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Why You Shouldn’t Give the Gift of a Pet During the Holidays

It is the Holiday Season–the season of giving and sharing love. It is also that time of the year when you have to decide what gifts to give your family and loved ones. If you are thinking of giving a pet this year, please give a great deal of thought before doing so.

A new puppy or kitten may seem like a brilliant idea for a Holiday present because of the happiness that owning a pet is sure to bring; however, a new puppy or kitten is not the best idea for a gift.  But why isn’t it?

Time of the year

The Holidays are one of the busiest times of the year; there is likely to be movement in virtually every part of your house. Many people will visit your home, and there will likely be children running around. A new puppy needs time to get acquainted with your house before all the running around begins. Bringing a puppy home during the Holidays might result in your having a scared pet that will probably just want to go hide in a corner of your house all by itself, and needless to say, that might have far-reaching effects on the pet as it grows.

The responsibility involved in caring for them

Pet ownership is a very important decision that involves a long-term commitment of both training and care. If the gift is intended for a child or an elderly person, they may not be ready to take on the responsibility of caring for the pet, which includes exercise. Also, they might not have the financial means necessary to care for a pet properly.  Yes, they will be excited to receive a furry friend, but what happens after the Holidays have passed?  Can they really take care of the new pet?

Puppy mills, poor breeders, and pet stores

No good breeder will allow a puppy to leave the comfort of the shelter he has known at this time of the year. Some legal animal shelters shut down adoptions at this time of the year for many reasons. The weather can get very cold; plus, the Holidays are so hectic that many new owners might not have time to care for a new pet properly. Others continue to promote adoptions but only with the proviso that the puppy not go home with you until after the Holidays. Puppy mill owners, however, have no such compunction. They view the Holidays as a time to make profit—to rid themselves of their “inventory.”  Every time you buy a pet from such “breeders,” you give them more reason to stay in business and raise pets under inhumane conditions

A pet is not a toy

Giving a child the gift of a pet during the Holidays sends the wrong message that the pet is just a gift. It is imperative that a child realizes that a pet is not something to be played with and thrown away when one tires of it–it is a lifetime friend.  If your child has been clamoring for a pet, it’s probably better to wait until after the Holidays pass.

Personal preference

In most instances Holiday gifts are intended to be a surprise. Bearing in mind that people prefer certain breeds, there is always the possibility that the person won’t like the breed you’ve chosen, or perhaps the breed won’t fit their lifestyle.  In such cases, they may not show as much love to the pet as they should—be it intentional or not. You are leaving open the possibility of the puppy being sent off to an animal shelter.

If you cannot think of a better gift to give, the promise of a pet is a good way to go. Certainly, it is not advisable to wrap up a pet anyway, so why not give a gift certificate of a pet.  Then you can go together after the Holidays to search for that special new member of the family.

The gift of a pet should be done only after careful and thoughtful consideration and never on an impulse.



Halloween Safety Tips for You and Your Pets

While Halloween may be a fun and exciting time for your kids, your pets might find it more stressful than fun.  A steady stream of strangers ringing the doorbell, all wearing strange costumes and shouting “Trick or Treat” may be enough to send even the most courageous pet over the edge.

And even if the trick-or-treaters do not bother your pet, there’s still plenty of trouble for him to find. Keep your pet safe at Halloween by following some of these tips:


Halloween Candy

If your pet gets into anything that you are worried about, the ASPCA Animal Pet Poison Control Hotline at (888-426-4435)  is a great resource for specific information, including whether to take your pet to the vet or not.  Some toxic treats you might encounter are macadamia nuts, raisins, and chocolate.

It’s important to keep all candy and candy wrappers out of reach.  Many Halloween treats, like chocolate, are toxic to both cats and dogs. All forms of chocolate can be dangerous, even lethal, for dogs and cats. Chocolate contains two compounds, theobromine and caffeine, both of which are classified as methylxanthines. The darker a chocolate is the higher its concentration of methylxanthines and the more dangerous it is for your pet if ingested.  Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and seizures.

Halloween candies sometimes contain the artificial sweetener xylitol that can also be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and subsequent loss of coordination and seizures.  And while xylitol toxicity in cats is unknown, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Also be careful that your pets don’t get into wrappers and containers, as this can cause GI obstruction. Surgery is most often the only treatment available for obstruction, and can be very expensive.


Halloween Decorations

Candles can be a disaster waiting to happen.  Consider LED lights as an alternative.

Decorations might also present the added danger of cords, wires and bulbs that your pet might chew on. Your pet might receive an electric shock or insure their teeth and mouth.


