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Pet Health Care Articles and Items of General Interest

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.
     --Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984

Pet Sitter List of Recommended Readings . . . Six Essential Numbers for Every Pet Owner
Dog Food Recall--How Safe Are Our Best Friends?
Is Homemade Pet Food Safer Than Commercial Pet Food?
Human Foods that Poison Pets® Articles on Animals and Pets
Golden Retriever Finds New Home, New Purpose
No Scaredy Cats This Halloween: Top 10 Safety Tips for Pet Parents

Category: General

Six Essential Numbers for Every Pet Owner
By Dr. Olakunle Ayeni, DVM
This article was originally written for (which is no longer available).

Many times in life help is so near yet we often forget where to find it. It is so near and oftentimes free, but we just don't remember where to access such vital information. That is the case for many of us who are pet owners. We know our vet and his or her emergency number, and that is it. The internet is not helping either, with every Web site trying to lure us with "an online veterinarian on staff," but still we can't talk to a real person who will understand our problem and help with our need. In particular, what should you do if there is a disaster, you lose Fido in an accident, your pet ingests a rare poison that your local vet and you do not know about, or your pet is lost or stolen? "Well, I really don't know," someone once told me.

As I discovered, you can get help with a simple phone call from an old box invented by Mr. Bell. I have pulled together pet resources and helpful phone numbers. There are six important toll-free numbers every pet owner should have on their fridge at home. This is a blueprint of vital information when you need one: free help for solving landlord-tenant issues, vet problems, neglect, and any form of abuse; where to call for emotional support when you have lost an animal friend; even where to spay your pet for little or nothing. Your vet is great, but it doesn't hurt to save some money.

These toll-free numbers are not only important, but they can also help to save lives.

1. National Pet Recovery Hotline: 1-800-252-7894
To report a lost or found pet, call AKC Reunite immediately. AKC Reunite is the nation's largest not-for-profit recovery service and has recovery coordinators standing by 24/7/365 to help reunite lost pets with their owners. AKC Reunite is dedicated to providing recovery services for pets with a microchip, tattoo, or AKC Reunite collar tag. Owners pay a one-time fee for the life of their pet.

AKC Reunite [formerly AKC Companion Animal Recovery (AKC CAR)], an affiliate of the American Kennel Club(TM), was established in 1995. AKC Reunite enrolls all brands of microchips. As a not-for-profit organization, AKC Reunite funds veterinary student scholarships, canine search and rescue grants, and disaster relief efforts. AKC Reunite's primary goal is to help an owner stay connected for life with their companion animal. AKC Reunite has over 3.5 million animals enrolled in the service and has performed over 320,000 recoveries. In addition to dogs, cats, horses, and birds, there are 31 other companion and exotic species enrolled.

In March, 2007 AKC Reunite introduced the AKC Reunite ID System(TM). Consisting of microchips, scanners, and optional prepaid enrollments, and coupled with its recovery service, AKC Reunite offers a total and complete recovery system. AKC Reunite introduced the microchip in order to increase the number of lost pets that can be recovered. The microchip contains a unique ID code that permanently links an owner to their pet, if ever the pet is lost. For more information on the AKC Reunite ID System(TM), call 1-800-252-7894 or go online to

2. Animal Legal Defense Fund Hotline: 1-707-795-2533
"I think my neighbors are abusing their pet. Can I do anything to stop them?" Here is the number to call. The Animal Legal Defense Fund helps with landlord-tenant issues, vet problems, neglect, and any form of abuse. If you want to know your rights and how to go about expressing your displeasure, this number is for you. But try not to call because you don't like someone's method of training his or her dog.

3. ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Hotline: 1-888-426-4435
As the premier animal poison control center in North America, the APCC is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, make the call that can make all the difference. A $65.00 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

Poison Prevention for Pet Owners
Ask the APCC: Okay or No Way?
The experts at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center set the record straight on a variety of substances, from pomegranates to paint balls.

Keep Your Pet's Home Poison Safe
Memorize the list of foods and common household products that can be dangerous to pets.

Forbidden Flora
Is it true what they say about yew? Are lovely lilies not so lovely for felines? Check out the list of toxic and nontoxic plants and the 17 most common poisonous plants.

