Valentine’s Day Pet Do’s and Don’ts from the Pet Poison Help Line

Do find safe gifts to show your pet Valentine’s Day love! 

A new collar, treats, or toys can all be great gifts for your pet on Valentine’s day.  Valentine’s Day can also be a great time to try a new dog or cat treat recipe or make a new toy.  If your pet is already swimming in toys and treats, consider giving toys, bedding, food, or a donation to an animal shelter or rescue group in your pet’s name.

Don’t forget that many pets appreciate the gift of time and love more than anything!

An extra walk and some extra time cuddling or playing cost nothing and will be greatly appreciated by your cat or dog.  The extra exercise and snuggle time is a healthy, happy choice for you as well.

Do be careful to keep Valentine’s gifts, foods, flowers, and drinks away from your pet’s reach!

Chocolate, flowers, candy, rich foods, and alcoholic drinks are common in our homes as we celebrate Valentine’s Day.  Dogs will readily ingest toxic amounts of chocolate, and keep us busy here at Pet Poison Helpline at this time of year.  If you have cats, please watch out for flower bouquets that include lilies, as lilies are very toxic to cats.  Rich foods can cause stomach upset and possibly pancreatitis when ingested by pets.  Pets can be sensitive to alcohol, so be certain to keep alcoholic drinks out of reach.  Also be careful with sugar-free foods that might contain xylitol, which can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar when ingested by pets.

Don’t forget to share the love!

Valentine’s Day can be a lonely holiday for many people.  This could be a great time to visit an animal shelter and donate your time and attention to rescued pets.  While I do not recommend giving pets as gifts, if you are thinking about adding a furry friend to your household, Valentine’s Day could be a great time to adopt.  Maybe a visit with your pet could help brighten the day of someone you know who is unable to have their own dog or cat.  This could also be a great time to look into getting your dog certified as a Canine Good Citizen or therapy dog to help others.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Pet Poison Helpline!


February is Pet Dental Health Month – Article from AVMA

Dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health, and dental problems can cause, or be caused by, other health problems. Your pet’s teeth and gums should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian to check for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.

What is veterinary dentistry, and who should perform it?

Veterinary dentistry includes the cleaning, adjustment, filing, extraction, or repair of your pets’ teeth and all other aspects of oral health care. These procedures should be performed by a veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dentist. Subject to state or provincial regulation, veterinary technicians are allowed to perform certain dental procedures under the supervision of a veterinarian.

The process begins with an oral exam of your pet’s mouth by a veterinarian. Radiographs (x-rays) may be needed to evaluate the health of the jaw and the tooth roots below the gumline. Because most dental disease occurs below the gumline, where you can’t see it, a thorough dental cleaning and evaluation are performed under anesthesia. Dental cleaning includes scaling (to remove dental plaque and tartar) and polishing, similar to the process used on your own teeth during your regular dental cleanings.

Oral health in dogs and cats

Test Yourself!

How much do you know about your pet’s dental health? 

Your pet’s teeth should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.

Have your pet’s teeth checked sooner if you observe any of the following problems:

  • bad breath
  • broken or loose teeth
  • extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
  • abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
  • reduced appetite or refusal to eat
  • pain in or around the mouth
  • bleeding from the mouth
  • swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth

Some pets become irritable when they have dental problems, and any changes in your pet’s behavior should prompt a visit to your veterinarian. Always be careful when evaluating your pet’s mouth, because a painful animal may bite.

Causes of pet dental problems

Although cavities are less common in pets than in people, they can have many of the same dental problems that people can develop:

  • broken teeth and roots
  • periodontal disease
  • abscesses or infected teeth
  • cysts or tumors in the mouth
  • malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth and bite
  • broken (fractured) jaw
  • palate defects (such as cleft palate)

Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats – by the time your pet is 3 years old, he or she will very likely have some early evidence of periodontal disease, which will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren’t taken. Early detection and treatment are critical, because advanced periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain for your pet. Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect your pet’s mouth. Other health problems found in association with periodontal disease include kidney, liver, and heart muscle changes.

It starts with plaque that hardens into tartar. Tartar above the gumline can often easily be seen and removed, but plaque and tartar below the gumline is damaging and sets the stage for infection and damage to the jawbone and the tissues that connect the tooth to the jaw bone. Periodontal disease is graded on a scale of 0 (normal) to 4 (severe).

