Category Archives: Pet Safety

Tech Tip of the Month: Helping Pets Deal With Thunderstorm Anxiety

anxious dog resizedMany pets are afraid of thunderstorms. This can manifest in different ways. Some pets just need to be near their owners and get the assurance that everything will be all right. They may freeze, shake, or urinate on themselves or in inappropriate places. Some will run and hide under things– the kitchen table, the covers, or any other place where they think they’ll fit. Still, others absolutely panic, and destroy anything and everything around them trying to get away from the thunder.

Our pets can sense a storm is coming long before we do. They notice the change in the air pressure and may start to react while it is still sunny and nice outside. Since they cannot understand what is happening, they may act as if they believe the world is crashing down around them.

There are a few ways to help them during this time of stress. Ideas can be as simple as sitting with them and reassuring them; this may work for pets with mild anxiety. Playing soft music, encouraging them to play with their favorite toy, or giving treats can also help distract them from the loud, scary, noises. There are shirts and blankets designed to fit your pet very snugly which can reduce anxiety for animals who are moderately afraid. These can be purchased online or at pet stores.

For the most stressed animals, there are medications that will reduce the anxiety caused by the storm; these work best if given well before the stressful event occurs; i.e. before the storm starts. Speak with one of our veterinarians if you believe medication may help your pet. Each pet is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Some may need a combination of techniques in order to adequately manage their anxiety.

What would you do if
…your dog ate the bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips that was left out on the table?
…your cat had a seizure right in front of you?
…your dog fell down the stairs and started limping?
…your cat got into a fight and was bleeding?

I know from personal experience that cats and dogs (and other pets, too) can get into trouble at the drop of a hat and it can be really scary to see them in distress!  So, what can you do to help your pet immediately while getting them ready to go to the veterinarian or emergency hospital?  Just like with humans, there are a couple of steps to take.

1 – Assess the situation.  What has happened to your pet?  Are they bleeding, limping, falling over, vomiting, having trouble breathing, crying?  Once you know the symptoms, you can look to the next step.
2 – Determine what you can do for your pet.  Is there a towel nearby or a first aid kit?  Is there someone else in the house who can help you or can you lift your dog by yourself?  Will your pet be able to walk on its own to the car?  Determine what you can do immediately to give your pet the best chance of making it safely to the veterinarian’s office or emergency facility.
3 – Apply first aid if necessary.  This can be the scary part.  We here at the animal hospital know that when your pet is hurt, they are also scared and may not react well to being restrained or cared for.  Animals may bite, thrash around, run, cry, scratch, or refuse to be touched.  Your pet can also pick up on your fear and anxiety, which may make the situation worse.  Calmly and gently, get a hold of your pet and apply first aid, preferably with the help of another person.  Remember to keep away from the pet’s mouth and face, and keep your motions slow and calm to prevent alarm.

IF YOUR PET IS BLEEDING: Apply a towel or bandage to the site and apply direct pressure for at least 3 minutes to stop the bleeding.  Add towels on top of previous layers if they are soaking through, but do not remove them as it may disturb any clot formation.  For heavy bleeding or severe injuries, 
get your animal to a veterinarian immediately. 
IF YOUR PET IS INJURED: If possible and safe, try to stabilize injuries before moving an injured animal by splinting or bandaging them.  *Keep in mind, however, that a poorly applied bandage or splint can do more harm than good; if in doubt, leave the bandaging/splinting to professionals.  If there is a foreign body in the wound, do not remove it.  If necessary, carefully cut it short without moving it to leave 3-6 inches sticking out before transporting your pet to the veterinarian.  While transporting your injured pet, keep him/her confined to prevent further injury. 
IF YOUR PET IS BURNED: Apply a muzzle to your pet’s snout/face and flush the burn with cool (not cold) water.  Do NOT apply ointments or medications to the burn, as these may agitate the burn further.  Seek immediate veterinary care.  
IF YOUR PET HAS HEATSTROKE: If you cannot immediately get your pet to a veterinarian, move him/her to a shaded area and out of direct sunlight.  Get a rectal temperature with a non-mercury thermometer if possible to determine your pet’s temperature (if it’s over 108, seek emergency care immediately).  Place a cool, wet towel around your pet’s neck and head (do not cover your pet’s eyes, nose or mouth).  Remove the towel, wring it out, then re-wet and rewrap it every few minutes.  Use a hose or faucet or bucket to keep cool water running over the animal’s body (especially the abdomen and between the hind legs). Then, use your hands to sweep the water away as it absorbs the body heat.  Transport the pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible. 
IF YOUR PET IS BITTEN BY A SNAKE: Assume the snake is poisonous and seek veterinary attention immediately.  Try to identify the snake if it can be done without risk; do not attempt to capture or kill the snake.  Do not bring the snake into the veterinarian’s office – a photograph will do.
IF YOUR PET IS POISONED/INGESTED A TOXIC SUBSTANCE: If you know or suspect your pet has consumed something that may be harmful, call your veterinarian, emergency veterinary clinic or the Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435 – available 365 days/year, 24 hours/day; a consultation fee applies) immediately.  If possible, have the following information available: Species, breed, age, sex, weight and number of animals involved; Symptoms, Name/description of the substance that is in question, the amount the animal was exposed to, and how long it’s been since your pet ate it or was exposed to it.  Also have the product container/packaging available for reference.  Collect any material your pet may have vomited or chewed, and place it in a plastic sealable bag to take with you when you bring your animal in for veterinary treatment.  **Do not try to induce vomiting or give any medication to your pet unless directed to do so by Poison Control or your veterinarian.**
– IF YOUR PET IS HAVING SEIZURES:  Clear the area of other pets, furniture, and any other objects that may cause injury.  Do not try to restrain your pet or startle him/her out of the seizure.  Time the seizure (they usually last 2-3 minutes, but can be as short as 30 seconds).  After the seizure has stopped, keep your pet warm and quiet and contact your veterinarian.