Halloween and Open Doors

Dogs might especially become anxious due to all the comings and goings. Finding a quiet place away from the front door may be best if they tend to stress out easily.  Perhaps turn on music or your television.   Perhaps get a tranquilizer from your vet or spray some Rescue Remedy (available at most health food stores) into your dog’s mouth.  For cats, products like Feliway (a calming pheromone product) can be helpful.

Now (as always) is a good time to make sure your pets have a microchip and proper ID on their tags!  This makes it much easier to find your pets if  they dash out the front door.

Try to keep outdoor cats inside for the week of Halloween. Black cats are especially at risk from pranks or other cruelty-related incidents.


Halloween Costumes

In still-hot South Florida, especially heat stroke is also a strong possibility for dogs who are wearing heavy costumes and undertaking extra exercise during special Halloween events (dog park meet-ups, costume parades, Halloween parties, trick-or-treating).

If you do decide to put a costume on your pet, make sure your pet tolerates it (try it on the night before?) and safe. It’s best to forego the costume if your pet seems stressed or uncomfortable.

The costume shouldn’t constrict movement, hearing, or the ability to breathe or make noise.  Please be certain that the costume has no small parts that if ingested might cause your pet to choke.


Bloat and Dogs

People often downplay stomach aches, and think that they are no big deal; however, this is not always the case, especially with dogs. Bloat is a serious condition. It is important that you know the signs and symptoms so that you can act fast. This could potentially save your dog’s life. Even with immediate treatment, approximately 25-40 percent of dogs die from this medical emergency.

What exactly is bloat in dogs, anyway?

Dog bloat is a common disorder that can be deadly. Dogs with bloat need treatment immediately. This condition occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, food, or fluid, causing the stomach to expand to a point where it puts pressure on other organs and sometimes even causes dog’s stomach to rotate or twist. These problems can cause obstructions blocking blood flow to your dog’s heart and stomach lining. The expansion from bloat can also cause a tear in the wall of your dog’s stomach or make breathing difficult.

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Dehydration and Your Dog

thirsty dog cover


Temperatures continue to soar as we navigate our way through the summer months; however, we in South Florida know that warm (okay, hot) temperatures are a way of life.  Therefore, it’s really important that you make sure your dog is fully hydrated.

Whatever the cause, dehydration in dogs is very serious and should always be considered an emergency.  Dehydration might indicate a serious, underlying problem.  If you suspect that your dog is dehydrated, take him to your vet immediately.  If left untreated your dog’s organs can start failing and he can die.

What exactly is dehydration?

A dog’s body is 80 percent water.  Dehydration occurs when this level of water drops to less than normal due to either reduced water intake or increased fluid loss.  If the loss of water in your dog’s body decreases by a mere 10 percent, your dog can become seriously ill.  If your dog is not drinking enough water to replace water lost due to panting, urinating, or any other reason, your dog will become dehydrated.

Causes of Dehydration 

Heat isn’t the only cause of dehydration in dogs.  In fact, dehydration may be a sign that something is seriously wrong.  Dehydration can be caused by either a lack of food or water intake or an increase in water loss through illness or injury.

A fever further increases the loss of water. When there is not enough body water, fluid shifts out of the body cells to compensate, leaving the cells deficient in necessary water.
It’s important to note that dogs dehydrate at a much quicker rate than humans. In part, this is because dogs only have sweat glands on their nose and feet, so they cool at a much slower rate. And a dog’s heavy coat slows down the cooling process and increases the risk of dehydration.

What are some other causes of dehydration?

  • Infection
  • Fever
  • Kidney Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea (especially in puppies)

[Read more…]

Hurricane Preparedness for You and Your Pet


Are you going out of town during hurricane season?  The official beginning the Hurricane season began June 1 and runs through November 30.  Are you prepared?  While many families have a strong disaster preparedness plan in place for the human members of the family, they often neglect to put in place a plan that protects their pets as well.  We’ve done some footwork for you.

Pet-friendly Evacuation Centers in Miami-Dade County

There are two pet-friendly Evacuation Centers in Miami.  Pet owners, who reside within evacuation zones, live in unsafe structures or trailers can participate.

Types of pets accepted at the evacuation centers are:  dogs, cats, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits (small-sized, under 10 pounds), ferrets, and birds.

Darwin Fuchs Pavilion
10901 SW 24th St.
Miami, FL 33165

Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High
1410 County Line Road
Miami, FL 33179

Requirements to be admitted to these shelters include:
  • Proof of residency within an evacuation zone
  • Medical and current vaccination records for each pet. Annual rabies vaccinations and a visible Miami-Dade County dog license are required by Miami-Dade County Code. Cats are also required to have annual rabies vaccinations.
  • Pet owners must bring supplies for themselves and their pet(s)
  • Limit four (4) pets per household
  • Family member must remain in the shelter with the pet(s)

You will need to pre-register; call 786-331-5354 to request the necessary forms. [Read more…]