The treatment of periodontal disease involves a thorough dental cleaning and x-rays may be needed to determine the severity of the disease. Your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dentist will make recommendations based on your pet’s overall health and the health of your pet’s teeth, and provide you with options to consider.

Why does dentistry require anesthesia?

When you go to the dentist, you know that what’s being done is meant to help you and keep your mouth healthy. Your dentist uses techniques to minimize pain and discomfort and can ask you how you are feeling, so you accept the procedures and do your best to keep still. Your pet does not understand the benefit of dental procedures, and he or she reacts by moving, trying to escape, or even biting.

Anesthesia makes it possible to perform the dental procedures with less stress and pain for your pet. In addition, anesthesia allows for a better cleaning because your pet is not moving around and risking injury from the dental equipment. If radiographs (x-rays) are needed, your pet needs to be very still in order to get good images, and this is unlikely without heavy sedation or anesthesia.

Although anesthesia will always have risks, it’s safer now than ever and continues to improve so that the risks are very low and are far outweighed by the benefits. Most pets can go home the same day of the procedure, although they might seem a little groggy for the rest of the day.

What can I do at home for my pet’s oral health?

What about “anesthesia-free” dental cleanings?

The American Veterinary Dental College does not recommend dental cleanings without anesthesia because they do not allow cleaning or inspection below the gumline, where most dental disease occurs, and can result in injury to the pet or the person performing the procedure.

Prevention of the most common oral disease in pets consists of frequent removal of the dental plaque and tartar that forms on teeth that are not kept clean. Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy between dental cleanings, and may reduce the frequency or even eliminate the need for periodic dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Daily brushing is best, but it’s not always possible and brushing several times a week can be effective. Most dogs accept brushing, but cats can be a bit more resistant – patience and training are important.

There are many pet products marketed with claims that they improve dental health, but not all of them are effective. Talk with your veterinarian about any dental products, treats, or dental-specific diets you’re considering for your pet, or ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.

Valentine’s Day Safety Tips from the ASPCA

Each year our poison control experts see a rise in cases around February 14, many involving chocolate or lilies, a flower that’s potentially fatal to cats. Valentine’s Day can be as much fun for pets as it is for humans—as long as dangerous items are kept out of paws’ reach!

Pet-Safe Bouquets
When sending a floral arrangement to someone with a cat, specify that it contain no lilies—and when receiving an arrangement, sift through and remove all dangerous flora. If your pet is suffering from symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting or diarrhea, he may have ingested an offending flower or plant. Use our online toxic and nontoxic plant libraries as visual guides of what shouldn’t be in your bouquets.

Forbidden Chocolate
Seasoned pet lovers know that all types of chocolate are potentially life-threatening when ingested by pets. Methylxanthines are caffeine-like stimulants that affect gastrointestinal, neurologic and cardiac function—they can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures and an abnormally elevated heart rate. The high-fat content in lighter chocolates can potentially lead to a life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas. Go ahead and indulge, but don’t leave chocolate out for chowhounds to find.

Careful with Cocktails
Spilled wine, a half a glass of champagne or some leftover liquor are nothing to cry over until a curious pet laps them up. Because animals are smaller than humans, a little bit of alcohol can do a lot of harm, causing vomiting, diarrhea, lack of coordination, central nervous system depression, tremors, difficulty breathing, metabolic disturbances and even coma. Potentially fatal respiratory failure can also occur if a large amount is ingested.

Life Is Sweet
So don’t let pets near treats sweetened with xylitol. If ingested, gum, candy and other treats that include this sweetener can result in hypoglycemia (a sudden drop in blood sugar). This can cause your pet to suffer depression, loss of coordination and seizures.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Don’t let pets near roses or other thorny-stemmed flowers. Biting, stepping on or swallowing their sharp, woody spines can cause serious infection if a puncture occurs. De-thorn your roses far away from pets.

Playing with Fire
It’s nice to set your evening a-glow with candlelight, but put out the fire when you leave the room. Pawing kittens and nosy pooches can burn themselves or cause a fire by knocking over unattended candles.

Wrap It Up
Gather up tape, ribbons, bows, wrapping paper, cellophane and balloons after presents have been opened—if swallowed, these long, stringy and “fun-to-chew” items can get lodged in your pet’s throat or digestive tract, causing her to choke or vomit.