And there are a few more that are a bit more scary than 
the previous emergency situations.  These require taking quick action 
and remaining calm.  If you do not feel you can apply first aid, go to 
your veterinarian or the emergency center immediately.

IF YOUR PET IS CHOKING: Choking pets have difficulty breathing, paw excessively at their mouths, make choking sounds when breathing or coughing, and may have blue-tinged lips or tongue.  If your pet can still breathe, keep him/her calm and seek immediate veterinary care.  Look into your pet’s mouth to see if a foreign object is visible.  If you see an object, gently try to remove it with pliers or tweezers, but be careful not to push the object further down the throat.  If it’s not easy to reach, do not try to remove it – get your pet to a veterinarian immediately.  If your pet collapses, place both hands on the side of your pet’s rib cage and apply firm quick pressure, or lay your pet on his/her side and strike the rib cage firmly with the palm of your hand 3-4 times to sharply push air out of their lungs and push the object out from behind. Repeat this until the object is dislodged or until you arrive at the veterinarian’s office.  **However, we highly recommend letting a veterinary professional take this course of action.**
IF YOUR PET IS NOT BREATHING: Open your pet’s airway by gently grasping its tongue and pulling it forward (out of the mouth) until it is flat.  Check the throat to see if there are any foreign objects blocking the airway.  Perform rescue breathing by holding your pet’s mouth closed with your hands and breathing directly into its nose until you see the chest expand.  Once the chest expands, continue administering one rescue breath every 4-5 seconds.  
IF YOUR PET HAS NO HEARTBEAT: **Do not begin chest compressions until you’ve secured an airway and started rescue breathing.**  Gently lay your pet on its right side on a firm surface. The heart is located on the left side in the lower half of the chest, just behind the elbow of the front left leg. Place one hand underneath the pet’s chest for support and the other hand over the heart.  
  • For dogs, press down with quick, firm pressure to depress the chest one inch for medium-sized dogs.  Use more force for larger animals and less force for smaller animals.  For cats and other small pets, cradle your hand around the animal’s chest so your thumb is on the left side of the chest and your fingers are on the right side of the chest, and compress the chest by squeezing it between your thumb and fingers. 
  • Press down 80-120 times per minute for larger animals and 100-150 times per minute for smaller ones (less than 25 lbs).  Alternate the chest compressions with the rescue breaths: perform chest compressions for 4-5 seconds and stop long enough to give one rescue breath.
  • Continue until you can hear a heartbeat and your pet is breathing regularly, or you have arrived at the veterinary clinic and they can take over the resuscitation attempts.
  • Please refer to this infographic of pet CPR for visual reference if it’s easier for you – Saving Your Pet with CPR

Always remember that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care. First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet’s life until it receives veterinary treatment.


I hope you don’t have to use these first aid methods any time soon, but it is very good information to know!  As the Boyscouts say, “Be Prepared!”  I know that I am much better off living at the hospital because all my minions know exactly what to do in case of an emergency situation!  I hope that this information will help you be better prepared for applying first aid to your pets in case of an emergency, too. 
Til next meow,

Good day, humans!  With Fall blustering in and temperatures dropping, you might think it’s ok to stop giving your cats and dogs their Flea & Tick and Heartworm medications.  But it’s not!  If anything, Fall is one of the worst times for fleas and ticks as cooler weather doesn’t kill fleas and ticks!  For example, the cat flea – the most common flea of dogs and cats – hits peak infestation in late summer and fall.  And deer ticks are at their peak during the fall and spring.   Fleas can carry tapeworms and other disease-causing organisms, and ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis!  Mosquitoes, of course, are carriers of the heartworm parasite, a life threatening nematode that can cause severe disease and even death.  Even in areas where residents do not have to worry about mosquitoes during the winter, their return in the spring and summer months can catch you off guard. It is best to be pre-prepared.

