Springtime Safety Tips for Pets

Spring has, officially, sprung. For many pet owners, this means long walks outside, patio season, and basking in the sunlight we’ve been deprived of for months. Unfortunately, this warm weather and seasonal change could spell danger for beloved pets, whether they’re indoor-only, outdoor enthusiasts, or travelling with you on vacation. Before embarking on trips and home improvement projects (see what we did there?), take a moment to read through these helpful springtime safety tips. This knowledge could save you a costly trip to the vet.

Don’t Bug Out – Spring means warmer weather, longer days, and a slew of new creepy crawly creatures to entertain Fido and Fluffy. It’s important to keep your pets on prescription heartworm medication, as well as flea and tick treatments, year-round, but this is especially important in the spring months. If Fido enjoys long walks in the woods, or if you’re bringing your pets on an outdoor vacation, be sure to check them for ticks immediately.

Stay Safe with Spring Cleaning – Annual spring cleaning can expose pets to a bunch of harmful chemicals like ammonia, bleach, and chlorine. Even natural cleaning products, in large amounts, can cause stomach problems. If you can, hitch Fido to the tree in your backyard (with some shade, please!) while you’re cleaning. If this isn’t possible, put your pets in a separate room as you work through the house, and be sure to keep them there until all recently cleaned surfaces are dry.

Check Your Screens – Warm weather means tons of sunlight and open windows. However, before throwing open the windows, be sure to inspect your screens and sashes to ensure cats and dogs can’t fall out or escape. Push lightly on your screens to make sure they don’t give, and be sure to check screen doors for holes.

Beware of Poison – Spring marks the official beginning of pest season, and cities, towns, and neighbors like to stay on top of bug and rat control. Unfortunately, this means hidden poisons lurk everywhere. Anything designed to kill a pest can also prove fatal to your pet. Be sure to monitor your pet closely while outside. If you suspect they have ingested something, contact the veterinarian immediately.

Leash Up – When the weather gets nicer, you and Fido will want to spend as much time outside as possible. This is a great opportunity to ensure your leash, collar, and/or harness are all in good shape. Winter weather can wreak havoc on these tough fabrics, so be sure to carefully inspect everything before you head out on that first long walk of the season. It could mean the difference between a safe pup and a lost dog.

Protect from Puddles – Puddles may be fun for splashing, but they can also lead to issues for curious dogs. Don’t let your pup drink from stagnant water sources, like puddles or ponds. This can lead to gastrointestinal issues or, in the most extreme cases, serious health concerns, like Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can cause damage to the kidneys or liver.

Overexposure Dangers – As the days get longer and you spend more time outside, there’s a heightened risk of overexposure to U.V. rays. Even if the temperature is brisk, this sunlight can seriously harm animals – even indoor cats who enjoy sitting in sunny windows. Animals with white coats are ore susceptible to this danger, but no pet is safe from sun damage. Do your best to ensure your pet doesn’t spend too much time in the sun. If necessary, invest in protective clothing to keep them safe during long walks outside.

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A Pet-Friendly Guide to Spring Flowers

Nothing says spring like landscaping crews and kitchen tables adorned with freshly cut flowers. Unfortunately, like many springtime quirks, those beautiful bouquets can prove fatal to your furry friends. If you want to have flowers in your home or garden, be sure to avoid the following blooms.

  • Lilies – All types of lilies are extremely toxic to all pets, and they can be deadly when consumed by cats. All parts of the plant, including the pollen, flower, and leaves, are poisonous. If you own a cat or dog, do not bring lilies into your home. Even rogue pollen can cause a bad reaction.
  • Oleander – This outdoor shrub is popular for its evergreen qualities and delicate springtime flowers. However, the leaves and flowers are extremely toxic. If ingested, they can cause severe vomiting, a slow heart rate, and in the worst cases, death.
  • Daffodils – One of the most popular springtime flowers, the daffodil contains lycorine, an alkaloid with strong emetic properties. This means ingesting the bulb, plant, or flower can cause extreme vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression.
  • Tulips – These flowers contain allergenic lactones. Much of the toxins are located in the bulbs themselves, so do what you can to ensure Fido isn’t digging up flowers in the garden. If the bulbs are chewed or ingested, they can cause vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea.
  • Dieffenbachia – This flower is popular in many homes and offices, but when ingested, it can cause oral irritation, drooling, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing.