The Furry Gift of Life?
Giving a cuddly puppy or kitten may seem a fitting Valentine’s Day gift—however, returning a pet you hadn’t planned on is anything but romantic. Companion animals bring with them a lifelong commitment, and choosing a pet for someone else doesn’t always turn out right. Those living in the New York City area can let their loved one choose their own cat with a gift certificate to adopt from the ASPCA. If you’re not in New York, check your local animal care shelter or take a romantic trip to the shelter together.

Respiratory Problems in Dogs


Brachycephalic dog breeds can be quite a challenge to care for. It doesn’t stop most of them from being some of the most popular breeds around, though. Learn what Brachycephalic syndrome is and how you can take care of a breed with this health problem.

Flat-faced dogs, like Boxers, Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers can be cute, but their short noses also cause breathing problems. These brachycephalic dog breeds can suffer from snoring and snorting. These may  seem like harmless ailments, but these common issues of short-nosed dogs mean the dog’s airway is partially obstructed, and this can become worse over time if left untreated.


Brachycephalic means “shortened head” and refers to the short nose and flat face of dogs like Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Chihuahuas. Other brachycephalic breeds include Chow Chows, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, Bull Mastiffs, and English Toy Spaniels. Because the flat face is so popular, these dogs have been bred for their looks, but many suffer from airway issues as a result. The flat face is the result of a smaller upper jaw, in which the tissues inside are bigger than the jaw can allow. All of the airway issues that can result from this overcrowding are collectively referred to as “brachycephalic airway syndrome.”


Eyes and Eyelids: Brachycephalic dogs’ eyes tend to stick out of their skull a little more than others. Sometimes it’s difficult for eyelids to close over their eyes (even while sleeping). They are also more vulnerable to vision issues if hit on the head.

Teeth: Brachycephalic dogs have the same number of teeth as other dogs, but less space to fit them all, which can lead to peridontal disease.

Read more here


Compliments of Homeward Bound Pet Care

Feline Leukemia and What You Need to Know!

Feline Leukemia Virus Infection (FeLV) in Cats

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a disease that impairs the cat’s immune system and causes certain types of cancer. This virus infection is responsible for a majority of deaths in household cats, affecting all breeds. Males are more likely to contract the infection than females, and it is usually seen between the ages of one to six years old.

Some of the more common symptoms of cat leukemia include:

  • Anemia
  • Lethargy
  • Progressive weight loss 
  • Abscesses
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Infections of the external ear and skin and poor coat condition
  • Fever (seen in about 50 percent of cases)
  • Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken-appearing gait or movement
  • Inflammation of the nose, the cornea, or the moist tissues of the eye
  • Inflammation of the gums and/or mouth tissues
  • Lymphoma (the most common FeLV-associated cancer)
  • Fibrosarcomas (cancer that develops from fibrous tissue)


Cat leukemia is usually contracted from cat-to-cat transmission (e.g., bites, close contact, grooming, and sharing dishes or litter pans). It can also be transmitted to a kitten at birth or through the mother’s milk. Kittens are much more susceptible to the virus, as are males and cats that have outdoor access.


Your veterinarian will first rule out other infections such as bacterial, parasitic, viral, or fungal. In addition, nonviral cancers need to be ruled out.

A complete blood count is done to determine if the cat has anemia or other blood disorders. Diagnosis may also be determined by conducting a urinalysis, or through a bone marrow biopsy or bone marrow aspiration (removing a small amount of marrow fluid for study).

AAHA, hospice association release end-of-life care guidelines

The American Animal Hospital Association and the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care have released guidelines on end-of-life care for pets.

End-of-life care and decision-making “embody the critical final stage in a pet’s life and are as important and meaningful as the sum of the clinical care provided for all prior life stages,” according to the abstract for the 2016 AAHA/IAAHPC End-of-Life Care Guidelines.

? ?
? ?The Animal Hospice Care Pyramid appears in guidelines on end-of-life care for pets. (Courtesy of AAHA) ?

The guidelines provide practice teams with the framework and tools to develop a comprehensive, collaborative end-of-life plan and better recognize the needs of patients, clients, and team members during this difficult time.