Here are a few facts that are worth remembering:

  • Fleas can live outdoors in temperatures as low as 33 degrees for up to five days (long enough to latch onto your dog, come into your home, and relish in the warmth of your living room).
  • Flea eggs can live year round in protected areas such as crawl spaces or porches.
  • Ticks are certainly more active in the late summer and early fall. However, even in the winter, if the temperature exceeds 32-40 degrees ticks will become active again.

So, how do you make sure your pet is protected against fleas/ticks and mosquitoes during the colder months?  The same as with the warmer months: apply Flea & Tick medication to your pet!  There are several brands out there that we recommend and offer at our hospital: Frontline Tritak, Vectra, Bravecto, Revolution, Heartgard, Interceptor, Seresto collars, and Certifect.  Another great product to use is Advantix.  We have had great success with these products and use them on our own pets (including myself!)  (You can see a product comparison chart here and here.) 

Now, we know what you might be thinking – “I don’t want to put chemicals on my pet!”  That’s fine!  Bravecto is a wonderful product that is a chewable tablet and prevents fleas/ticks for 3 months per pill.  Our own veterinarians use it on their pets and it works very well!  You may also be thinking, “I want to try a natural approach/product to flea and tick control.”  Sadly, there really aren’t any.  Over the years, we’ve spent some time looking into the more natural or holistic approaches and as yet there are none that are actually effective.  You can try tea tree oils, peppermint, lavender, garlic, citronella, etc, but they just will not prevent fleas and ticks from attaching and feeding off your pet.  The brewer’s yeast?  All the research shows none of that works.  The ultrasonic devices? The data shows they don’t work.  Also, just because something is “natural” or “organic” that doesn’t mean it’s safe.  Some of the citric extracts used in these “natural” products can be fairly toxic to cats.

There are also ways to protect your home from becoming a hangout for these parasites.  To eliminate fleas and their nesting places outdoors, keep the area surrounding your home clear of debris.  Remove leaf or mulch piles, tall grasses, and brush around the home and at lawn edges.  Separate lawn from surrounding wooded areas with a band of gravel or wood chips to limit tick migration.  Keep the lawn mowed.  Apply pesticides around bushes and shaded areas, as well as near doors and windows.  Keep the areas outside your home dry and free of standing water, which can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Remember that while fleas, ticks and mosquitoes may seem to be merely nuisance pests, they are actually capable of causing severe health problems, from the above mentioned heartworm infection, to skin disorders and infections, to anemia and life-threatening diseases.  These diseases are definitely better off being stopped before they start with a little bit of diligence and preventive products.  Remember to use these medications once every month, year round (unless otherwise specified by your veterinarian)!  As the old saying goes: It is better to be safe than sorry.

Til next meow,


Mason, here!  Talking to you about a very important topic with regard to felines who live outdoors.  We all know the problem with feral cat colonies and cats who live outdoors: a lot of them aren’t spayed/neutered and their population keeps increasing!!  Trap-Neuter-Return (called TNR) is a humane and effective approach for cats living outside.  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.
Trap-Neuter-Return is exactly what it sounds like: Cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian to be neutered and vaccinated, and to have their ears tipped to indicate that they have been neutered and returned to the outdoors.  This practice stops the breeding cycle of cats and improves their lives.   Since most feral cats are not adoptable, they have been trapped by animal control services and subsequently killed in pounds and shelters due to their wild nature and lack of domesticity.  Trap-Neuter-Return helps prevent the need for euthanizing these felines while allowing them to live without adding to the problem of overpopulation.

Our own Dr. Snellgrove and Vet Assistant Elizabeth Board participate in TNR clinics and love talking about their experiences in aiding outdoor felines!

Here, Elizabeth is helping another volunteer to prep cats for surgery. This involves removing hair from the surgical site and scrubbing it clean.

Here, Dr. Snellgrove (in the red top) and another doctor perform neuter and spay surgeries while technicians monitor the patients and stand by to give additional anesthesia if necessary.  The doctors have to work very fast because the felines are anesthetized with injectable medications versus gas anesthesia, to prevent any medical complications.

Don’t worry, this cat is just asleep!  Each cat has an ID number and paperwork that accompanies it, so there’s no worry of getting the animals mixed up.  You may also see animals laid out on trays in preparation for the surgeries – this helps cut down on time that the cats have to stay asleep so the neuter and spay surgeries can be done quickly and efficiently.  

his kitten just had her ear tipped in surgery prep (she’s asleep, too!).  The clamp will stay on through her surgery and be removed in recovery.  Chances are if you see a cat with a clipped ear, it was once an outside cat who has gone through a TNR program and was adopted!

With Trap-Neuter-Return, veterinarian professionals can stabilize the feline outdoor population humanely, improve the cats’ lives, save taxpayer dollars, address neighbors’ concerns, and help the entire community reach a solution that benefits everyone!  If you are interested in helping with Trap-Neuter-Return programs, you can contact Alley Cat Allies or Metro Ferals for more information.  Here at Great Falls Animal Hospital, we work with 4Paws Rescue Team directly to care for their cats and spay and neuter them!