4. Emergency Disaster Hotline: 1-800-227-4645
In the last few years, the United States has experienced devastating hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and oil spills. Many agencies have trained and prepared personnel to respond to the needs of the human victims of these tragedies. But who helps the animals? The American Humane Association does, and it has been helping animals and children since 1877. In 1917, American Humane started the Emergency Animal Relief Red Star program as part of its expanded efforts during World War I.

The widespread and violently destructive disasters in recent years have kept the organization's response teams very busy. When responding to an emergency, American Humane brings some of the best-trained animal rescuers in the country. These individuals are prepared and trained to execute very technical maneuvers, from flood and swift water recoveries to low- and high-angle rescues. The response teams work closely with different agencies in specific command structures effecting local, regional, and/or national coordinated disaster responses.

American Humane's multifaceted training curriculum is specifically designed for animal welfare professionals. Other people may benefit from these offerings too, including lay advocates who want to make sure that animals will always be treated humanely. The courses are taught by nationally recognized experts who use a variety of proven and effective adult learning techniques and methods. Participant workshops cover a diversity of topics--for example, shelter operations, animal behavior, horse abuse investigation, and euthanasia by injection. Contact American Humane for the current workshop schedule and registration information.

5. C.A.R.E. Pet Loss Helpline: 1-877-394-CARE (2273)
The Companion Animal Related Emotions Pet Loss Helpline is a confidential telephone service offered through the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. People who are either grieving the loss of a companion animal or are anticipating a loss are encouraged to call. If you need a compassionate, understanding person to talk to, a C.A.R.E. representative is here to listen and to support you. Veterinary student volunteers answer the phones on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, 7-9 p.m. Central Time. The toll-free telephone number is 1-877-394-CARE (2273). If you are in the Champaign, Illinois area, the local telephone number is 217-244-CARE (2273).

6. Spay Helpline: 1-800-248-SPAY (7729)
One way to prevent lovely but unwanted pets from ending up in shelters or being destroyed is to spay or neuter them. Thousands of abandoned and unwanted pets are euthanized yearly due to irresponsible breeding and other factors. So before you consider going to the vet for spaying or neutering, this organization can help you. SPAY USA provides free or low cost services to all. Call them to set up an appointment. They have more than 1,000 sterilization programs and clinics nationwide. Your local shelters also help in providing similar services.

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ASPCA - The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®

Dog Food Recall--How Safe Are Our Best Friends?
By K. Coffey
This article appears on the Animal Pets and Friends Web site.

Recipes for homemade dog foods are popping up all over. More and more pet owners are deciding to make their own homemade dog foods. The pet food recall list is growing by the week. The food that you are feeding your beloved dog that is safe today may not be tomorrow. Pet owners are in a panic trying to keep their best friends safe . . . and rightfully so.

The secrets of the pet food industry are coming to light. The recent pet food recalls have left many of us asking about the safety as well as the quality of our pets' food. Can the suppliers and manufacturers of pet foods be trusted or has that trust been broken?

Chinese suppliers of animal feed have admitted that for years they have been spiking shipments to pet food companies in the U.S. to make it appear as though the food was a high protein quality product. Before melamine there was urea, another nitrogen-based chemical that was used until it started making animals sick. Then it was quietly discontinued.

Guarding against contaminated imported products has become quite a problem. According to the Commerce Department, the pet food industry now imports seven times the amount of animal feed it did in 2000. Wheat gluten and rice protein come in the form of a powder, and chemicals like melamine can easily be mixed in (whether intentionally or unintentionally) and not be detected by the FDA because they are not included in its battery of tests.

The FDA oversees a trillion dollars worth of products annually; this includes about half of all imports. The agency regulates about 25% of every dollar that is spent by American consumers annually, so it is impossible for the agency to inspect more than a fraction of all imports. About 99% of all food imports are not inspected.

These massive pet food recalls have not only brought to light safety issues with our dog food supply but also quality issues. Little was known about wheat gluten and rice protein until the recent pet food recalls. Now they are everyday words. People have been researching to find out just what they are . . . and the results are eye-opening.

The chunky bits that we thought were meat in our beloved dog's food we find out are actually wheat gluten, a totally meatless product. Rice protein is another meatless additive to increase the protein levels in the pet foods. This leads us to ask just how much meat are our carnivores getting.