According to the guidelines:

  • End-of-life care and decision-making are medically, emotionally, and ethically challenging for everyone involved.
  • Studies have shown that 30 percent of pet owners will experience substantial grief following the loss of a pet, and 50 percent will question their decision following euthanasia.
  • Veterinary team members are at higher risk of compassion fatigue when they work with patients nearing their life’s end and their owners and are immersed in an environment of intense emotional and physical suffering, often of extended duration, with little group support.

The guidelines review the latest information to help staff address central issues and perform essential tasks to improve the quality of life of a pet who has entered the final life stage. In addition, these guidelines define the role of each staff member so everyone on the practice team can work together to offer the best-quality medical care.

The sections of the document cover animal versus human hospice care, patient considerations, client considerations, veterinary health care team considerations, and the end-of-life event.

The guidelines appear in the November/December edition of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association

Winter Bathing – Tips/Tricks

Keeping your dog clean is important year round, but giving your companion a bath during the cold, winter months requires a few special precautions.

While you should avoid bathing your pet too often during cold spells, it might occassionally be necessary to give your dog a bath in winter. During the winter months, salt and grime can collect on Fido’s coat, making a good cleaning essential to maintaining its health and hygiene.

But with frostier temperatures outside, pet parents must step up their efforts to keep their dog warm at bathtime. Here are a few tips that can help ensure the comfort and safety of your pet, both during and after a winter bath.  

Indoor bathing tips

While the setting of a summertime bath might be outside under a hose, winter baths should always happen indoors. Prior to the bath, consider turning up the heat in your home and/or placing a heater in the bathroom (make sure it’s off the floor and away from water).

Test the temperature before inviting your dog into the bathtub. Make sure the water is warm but not too hot; you can fill the tub with few inches of warm water to give your pet a warm place to stand.

Tips for shampooing:

  • Use a moisturizing shampoo. Have your vet recommend a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse. Moisturizing or oatmeal shampoos are best during the winter months, as this is a time when pets are more susceptible to dry, flaky skin.
  • Lather quickly. Suds up your pooch quickly in order to reduce its exposure to cold air.
  • Rinse well. After you’ve massaged the shampoo into the coat, make sure to rinse well, leaving behind no trace of soap residue.
  • Consider dry shampoo. If your pet is just stinky, not dirty, consider using a dry shampoo. Waterless shampoo powders and sprays can help to remove odors and oils, but they may not be right for the job of giving your pet a deep cleaning.

After the bath

Keep your newly clean pup warm by towel drying him right away. If you’ve got a long-haired dog, you might need more than one towel and possibly a blow dryer.

If you’ll be using a blow dryer to finish the task of drying your dog, be sure to use it on the lowest setting possible. Hold it at least 12-inches away from your pet’s coat to keep from burning your dog’s skin.

Finally, keep your pet inside until they’re completely dry. 


Homeward Bound Pet Care Team


Best Chew Toys for Big Chewers!

This is an image of a black Labrador Retriever with his toy chickens.

It’s no secret, dogs love to chew. But some breeds are worse than others and require something to constantly chew on. So, rather than risk them gnawing on your furniture or your favorite pair of shoes, invest in some quality dog toys that are best for big chewers. Here’s a few that are tried, tested, a proven to work great.

1) Kong Classic

Kong is one of the most trusted brands in dog toys, especially solid rubber ones for mega chewers. The Kong Classic is a bulbous red toy that’s sort of resembles a stubby snowman. The weird shape of the dog kong causes they toy to flop around awkwardly and dogs just love it. The best part of these is the fact that their almost solid rubber, aside from the hollow center that allows you to stuff a yummy treat inside. Do that and watch them go nuts!

2) NylaBone

I love this brand; they make the best nylon based chew toys for my bull dog. Normally, regular bones or toy bones are gone within minutes of her receiving them. But NylaBone makes a chew toy that’s built to last. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but most have nifty little bumps and textures to make chewing even more fun for them. This one is even bacon flavored!

3) NylaBone for Puppies

Don’t forget the puppies, hey love to chew more than any of them! The problem with puppies is that they have small mouths and delicate little teeth. So, make sure to get them a special chew toy made just for them. Like this variety pack of NylaBone for puppies. These are some of the best puppy toys.

4) Rawhide

There’s a ton of misconceptions about rawhide for dogs. But you can wean out the bad from the good by making sure you buy quality products made from real ingredients. There are some brands on the market that use plastics and other less than stellar substances in their “rawhide”, but what you really want is 100% real cow or pig rawhide for you dog. These are great for chewing and are also a yummy treat that lasts longer than two seconds.