I hope that sheds some light on a very interesting and life-saving practice that we believe in wholeheartedly!  Well, kittens, that’s all for now.  I’m going to snuggle up here and wait for Christmas!

Til next meow,

Mason, here – It has been a while!  I was trying to hibernate through the fall and winter, but these pesky humans who work at the hospital won’t let me sleep; they are continually making noise and looking at other cats and dogs (and let me tell you, I’m not very keen on sharing my space).  So, since it’s now the New Year and my beauty sleep is on forced hiatus, I figured I would share more of my knowledge with you!

Let’s talk about winter, or more specifically, being shut indoors all winter.  It can be very, VERY boring to stay inside all the time with nothing new to do (which is why I was trying to hibernate).  But there are ways you can keep you indoor-bound companions in tip-top shape and their minds sharp as a tack.  I learned long ago that mental exercise can be satisfying to bored, bounce-off-the-wall pups and cats.  Most breeds of dogs were developed to work (like Corgis, Sheepdogs, German Shepherds, and Terriers to name a few), and many dogs today are not expected to fulfill that inherent trait. Giving dogs a job to do is good for them, and they like it! (much unlike cats such as I, who prefer to sleep a lot and keep to themselves).

There are many tricks that you can teach your dog to help them work for their treats, and it also reinforces discipline and good behavior.  I know someone who taught their dog to balance a biscuit on his nose, then flip it into the air and catch it on command. Now that’s a heck of a parlor trick!  He also knows to bark on request, shake hands and even find his plush toys and put them away.  Try starting with a simple game and build on it.  If your dog likes to retrieve, begin with simple in-sight fetching and then slowly make things harder.  Add a “stay.”  Then “hide” the toy in an easy-to-find spot, making the game a little trickier as your pet learns you want him to “find,” instead of merely “fetch.”

Every trick, whether useful or just plain fun, was born on a gloomy winter afternoon.  You can also use search games, where you can hide a toy and ask your dog to find it.  For even more mental stimulation, see if your dog can find the right object by name – Kong, frog, football, and so on.  Such games are to dogs what the daily crossword puzzle or the latest computer game is to us.  Dogs have to think, they have to learn, and when they get it right, their sense of accomplishment and joy is palpable and contagious.  And as fun as these games are, with plenty of praise for a job done right, they also reinforce a dog’s place in the pack structure we humans call “family.”

If bored and lonely, many animals will develop any number of bad habits. They dig holes in the yard or carpeting, bark or cry endlessly day and night, and become chewers of  furniture, shoes, or pillows.  And sometimes, without the socialization all pets need, they become aggressive and moody, ready to bite or snarl at anyone who comes into their territory.  So it’s important to keep up with your pet’s personal growth and socialization in winter time!  Just don’t let them sit around doing nothing.  You’ll all enjoy a bitter winter day better if you find your dogs something useful to do! 

 Now, this isn’t just a matter for the dogs in your life – birds need exercise, too!  From the smallest budgie to the largest macaw, parrots are highly intelligent, active birds who need to stay mentally and physically active to stay healthy.  Anything a parrot can dig into, from a toy to a challenging food that requires effort to eat, is good.  One toy in particular is good for burning the calories consumed by a sedentary bird: the coiled-rope perch.  This springy invention requires effort to stay on, and some birds become so enamored of it that they’ll spend hours bouncing up and down.  Human interaction is a huge part of animals companions’ well being and growth, so take those birds out and let them stretch their wings, meet your visitors, watch some TV with you, or run little obstacle courses in the open!

Another thing to remember with birds is that many of the birds kept as pets are of species most comfortable in places that we would find intolerable: the steamy, hot rain forests of Central and South America.  The dry air of human homes – especially in winter – is thought to be a contributing factor to feather-picking, a frustrating syndrome that can drive birds to pluck themselves bald.  Many birds enjoy being dampened by water from a spray bottle or being offered the chance to take a bath in a shallow dish of clean water.  How often should birds get a bath? There are no firm guidelines, but daily would be fine with many of our feathery friends.

No stimulation is “technically” necessary, though we do like a fun game of “Catch the Laser Dot” or playing with feathered devices and whatnot to keep ourselves looking svelt.

So, remember, while the winter is woeful with all its bitter cold and nasty weather, you can still enjoy the indoors with your pets and give them something fun to do to keep them healthy and social!  After all, your pal Mason here would never steer your wrong…right?

Til next meow,


Hello, blogger fans!  It has been a long and fun summer and everything is now winding down for the fall.  That also means lots of moving, kids going to school and moving for college, and fall changes.  So, today, I would like to talk to you about microchipping.

What is microchipping, you may ask?  Well, a microchip is a tiny electronic device (about the size of a grain of rice) that uses radio waves to transmit stored information when it is read by the right kind of scanner.  Microchips for pets store a unique identification number and do not need a power source, and they have no moving parts, so they do not wear out.  Microchips are made of a material that is compatible with body tissues, so rejection and infection at the site are rare.  After injection, the microchip becomes encased in the tissue at the injection site (usually around the back and shoulders). It may move slightly, but it usually stays at or near the place it was injected.  To read the chip, a compatible scanner must be passed over it.  Different microchip companies use different chips; however, there are scanners that can read all kinds of chips.