Outdoor Dangers

While you can control the plants you keep in your home, you can’t control what your neighbor plants in his yard. Popular lawn flowers, such as azaleas, sago palms, and rhododendrons, are extremely toxic to animals. When you have a spare moment, familiarize yourself with these plants so you can identify them on walks. Additionally, beware of herbicides and insecticides, as well as fresh mulch, which can contain chemicals and toxic levels of caffeine. Put simply, if Fido is chewing on something on your walk, get it out of his mouth ASAP.

This is especially important for pet parents who like to travel with their cats and dogs. While you may be aware of local dangers, bringing Fido into new terrain can pose an additional risk. If you plan to spend a lot of time outside at your vacation destination, brush up on the local flora and identify plants and flowers that could pose a risk.

What to Do in an Emergency

If you think your pet has ingested any of the above plants or garden supplies, make an appointment with a veterinarian immediately. If possible, take Fido or Fluffy to the emergency veterinarian. While your pet may act normally immediately after ingestion, their health can change very quickly once the toxins set in. That said, it can sometimes take days for symptoms to set in, and in most cases, this indicates an irreversible health issue. The only way to ensure you’re in the clear is to get a blood test as soon as possible.

If you suspect your pet has ingested any poisonous plant, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661. Their website is an easy and free way to assess the danger of exposure and if there’s anything you can do to mitigate symptoms on your trip to the veterinarian.

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Cold Weather Pet Travel: Do You Need an Acclimation Certificate?

Many people travel with their pets this time of year, often for spring break. This is often no big deal for cats and smaller dogs, but for larger pets that must travel in the cargo hold, it can be a big problem. When the temperatures dip below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, some dogs will be ineligible for travel, while other dogs will require additional documentation in the form of an airline acclimation certificate.

An acclimation certificate consists of a veterinarian certifying that the animal traveling in cargo can adapt to temperatures below 45 degrees. How much lower? The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service states that veterinarian should indicate on the acclimation certificate the range of temperatures that is safe for the individual animal to travel in. This certificate should also include an upper range. However, most airlines prohibit pet cargo travel when the temperature is above 84 degrees, no matter what the certificate says.

To fully understand the implications for pet travel, the policy for most airlines is that animals are prohibited from traveling when the forecasted temperature is below 45 degrees at either the departure or destination airport. But if the actual temperatures unexpectedly drop below 45 degrees, this type of pet travel may still be prohibited.

The commonsense pet owner may also wonder why these temperature restrictions are in place when the external temperature at cruising altitude is always freezing. Even the cargo holds of airplanes are pressurized and temperature controlled. It’s the temperatures on the ground and the possibility of prolonged delays that create these pet travel guidelines and restrictions.

Federal regulations state that dogs and cats are not to be subjected to surrounding temperatures below 45 degrees for over four consecutive hours while within animal holding quarters of airport terminals. These regulations also restrict contact with these colder temperatures to 45 minutes or less while moving the pet between the airplane and the animal holding vicinity. The airport staff is obligated to protect animals from mixtures of temperature, humidity, and time that could have a negative effect on the animal’s health. Thus, without this acclimation certification, most airlines are unwilling to assume the liability that comes with unexpected delays and unforeseen circumstances.

Will Your Pet Get Approved for an Acclimation Certificate?

