currently, xylitol is not known to be toxic in cats. Other artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, are not known to be toxic in pets.

All Care Guides

10 Household Plants That Are Dangerous to Dogs and Cats

Asparagus fern (also called emerald feather, emerald fern, sprengeri fern, plumosa fern, and lace fern) is toxic to dogs and cats. The toxic agent in this plant is sapogenin—a steroid found in a variety of plants. If a dog or cat ingests the berries of this plant, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain can occur. Allergic dermatitis (skin inflammation) can occur if an animal is repeatedly exposed to this plant.

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Acetaminophen Toxicity

Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and some other related medications that are used to treat pain and fever in people. Unfortunately, this drug can be extremely toxic (poisonous) to cats and dogs. Acetaminophen toxicity occurs when a cat or dog swallows enough of the drug to cause damaging effects in the body.

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Administering Injectable Medication To Your Cat

Certain medications, such as insulin, can only be administered by injection. Depending on the formulation and the type of medication, injectable medications can be given by several routes. They can be given through direct injection into a vein (known as intravenous, or IV injection), injection into a muscle (known as intramuscular, or IM injection), or injection directly under the skin – a procedure known as subcutaneous (SC orSQ) injection. It is very important that you understand how your pet’s injectable medication needs to be given; for example, if you accidentally give a medication intravenously instead of subcutaneously, complications can result. Most injectable medications given at home are intended to be given subcutaneously.

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Administering Medications to Your Cat

The first part of successfully administering medication to your cat is to ensure that you understand the instructions for giving the medication. These instructions include route of administration (for example, by mouth, into the ears, or into the eyes), dosing frequency (for example, once daily, every 12 hours, or every 8 hours), duration of treatment (for example, 7 days, until gone), and other special considerations (for example, give with food, follow with water).

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Administering Subcutaneous Fluids to Your Cat

Fluid administration is a regular part of veterinary medical care. Any time that a patient is dehydrated or needs fluids, your veterinarian determines the best way to provide them. Fluids can be given by mouth, injection into a vein (known as intravenous fluids or IV fluids), or injection directly under the skin – a procedure known as subcutaneous fluid administration.

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