To complete the microchipping process, you must register your pet’s microchip with the microchip company.  Unless the microchip company has your information, there is no way for the identification number on the microchip to link you with your lost pet!  This is the number one way to reunite an owner with their pet, and we here at our hospital have many happy stories about reuniting pets and owners due to a microchip and the information attached with the microchip.

So, what happens if your pet becomes lost?  When a lost or injured pet is taken to an emergency room, veterinary office, or shelter, he or she can be scanned for the presence of a microchip.  If the pet has a chip, the scanner reads the pet’s identification number.  If the chip has been properly registered, the shelter or hospital can provide the number to the microchip company, which maintains the owner’s contact information.  The microchip company or hospital then contacts the owner, and the pet can be reunited with his or her family!

The use of tattoos as permanent identification for pets has for the most part been made obsolete by microchip technology.  A microchip and an ID tag, however, work best together, and I recommend that every pet have both.  The most important thing to remember about any form of pet ID is to keep your contact information current!  If you move or change your phone number, update your microchip information immediately.  Don’t wait, because a move is a high-risk time when your pet is more likely to slip out and go missing.  And get a new ID tag as well: Many pet-supply stores have machines that make them while you wait, in five minutes or less!  No excuses!

The bottom line, though, is that if your pet is lost, you want to make sure you have done everything you can to make his return home as quick and easy as possible.  You don’t want to have to rely on posters plastered around town or hope a harried shelter worker will have the time and resources to figure out where your pet belongs.  Tags, microchips and other innovative ways of identifying pets all help to produce happy endings for lost pets and their owners.

To sum up, here’s why you should use a microchip as an identifier for your pet:

  • Microchips are a way of permanently identifying your pet.
  • Microchips must be registered with a microchip company to reunite you with your pet.
  • Microchipping is a simple, quick procedure that can be performed by your veterinarian.
  • Many lost pets are never returned to their owners because they do not have any form of identification.

To keep your pet safe in the face of the unknown, try a microchip today!  Coupled with an ID tag or ID collar, your pet will have the best chance possible to be reunited with you.  And I should know – I’m microchipped, too!

Til next meow,


It has been quite a long winter and we are so glad it is finally, finally over…finally…we hope.

And with the Spring comes many things that you should think about for the safety of your pets and wildlife around you!

With Easter upon us, no doubt there have been lilies and daffodils and other springtime flowers adorning your home and yard.  But did you know that some lilies are poisonous to cats and even dogs?

There are benign and dangerous lilies out there, and it’s important to know the difference!  Benign (or non-toxic) lilies include the Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies, which contain insoluble oxalate crystals that cause minor signs such as tissue irritation to the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus.  Clinical signs of drooling, pawing at the mouth, foaming, and vomiting may be seen.

The more dangerous, potentially fatal lilies are true lilies of the Lilium or Hemerocallisspecies.  Examples of some of these dangerous lilies include the Tiger, Day, Asiatic hybrid, Easter, Japanese Show, Rubrum, Stargazer, Red, Western, and Wood lilies – all of which are highly toxic to cats!  Even small ingestions (such as 2-3 petals or leaves) – even the pollen or water from the vase – can result in severe, acute kidney failure.  Lily of the Valley is also included and though it does not cause kidney failure, it can cause life-threatening heart arrhythmias and death when ingested by dogs or cats.

If your cat is seen consuming any part of a lily, bring your cat (and the plant) immediately to a veterinarian for medical care.  The sooner you bring in your cat, the better and more efficiently the lily poisoning can be treated.  Decontamination (like inducing vomiting and giving binders like activated charcoal) are imperative in the early toxic stage, while aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, kidney function monitoring tests, and supportive care can greatly improve the prognosis.  Intravenous fluids must be started within an 18 hour window for the best outcome.

Common signs to watch for if your cat has eaten lilies:

  • Inappetance
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Halitosis
  • Dehydration
  • Inappropriate urination or thirst
  • Seizures
  • Death


As springtime begins so too does “kitten season,” and Alley Cat Allies, the nation’s largest advocacy organization dedicated to cats, offers ways people can help cats and kittens this season.
If you come across a kitten outdoors, you may be tempted to bring her home with you, but that may not be the best thing for the kitten,” said Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies. “Deciding whether to take a kitten home with you or leave her where she is should be carefully considered based on the individual kitten’s situation and age.”