The veterinarian will consider all the health factors and characteristics of your pet when conducting an examination and issuing a health certificate. Generally speaking, however, if your pet is known as a cold-weather breed and a reasonably healthy adult, there’s no reason to think a veterinarian would refuse to issue this travel documentation. If you’re wondering about the professional veterinary guidelines for making these determinations and issuing acclimation certificates, we recommend this resource from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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Choosing a Pet-Friendly Hotel

As more and more people are choosing to travel with their pets, many hotels are embracing a pet-friendly option for travel. Choosing the right pet-friendly hotel to stay at is an important factor that should be considered before you embark on a journey with your pet. Consider the following tips before choosing a pet-friendly hotel.

  • Pet-friendly isn’t always what it sounds like. Although the term “pet-friendly” seems upfront, it can be just about anything but. Pet-friendly can mean anything from “We accept all pets” to “We will only accept non-shedding pets or pets less than 10lbs”. To find out exactly what pet-friendly means at any particular hotel, the only way to know for sure is to contact them directly. Even then, we’ve heard stories of hotels telling people one thing and then claiming another policy upon arrival. More often than not, this works in the pet traveler’s favor.
  • Know the unwritten rules. Some hotels are more lenient than their written policies allow, especially if you’re willing to vouch that your pet won’t create a nuisance or damage the room. The most common example is leash policies. Some hotels require that your pet is on a leash at all times. If this does not sound appealing to you, make sure to check beforehand if the hotel enforces this policy.
  • Price. Pet fees vary from hotel to hotel. Some hotels charge no fees whatsoever while other hotels may require you to put down a pet deposit, which may or may not be refundable, and/or pet cleaning fee. At this same time, these pet fees may come with complimentary pet amenities. Maybe they offer free grooming or doggy daycare for business travelers.  
  • Location and Restrictions. Is there an area where you can exercise and walk your dog on the hotel grounds that is away from other guests or busy streets? Is there adequate room for you to enter and exit the building? Some hotels place room restrictions on people who are traveling with pets. Such restrictions may include limiting pets to a certain floor or area of the hotel. However, it is important to note that some hotels may be flexible with this if they are trying to fill rooms.
  • Read the Reviews and Recognize the Scene: Like any product or service, you should look to take advantage of online ratings and reviews from trusted sources. They’re not always easy to find, but we especially recommend looking for forums with past guests and verified accounts. TripAdvisor is a decent place to start. When we visit these sites, we’re looking at the comments to gain a sense of the culture and attitudes of the guests attracted to that pet-friendly hotel. How quiet are other people’s pets? How quiet do people expect your pet to be? How clean and odor-free are the hotel’s pet-friendly rooms? Are there dedicated rooms and floors for pets and pet owners? Do people generally say that the hotel lives up to its policies?

There may not be a silver bullet solution to finding a pet-friendly hotel that fits every occasion and every travelers’ pet. Nevertheless, with a little research and a short list of priorities in what you’re looking for from a pet-friendly hotel, most people can find a viable solution that meets their destination and itinerary as well as their pet travel needs.

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How to Avoid Pet Adoption Scams

We’re going to discuss several things you can do to avoid pet adoption scams, but many of these tips can be boiled down to one golden rule that, when followed, will immeasurably help the decision-making process: Be patient! We know it’s hard. Once you’ve got your mind set on adding a new furry friend to the house, it’s hard not to get inpatient, even to the point of being rash. Rather than click on and jump at the first online ad that shows the kind of puppy you’re looking for, it’s imperative that you do your due diligence in taking a hard look at who you’re contacting and whether or not they are, in fact, a reputable breeder or adoption center. There are a lot of slick schemes and convincing sounding explanations, but unless and until you can actually verify the legitimacy of the breeder or adoption center, don’t make any payments.

Recent News and Information about Pet Adoption Scams

Online pet adoption scams have been a problem for years and don’t seem like they’re going away anytime soon. A couple years ago, the Better Business Bureau issued a report that claimed online and international-based pet adoption scams are much more widespread than initially believed. The report that detailed some of the specific strategies and tactics used by scammers. Many of these operations are based out of Cameroon, but also hire workers in the U.S. to pick up wire payments. Many of these online scams will reel people in with the promise of “free” puppies available with a heart-wrenching story attached. Then, the scammer asks for a simple delivery fee or donation to help an adoption center that turns out not to exist.