A healthy dog's diet consists of 40% meat, 30% protein, and 30% starch. It appears that the majority of the pet food products on the market today consist mostly of cheap cereal fillers. Even many of the so-called "premium brands" were not immune from the pet food recalls, as they also contained wheat gluten and rice protein.

The meat by-products that are used in these commercial recipes are animal scraps that the FDA has deemed "unfit for human consumption." These include heads, feet, intestines, lungs, spleens, ligaments, and other scary parts. Even when the recipe consists of meat, for the most part it is scrap meat like backs and necks.

Several companies that got their pet food from one of the manufacturers said the rice protein that was included in the recipes for their dog food was there without their knowledge or consent. (The manufacturer has denied this.) How do we know who's telling the truth? Many of us were under the assumption that all of the ingredients for the recipe had to be listed on the package. What else is in the commercial dog food recipes that we don't know about? 

Lawmakers are hurrying to change things but everyone knows that takes time. So in the meantime what should you do? The choice is one that each of us is going to have to make. You can take your chances; you can turn to an even higher-priced organic or natural pet food; or you can turn to your own kitchen and use recipes for homemade dog foods. After all, how difficult can it be to feed your best friend a well-balanced diet? We manage to do it for our children everyday.

For more information about the pet food recalls, visit the author's blog at

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Is Homemade Pet Food Safer Than Commercial Pet Food?
By Amanda K. Jones, LVT
This article appears on the Animal Pets and Friends Web site.

Many pet owners are considering the option of feeding their pets a homemade diet. This can be for various reasons. They may feel guilty about feeding their pets out of a bag, or they may be concerned about the quality and safety of commercial pet food.

Domesticated pets can become ill from ingesting contaminated food. The source of the food can be from either commercial or home prepared diets. Foodborne illnesses in dogs and cats can be caused by bacterial infection, bacterial toxins, mycotoxins, chemicals, metals, and other contaminants.

A mycotoxin is a toxin produced by a fungus, and estimates suggest that one-quarter of the world's annual food crop is affected by these tiny molds. In fact, mycotoxin litigation alone has cost the pet food industry an estimated $7 million since 1990.

It is important to distinguish the difference between food infections and food poisonings. They are not the same thing despite the fact that some people use the two terms interchangeably.

Food infections result from the ingestion of infectious microbial cells (like salmonellae) that invade the pet's tissues and after a period of time reproduce to pathogenic levels. Often clinical disease does not become evident until at least 12 to 24 hours after ingestion.

Food poisonings result from the ingestion of food that already contains a microbial toxin (like aflatoxin). The signs of food poisonings usually appear rapidly, sometimes less than one hour after ingestion. In a recent study by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, food poisonings accounted for only 1.7% of reported causes of poisonings in dogs and cats. The most common causes of poisonings according to the study are (in descending order) drugs, insecticides, and plants.

While the risk of litigation and bad press encourages pet food manufacturers to be diligent in maintaining high product quality standards, there is always the chance of miscalculations and errors. However, the same can also be said for manufacturers of human food products.

The USDA keeps a running tally of recalled human food products on its Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site. The latest recalls as of this writing involve 16,743 pounds of ground beef and 2.8 million pounds of chicken breast cuts and strips.

A number of health-conscious pet owners abandon commercial pet food products and prepare homemade diets for their pets. While I applaud their efforts wholeheartedly, it must be understood that this has not eliminated the risk of pets acquiring a foodborne illness. In some cases, it may even increase the chances if the owner is not careful about food preparation, storage, and supplementation. Nevertheless, it does put the owner in control of the pet's diet (for better or worse) which seems to offer some level of emotional comfort and bonding.

Amanda Jones is a licensed veterinary technician and eBook author. She has had several articles published in professional veterinary journals and is a Tails Magazine Furry Forum Expert.

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Free Animal Health Resources Web Sites

Animals in Entertainment - Born Free USA

Human Foods that Poison Pets
By Dr. Cam Day, BVSc, BSc, MACVSc

Feeding pets food that we enjoy is not only wrong, it can also be fatal. There are some foodstuffs that humans relish which cause illness and death if eaten by pets.