Alley Cat Allies offers the following tips to help kittens this season:

  1. Leave kittens with mom. Like all babies, kittens are best left with their mothers who instinctively know how to help their kittens grow up to be strong and healthy cats.  Neonatal kittens, 4 weeks old or younger, need constant care and still depend on mom for 100 percent of their food.  Kittens 5 to 8 weeks old can begin to eat wet food, but are still being weaned.  If you know the mother is present, it is best to leave kittens with her.  To determine whether the mother is caring for the kittens, wait and observe for two to four hours to see if the mother returns.  The mother could just be out looking for food. If she doesn’t return within a day, the kitten could be abandoned.  A young kitten living outdoors who does not have a mother present should be taken in and fostered.  If the kitten is not weaned, she will require bottle-feeding and round-the-clock care.
  2. Do not bring a just born kitten to an animal shelter.  Most shelter employees are not equipped or trained to provide round-the-clock care for neonatal kittens (up to 4 weeks of age).  If a kitten cannot eat on her own, she will likely be killed at a shelter.  Realistically, it is never a good idea to take a cat to a shelter.  More than 70 percent of cats who enter shelters are euthanized there, and that number rises to virtually 100 percent for feral cats taken to shelters.  

And while we are talking about abducting or displacing cute baby animals, let’s also talk about bunnies, squirrels, and birds.  The # 1 rule about wildlife is: DON’T TOUCH IT.  Unless the animal is obviously injured, emaciated, or you know the mother has not been by to take care of the babies, do not pick them up and bring them into your home as a pet.  Wild animals are not meant to be pets! 

Signs that a wild animal needs your help:

  • A cat or dog presents the wild animal to you
  • Evidence of bleeding
  • An apparent or obvious broken limb
  • A featherless or nearly featherless bird on the ground
  • Shivering
  • A dead parent nearby

If you observe the above signs, find help for the animal and safely capture and transporthim or her to the appropriate place for treatment.  Once you’re sure the animal needs your help, call a wildlife rehabilitator for assistance. If you’re unable to locate a rehabilitator, try contacting one of the following:

  • Local animal shelter or humane society
  • Animal control agency
  • Nature center
  • Veterinarian (including us!)

Once you’ve contacted someone who can help, describe the animal and his physical condition as accurately as possible.  Unless you are told otherwise, here’s how you can make an animal more comfortable for transport or while you’re waiting for help to arrive:

  • Never handle an adult animal without first consulting with a wildlife professional. Even small animals can injure you.
  • Put the animal in a safe container. For most songbirds, a paper bag may be used for transport. For larger birds or other animals, use a cardboard box or similar container. First, punch holes for air, from the inside out, and line the box with an old T-shirt or other soft cloth.
  • Put on thick gloves and use a towel or pillowcase to cover the animal as you scoop him up gently and place him in the container.
  • Do not give the animal food or water: it may cause him to choke, develop digestive problems, or drown. Also, many injured animals are in shock, and eating or drinking can make it worse.
  • Place the container in a warm, dark, quiet place—away from pets, children, and noise—until you can transport the animal. Be sure to keep the container away from direct sunlight, air conditioning, or heat.
  • Transport the animal as soon as possible.
  • While transporting the animal, leave the radio off and keep talking to a minimum.

With all that said, I think I’m going to find a nice spot of sun before the winter comes back…again…with snow…(grumble, grumble).

Til next meow,


Hello, again!  I’m back (from outer space) and I have a weird hat on my head!  I think it’s called a “turban” but I am certainly not pleased with it – unfortunately, all the humans I work with have decided it is “cute” and keep it around.  They put it on me on Halloween, I’m assuming as a joke, of course.

Speaking of Halloween (and our upcoming Christmas Festivities), I wanted to take a moment to address something we all love – Sweets!  Particularly candy and foods containing Chocolate and artificial sweeteners like Xylitol.  Sugar substitutes are big business.  Xylitol is common sugar substitute, especially when it comes to sugarless gum an candies.  Sounds wonderful and maybe it is – if you are a human.  If you are a dog, however, xylitol can be lethal.

There are two deadly effects of xylitol consumption: hypoglycemia and hepatic necrosis.

Hypoglycemia – In the canine body, the pancreas confuses xylitol with real sugar and releases insulin to store the “sugar.” The problem is that xylitol does not offer the extra calories of sugar and the rush of insulin only serves to remove the real sugar from the circulation. Blood sugar levels plummet resulting in weakness, disorientation, tremors, and potentially seizures.  It does not take many sticks of gum or hard candy pieces to poison a dog, especially a small dog!  Symptoms typically begin within 30 minutes and can last for more than 12 hours.  Vomiting and diarrhea can also occur.

Hepatic Necrosis – The other reaction associated with xylitol in the canine body is destruction of liver tissue.  How this happens remains unknown but the doses of xylitol required to produce this effect are much higher than the hypoglycemic doses described above.  Signs take longer to show up (typically 8-12 hours).  A lucky dog experiences only temporary illness but a complete and acute liver failure can result with potential death.  Internal hemorrhage and inability of blood to clot is commonly involved.

So how much xylitol is dangerous?  The hypoglycemic dose of xylitol for dogs is considered to be approximately 0.1 grams per kilogram of body weight (about 0.045 grams per pound).  A typical stick of gum contains 0.3 to 0.4 grams of xylitol, which means that a 10 lb dog could be poisoned by as little as a stick and a half of gum.