With big breeds, make sure to get them the large pieces, not the tiny ones they can choke on. Those are best reserved for small dogs like Shih Tzu and Chihuahua.

5) West Paw

West Paw makes great chew toys for all breeds, but what’s so great about them is that their toys float in water and they’re non-toxic and BPA free. These are little softer than that of the NylaBone type toys, but still just as durable. Most are solid rubber and come in cool colors like this Hurley in teal!

pit bull terrier dog in the park red pet on the grass

And there you have it! There’s tons of great dog toys on the market for big chewers, you just have to go through trial and error to see which one work best for your pup. I listed these because I have a big slobbery bulldog and she loves each of them. They work, last long, and keeps her away from my shoes.

From Your Homeward Bound Pet Care Team

Best Pets for Families with Kids

Are you thinking about getting a pet for your family? Do you have small kids at home and are nervous about what animals will and will not work well with them? Well, this list is a great source of ideas and a perfect place to start when searching for the best pets for families with kids.

1) Dogs

Of course dogs would be at the top of this list! Everyone loves dogs and they’re the ultimate family pet. However, there are some breeds that are best for families with kids due to their durability, energy levels, and maintenance.

Bull dogs, despite societies misconceptions, are amazing family pets. They’re loyal, protective, are built like bricks walls, and require very little maintenance aside from cleaning their faces.

2) Pigs

This is an unlikely addition to this list but pigs are seriously great family pets. Much like a bull dog, they’re built strong and can stand up to the rough housing kids often do. They’re just as clean, or even cleaner at times, as dogs and are super playful.

3) Hamsters

Sadly, hamster became a common family pet because they don’t live that long. They’re branded as the “starter pet”, but really should be taken more seriously than that. Hamsters are fun, playful, and can teach younger kids minor responsibilities.

4) Guinea Pigs

In same the light as hamsters, guinea pigs often get chosen as the starter pet. But they’re even better than hamsters! Bigger, fluffier, and more playful. Sounds good to me! My kids loved their guinea pig.

5) Fish

A simple goldfish would do, but you can spruce up the tank with angel fish, bottom feeders, and clown fish. The kids love watching them and you can teach a little bit of responsibility with the feedings and cleaning of the tanks.

6) Birds

Although a lot of people find birds to be annoying and loud, they make really great family pets. They interact well with other birds, are easy to clean up after, and some breeds, such as budgies and parrots, can be taught to speak. Canaries and finches are really playful and are great with small kids.

7) Cats

There are dog people and then there are cat people. So, for those of you who prefer the feline variety, a cat would make an excellent family pet. They basically clean up after themselves, require very little training, and are super cuddly.

8) Snakes

Snakes are incredibly low maintenance and make a great first time, starter pet for families with kids. Corn snakes and ball pythons are the best. They only require to be fed once a week, cage cleaning once per month, and no special cleaners required. And despite what most people think, snakes very rarely bite unless starved or taunted.

9) Turtle

You never have to worry about these guys running away. They’re easy to take care of and live a long time. Turtles are resilient and co-exist really well with other turtles. Great family pet.

cats, dogs, best pets for families with kids

And that about wraps it up! There are tons of great first time pets or best pets for families with kids, but this list sums up the most common species to consider first.

cats, dogs, best pets for families with kids

Of course, if you’re ever in doubt, you can always go see your local pet care provider or quality pet store. They’ll have tons of information about what pet would be great for your particular household.

Pet Manners in Public – What You Need to Know!


Some rules of “petiquette” from the experts:

Don’t confuse manners with laws: Having your pooch on a leash and making sure licenses and vaccines are up to date are requirements in most municipalities.

There also may be laws requiring cleaning up after your dog, aka “pooper scooper” laws.

Owners should research regulations not only for their municipality but also any public place. (Trained hearing or service dogs are usually permitted to accompany their owners wherever the public is allowed.)

Street sense: The website of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers tips for walking your dog. (go to and search for “walking 101”). Keep Fido off the neighbors’ lawns and gardens. Also use a leash that allows the dog space to roam but isn’t too long.

“The well-trained city dog needs to respond to a minimum of four basic commands: ‘sit-stay,’ ‘heel,’ ‘leave it’ and ‘come,’” the website notes. Great article – read more here

Homeward Bound Pet Care