Chocolate, macadamia nuts and onions are good examples. Each of these foods contains chemicals which rarely cause problems for humans, but for dogs, these same chemicals can be deadly.

Chocolate toxicity   Top 
Chocolate contains theobromine, a compound that is a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic.

When affected by an overdose of chocolate, a dog can become excited and hyperactive. Due to the diuretic effect, it may pass large volumes of urine and it will be unusually thirsty. Vomiting and diarrhoea are also common. The effect of theobromine on the heart is the most dangerous effect. Theobromine will either increase the dog's heart rate or may cause the heart to beat irregularly. Death is quite possible, especially with exercise.

After their pet has eaten a large quantity of chocolate, many pet owners assume their pet is unaffected. However, the signs of sickness may not be seen for several hours, with death following within twenty-four hours.

Cocoa powder and cooking chocolate are the most toxic forms. A ten-kilogram dog can be seriously affected if it eats a quarter of a 250 gram packet of cocoa powder or half of a 250 gram block of cooking chocolate. These forms of chocolate contain ten times more theobromine than milk chocolate. Thus, a chocolate mud cake could be a real health risk for a small dog. Even licking a substantial part of the chocolate icing from a cake can make a dog unwell.

Semi-sweet chocolate and dark chocolate are the next most dangerous forms, with milk chocolate being the least dangerous. A dog needs to eat more than a 250 gram block of milk chocolate to be affected. Obviously, the smaller the dog, the less it needs to eat.

Onion and garlic poisoning   Top
Onions and garlic are other dangerous food ingredients that cause sickness in dogs, cats and also livestock. Onions and garlic contain the toxic ingredient thiosulphate. Onions are more of a danger. 

Pets affected by onion toxicity will develop haemolytic anaemia, where the pet's red blood cells burst while circulating in its body.

At first, pets affected by onion poisoning show gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhoea. They will show no interest in food and will be dull and weak. The red pigment from the burst blood cells appears in an affected animal's urine and it becomes breathless. The breathlessness occurs because the red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body are reduced in number.

The poisoning occurs a few days after the pet has eaten the onion. All forms of onion can be a problem including dehydrated onions, raw onions, cooked onions and table scraps containing cooked onions and/or garlic. Left over pizza, Chinese dishes and commercial baby food containing onion, sometimes fed as a supplement to young pets, can cause illness.

Onion poisoning can occur with a single ingestion of large quantities or with repeated meals containing small amounts of onion. A single meal of 600 to 800 grams of raw onion can be dangerous, whereas a ten-kilogram dog fed 150 grams of onion for several days is also likely to develop anaemia. The condition improves once the dog is prevented from eating any further onion.

While garlic also contains the toxic ingredient thiosulphate, it seems that garlic is less toxic and large amounts would need to be eaten to cause illness.

The danger of macadamia nuts   Top
Macadamia nuts are another concern. A recent paper written by Dr. Ross McKenzie, a Veterinary Pathologist with the Department of Primary Industries, points to the danger of raw and roasted macadamia nuts for pets.

The toxic compound is unknown but the effect of macadamia nuts is to cause locomotory difficulties. Dogs develop a tremor of the skeletal muscles and weakness or paralysis of the hindquarters. Affected dogs are often unable to rise and are distressed, usually panting. Some affected dogs have swollen limbs and show pain when the limbs are manipulated.

Dogs have been affected by eating as few as six macadamia kernels (nuts without the shell) while others had eaten approximately forty kernels. Some dogs had also been given macadamia butter.

Luckily, the muscle weakness, while painful, seems to be of short duration and all dogs recovered from the toxicity. All dogs were taken to their veterinary surgeon.

Pet owners should not assume that human food is always safe for pets. When it comes to chocolate, onions, garlic and macadamia nuts, such foods should be given in only small quantities, or not at all. Be sure that your pets can't get into your stash of chocolates, that food scraps are disposed of carefully to prevent onion and garlic toxicity and that your dog is prevented from picking up macadamia nuts if you have a tree in your garden.