The dose to cause hepatic necrosis is 1 gram per kilogram of body weight, about ten times more than the above dose.  In the example above, the 10 lb dog would have to find an unopened package of gum and eat it for liver destruction to occur.  To treat for xylitol ingestion, the pet should be seen quickly (within 30 minutes) and can be made to vomit the gum or candy.

But, Mason!  What about cats?  So far, National Animal Poison Control has no reports of xylitol toxicity in cats.  At this time, feline toxicity is unknown.  Which means that just because we don’t know the risks doesn’t mean you should feed your cat any gum or hard candies!

Chocolate can be toxic, and sometimes even fatal, for your pets, too.  Dogs are most commonly affected, due to their ability to find it and the common ‘sweet tooth’ they seem to have.  It is important to remember that cats and other species are susceptible to the toxic effects of chocolate, too.
You may ask, why is chocolate so bad for animals?  Chocolate is made from the fruit (beans) of the cacao tree.  Theobromine, a component of chocolate, is the toxic compound in chocolate. (Caffeine is also present in chocolate, but in much smaller amounts than Theobromine.)   Unsweetened (baker’s) chocolate contains 8-10 times the amount of Theobromine as milk chocolate. Semi-sweet chocolate falls roughly in between the two for Theobromine content. White chocolate contains Theobromine, but in such small amounts that Theobromine poisoning is unlikely.

Here are approximate toxic levels of different types of chocolate:

  • 4 to 10 ounces of milk chocolate or 1/2 to 1 ounce of baking chocolate for small dogs, such as Chihuahuas and toy poodles.
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of milk chocolate or 2 to 3 ounces of baking chocolate for medium-sized dogs, like cocker spaniels and dachshunds.
  • 2 to 4 1/2 pounds of milk chocolate or 4 to 8 ounces of baking chocolate for large dogs, including collies and Labrador retrievers.

The toxic dose of Theobromine (and caffeine) for pets is 100-200mg/kg. (1 kiliogram = 2.2 pounds).  However, according to the poison control center at the ASPCA, problems have been noted at doses much lower than this, such as 20mg/kg.  Translated to a “typical” scenario, and using the 20mg/kg as a measure of “problems can be seen at this level of ingestion”, a 50 pound dog would have to consume 9 ounces (+/-) of milk chocolate to consume the 20mg/kg amount of Theobromine.  Some dogs won’t see problems at this rate.  Some may.  This is a much more conservative toxic level calculation than the “standard” of 100-200mg/kg, but better safe than sorry.

The signs of chocolate toxicity are most commonly seen within 12 hours (or less) of chocolate ingestion, such as:

  • Excitement / nervousness / trembling
  • Vomiting / diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst / sometimes excessive urination (at higher levels of Theobromine toxicity)
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Coma (rare
  • Death (rare) — likely due to heart rhythm abnormalities.
    So, you may be wondering what to do if your pet eats any candy or sweets this holiday season?  Call us, of course!  We are here to help you and will take great care of your kitty or doggie in the event of a chocolate emergency.  Remember, the best prevention is to not have these things available to your pet, so putting your candy away in high cabinets or even in another room is a great idea.  Never leave candy or goodies out where your pet can reach them, even if your pets are trained not to jump onto tables or counter tops.  And while you are cooking up those amazing and yummy holidays feasts, never leave your pet alone while you are making things – dogs have a tendency to gobble up ingredients right off the counters!  (Such bad manners…)
    Well, this has been very educational and all, but I feel a nap coming on.  I will talk to you all again soon!
    Til next meow,


Hello, everyone!  I am your guest blogger for the month – my name is Luna!  I am a lionhead bunny and a good friend of Mason, who has been vacationing for the entire summer (lucky cat!).  He only just told me about his blog and I was all too happy to volunteer for an entry.

Finding the right pets to complete your household can be a daunting task.  How you introduce the new housemates to each other can make or break the relationship, with those all-important first impressions. The introduction process may need to continue for weeks, or even months, until everyone is comfortable with each other.

Day-to-day management of a cat and a dog (or bunny, or hamster, or fish, or bird) represents several challenges.  You’ll want to consider in advance whether you want to live with the household changes that may be required, like all the chasing and squawking and squeaking!  No one can guarantee that particular pets will be safe together unsupervised – I know that some of us pocket pets would get eaten up in an instant if Mom and Dad weren’t watching over us!

So, how do you introduce your new pet to your current companion?  Start by letting the pets smell and hear each other through a door or crate that blocks the view.  It may take at least one to several days, but definitely keep this up as long as it takes for pet to be relaxed, then try reversing their locations so your new pet can be out and about the house and your current pet is in a different area.

It’s useful to switch them back and forth several times so neither one gets jealous of each other.  If both animals remain calm, the next step would be to put two barriers between the pets, with a distance of several feet or more so both animals will feel comfortable that actual contact can’t happen.  Of course, in the cases of pocket pets, this may never actually happen, as those cats and dogs are sooooo big!!!!  It may be too scary to let them meet face to face, but crated contact is a good idea.  One of the barriers might be a see-through door, window, or crate.  If it’s a baby gate it must be one the cat can’t get over, under or through.