Earlier this month, the Oregon branch of the FBI gave advice on its Tech Tuesday segment about how to build a digital defense against pet adoption scams in the midst of ongoing schemes to dupe people who are simply trying to find the perfect pet. Among the many tips they offer, the two that stuck out to us is to never pay with a wire transfer or gift card, and if you’re chatting with someone online, watch out for odd phrasing that may indicate the person is not an English-born speaker.

How to Report or Research the Latest Scams

Needless to say, pet adoption scammers are in a perpetual game of cat-and-mouse with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and other online enforcement entities. Schemes have gotten more elaborate but also more refined. More than just tried-and-true methods for avoiding adoption scams, it doesn’t hurt to know what the latest tactics have been. In addition to general advice and resources, the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (IPATA) provides an online space for people to report pet adoption scams that have happened to them. You can view a list of these scams to be on the lookout in general or to see if a questionable contact is deploying one of these scams.

How to Find a Reputable Breeder

Remember our golden rule for avoiding adoption scams? Check out the first tip that the American Kennel Club (AKC) gives for finding a responsible breeder: “Don’t be put off if a breeder isn’t immediately responsive. Hobby breeders often have full-time jobs and they don’t always have available puppies. Be selective. Find a responsible breeder who is knowledgeable and make sure you’re comfortable with them.”

Other notable tips include recognizing that it’s normal for reputable breeders to inquire about the nature of the pet care you can provide the dog or even sign a contract saying that is the dog is not properly cared for, it can be reclaimed by the breeder. Also, while it has no official regulatory authority, the AKC conducts thousands of inspections each year and keeps tabs on which breeders are following responsible practices. If you have questions about whether a specific breeder is in good standing, the American Kennel Club encourages you to contact them at 919-233-9767 or info@akc.org.

Armed with even basic knowledge of these online pet adoption scams, you can still find a great companion animal online while avoiding these scams. Dog breeding can be cyclical and seasonal, so even if you can’t find the perfect puppy this week, keep looking and you’re bound to find a great pet from a reputable source.

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The Dangers of Solo Pet Travel: Dogs & Cats Need Companions, Too

Did you hear about Fluffy, the cat who was found last week half-buried in a snow bank and half-frozen-to-death? With melted and re-frozen snow-ice caked into her matted fur, she was brought into the Animal Clinic of Kalispell. Unresponsive and with a body temperature too low to register by the clinic’s thermometer, Fluffy was carefully cleaned and de-iced, before being initially warmed by towels, cage warmers, and IV fluids.

Photos from Animal Clinic of Kalispell

She began growling within an hour and was then taken to an emergency clinic where her body temperature was raised in a controlled environment. Miraculously, she was able to go home that same night with her owners, who believe something traumatic happened to prevent the cat from returning home.   

Even if Fluffy wasn’t trying to get Las Vegas for the weekend, this fortunate cat, nevertheless, demonstrates the dangers of solo pet travel. Pets need a travel companion every bit as much as their human owners, and often times more so!

After all….it’s a dangerous business, Fluffy, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Now, we all know the nostalgia factor of adorable pet animals trying to brave the rugged interior of the western United States….but even Sassy knew enough to not let Chance and Shadow try to traverse the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range alone. Whether there’s a deep freeze or not, solo pet travel is not a good idea. If you know a pet who’s thinking about striking out on their own, show them this story. Like small dogs, the best way for outdoor cats to travel long-distances is on a plane.

And, seriously, we’re glad and relieved to hear that Fluffy has made a full recovery is back at home and back to her usual crabby self…even if she’s not sure whether or not she’ll still be roaming western Montana’s beautiful countryside.

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