Other potential dangers   Top

  • Avocado (all parts) - The toxic ingredient in avocado is called persin (toxic amount unknown). Symptoms include difficulty breathing, abdominal enlargement, abnormal fluid accumulations in the chest, abdomen and sac around the heart.
  • Pear pips, the kernels of plums, peaches and apricots, apple core pips (contain cyanogenic glycosides resulting in cyanide poisoning)
  • Potato peelings and green looking potatoes
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Mouldy/spoiled foods
  • Alcohol
  • Yeast dough
  • Coffee grounds, beans and tea (caffeine)
  • Hops (used in home brewing)
  • Tomato leaves and stems (green parts)
  • Broccoli (in large amounts)
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Cigarettes, tobacco and cigars
Dr. Cam Day, BVSc, BSc, MACVSc is a veterinary surgeon, an animal behaviour consultant and a media presenter. In 1995 he qualified as a Member of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists in the discipline of Animal Behaviour, one of only 15 veterinarians with this qualification in Australia. He works full time in animal behaviour management in Queensland.

This article was reprinted with permission from Petalia(TM) A World of Petcare ( and author Dr. Cam Day, Animal Behaviour Veterinarian.

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Golden Retriever Finds New Home, New Purpose

American Humane's therapy animals, many of whom were rescued, helped nearly 40,000 people in 2007.

Bailey, a working therapy dogAs a rescued dog, Bailey knows what it's like to be scared and alone. When she was three years old, her owners divorced and brought her to a rescue group for golden retrievers. The stress of suddenly losing the family she loved and adjusting to life in a foster home made her so nervous her beautiful fur started falling out.

Luckily, Bailey was soon adopted. She found a great new permanent home--and a new role that she loves. For the past five years she has been working weekly as a therapy dog in two different treatment centers for children and adults who need her help--and the help of donors like you.

Whenever Bailey's handler takes out the special vest Bailey wears to work, the lovable retriever wags her tail and runs to the door. She seems to know that soon she will be helping people who are as scared as she was before her adoption.

Help Sustain the Power of Animal-Assisted Therapy

There is something about a dog's wagging tail, a cat's purr, or a guinea pig's gentle nudge that can touch even the most desperate heart. The animal-assisted therapy work that Bailey and other registered therapy animals perform through American Humane is critical to people and to animals.

Part of our animals' success may be due to the fact that, like Bailey, about 30 of the 110 animals who participate in our program were rescued themselves. The bonds these formerly homeless pets forge with people in need are incredibly powerful--from abused children learning to trust again to depressed adults recovering from suicide attempts, as well as injured people trying to speak or walk again.

Bailey and our other therapy animals take great pleasure in their work, and the people they help absolutely light up when the animals visit. But American Humane can only continue its vital animal-assisted therapy program with donor support. A donation is the perfect way to bring greater meaning to both animals' and other people's lives.

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American Humane Association

Mission of the American Humane Association
. . . to prevent cruelty, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children
and animals and to assure that their interests and well-being are fully,
effectively, and humanely guaranteed by an aware and caring society.

No Scaredy Cats This Halloween: Top 10 Safety Tips for Pet Parents

Dog dressed up for HalloweenAttention, companion animal caretakers! The ASPCA would like to point out these common-sense cautions that'll help keep your pets safe and stress-free this time of year. If you do suspect your pet has ingested a potentially dangerous substance, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

1.   No tricks, no treats: That bowlful of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy.

  • Chocolate in all forms--especially dark or baking chocolate--can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Symptoms of significant chocolate ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased thirst, urination and heart rate--and even seizures.
  • Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar which leads to depression, lack of coordination and seizures. In cases of significantly low blood sugar, liver failure has been known to occur.
  • Ingesting tin foil and cellophane candy wrappers can pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockage.

2.   Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, yet they can produce gastrointestinal upset should pets ingest them. Intestinal blockage could even occur if large pieces are swallowed.

3.   Keep wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet could experience damage to his mouth from shards of glass or plastic, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

4.   A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise extreme caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

5.   Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don't put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their "birthday suits," however, wearing a costume can cause undue stress.

6.   If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn't annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal's movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.

7.   Take a closer look at your pet's costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.

8.   All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treat visiting hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

9.   When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn't dart outside.

10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can increase the chances that he or she will be returned to you.

This article was reprinted with permission from The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA). © 2010 The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA). All rights reserved.

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