Dogs need to be confined away from the barrier the other pet is behind.  You could use another crate or enclosure, or perhaps have the dog on leash.  Even if both animals are completely calm at this point, that’s enough for the first day, maybe the first several days.  Don’t rush to the next stage.  If either animal is nervous when viewing the other, go back to the setup of hearing and scent without sight.  Be careful to maintain their trust by not allowing accidental contact.

Cats can take a long time to get used to things, commonly months – like I said before, my kitty brothers took forever to get used to me!  Taking things too quickly can set the process back so badly that it’s far better to go slowly.  Dogs are usually much better at meeting new pets, but they can also be quick to think that new pet is a chew toy!

You can read more about the Introduction Process here, thanks to our awesome authors and trainers over at Veterinary Partner! Veterinary Partner – Introducing New Pets

And for more information specifically regarding Dog Behavior and Introductions to new pets, please see this article on Dog Introductions.

Thank you all so much for letting me talk to you this week!  I will let Mason know you all miss him, but he is very busy getting back massages and being combed (it’s his favorite thing ever).  Next time, we will have another guest blogger for you!  Luna, out!

Hello to all of my Mason followers!  Can you believe it’s May already?  I can’t, but then again time means nothing to me unless it involves waiting to eat- then time is of the essence! 

So today, my friends, I plan to talk about puppies.  Yeah, pretty cute aren’t they?  Well, I guess if you’re into dogs…J  So, let’s talk Puppy 101!

The first few steps of puppy ownership actually happen before bringing the cute little furball home. You need to first make sure that everyone in the house is on board (if applicable), whether it be family members, roommates or landlord.  That is very important anytime you are thinking about bringing a pet into the mix, no matter what it is.  If you are renting, your landlord will definitely need to approve your potential new family member because the last thing you want to do is bring home any pet and then have to re-home or take back to shelter.  It’s certainly not fair to the pet involved either! 

Once that is out of the way, have another group meeting with the household so that you can establish some kind of system as far as taking care of the puppy.  This can be an especially great learning experience for children and will also help teach them about responsibility and discipline (not to mention it could prove to be very useful experience later in life when they have pets of their own!).  However, parents should plan to have the ultimate responsibility to care for the pet.  That being said, if you do have children, it is highly advisable to do some homework first and look into what breeds would be a better fit.  The ASPCA has some great information on finding the right dog based on your child’s age. Establishing some ground rules and some type of care system, whether you’re dealing with adults or children before bringing the puppy home will help the transition go much more smoothly (which not only reduces stress to the humans involved but more importantly, the new puppy!).


Structure is extremely important for puppies because it’s when they are learning everything.  Although “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is not a true statement, it can be more difficult.  You have to remember that these are not four-legged humans so you have to learn to be patient as well as consistent.  You can’t tell a puppy (or any animal) that it’s not OK to hop on the counter on Wednesday but it’s OK on Fridays.  Consistency is very important when it comes to training commands, too or you could end up confusing the poor puppy and definitely causing a setback in your training.  When you pick up your puppy, find out if he or she already knows some basic commands and if possible, try and stick with those if they seem to be working.  Hey, one less thing to teach them, right? 

Another vital step in puppy ownership is socialization.  This is very important and needs to be done with patience and SMARTS!  Great place to start is at GFAH!  It’s best to make the first appointment within the first week of owning the puppy (unless of course something is going on medically, then come in sooner) and if possible, in between vaccinations so that the first visit can be as positive experience as possible.  This is a great time to ask questions, address any concerns you may have and also our vets can give you a few tips on basic training and care.  GFAH can also give you good recommendations for training and even a list of trainers they recommend based on the puppy’s needs.  Now as far as socialization goes, it’s important that your puppy have all the necessary vaccinations prior to meet and greets with other dogs.  Puppies are especially susceptible to diseases since their immune systems are not mature.  Socialization with other dogs that are current on their vaccinations is the best way to socialize.    Many puppies also have intestinal parasites, while intestinal parasites are treatable, they can cause GI upset (vomiting, diarrhea, gas, etc.) and can even rob your pet of nutrition which if left untreated can lead to trouble.  Bring in a stool sample on your first visit to have tested so that if your pet needs treatment, it can receive it as soon as possible.  We can also give you proper direction on what to do in addition to any deworming medication so that you can avoid anything being passed on to another pet or possibly a person.


Well folks, I think I have “mewsed” enough for the day!  There is so much to learn about puppy ownership and not enough hours in the day!  I have compiled a list of websites that may be of some help should you be looking for a puppy at any point.  I cannot stress enough though how important it is to do some homework first!  Don’t hesitate to ask us for advice if you are unsure since we would much rather you be 100% sure and completely comfortable before you bring a puppy home!


Til next meow,