Pet Care Tips


Helpful Cat Tips
Cat-proof your home with common sense: any way that a toddler could get into trouble goes double for “Tiger!” Small objects that could be swallowed, toxic substances (medications, cleaning supplies, etc.), or breakables should be safely stored in cabinets with cat-proof doors. And remember that cats go barefoot and lick their feet clean; rinse thoroughly any surface you’ve cleaned with chemicals.

Cats and kittens more than six weeks old do not need milk. For the cat who truly craves dairy products, ask your veterinarian if a half teaspoon of milk or a small piece of cheese is acceptable as a treat. More will cause diarrhea in most cats.

To avoid litterbox issues later, pick a type of litter and, if your cat likes it, stick with it! Place at least one box for every cat in the house in quiet areas of your home, and leave them there. Scoop soiled litter every day and keep the area free from dogs and other intrusions that your cat will find unpleasant. No one likes to be disturbed while on the toilet; your cat is no exception. If he is disturbed often enough, he will elect to “do his business” elsewhere, like on the carpet or your bed. Prevention is the key to avoiding inappropriate elimination in cats.

Litterbox issues often stem from changes in the home. These can range from a different type of litter or a box hood to new furniture, new animals, new people or remodeling in the home. Keep your home as stress-free as possible, and make sure your cat gets plenty of appropriate play and exercise daily. Games that involve chasing, pouncing, and “killing” small toys will be the most effective, as they simulate the cat’s natural drives.

Make grooming Tiger a regular, pleasant habit. Long-haired cats may need combing every day to prevent painful mats and knots, and even short-haired cats need a weekly brushing or combing. Include a quick inspection of ears and mouth (ask your veterinarian what to look for) and nail care (see SmartHeart pamphlet on claws). The more often you groom, the more your cat will relax and think of the sessions as opportunities for extra attention and heavy-duty stroking.

Have Tiger spayed or neutered as early as possible, usually between 6 and 8 months old. A spayed or neutered cat will be healthier, better behaved, and will live longer.

Helpful Dog Tips
To boost your dog’s self-confidence, specify a comfortable, private place that is just for “Lucky.” A nest made of a soft towel or blanket will help Lucky relax and feel good about your home. When things get hectic or stressful, add a worn shirt or pillow-case from the laundry so that your familiar smell will help your dog feel safe. You can also use that place as a “time-out” zone when Lucky is underfoot or overly excited.

Successful housetraining depends upon proper confinement and ample chances for the dog to succeed in eliminating outdoors. Crate training is an excellent way to housebreak puppies and dogs, and crates, when used correctly, become safe havens for dogs that they can use throughout their lives. For explicit information about crate training, contact the AHS Behavior & Counseling Department at 404.974.2899.

Punishment is not effective for housetraining a dog. Don’t rub Lucky’s nose in it, and certainly don’t hit him/her! Show your dog where to go and always praise your dog for eliminating in the right place. Until Lucky gets the idea, you will want to confine your dog between outings in a “safe zone” (a restricted area) when you can’t supervise.

Another way to help with socialization is to enroll Lucky in an obedience class. The social experience with strangers and with other dogs is as important as the vital training you will both receive. When you focus on building a relationship with your dog, you will experience the truest and most rewarding type of bond between human and canine. Dog training should be built on trust, not fear. Click here for more information about our six-week Basic Obedience Classes.

Bathing Frequency
Most dogs only need bathing once a month. Ask your veterinarian or groomer about your dog’s skin and hair type; this can make a big difference in how often Lucky should be bathed and what special needs you may need to consider. You may decide that a professional groomer can handle your situation more easily and safely.

For more information on caring for your dog, including chewing devices, flea prevention and more, click here for the Smartheart brochures.

Summer Tips
As temperatures rise, you need to take extra precautions to keep your furry friends safe! Here are a few tips to get you and your pet through the spring and summer:

Never leave your pet alone in a parked car.
Every year, dogs overheat after being locked inside cars while their owners shop or run errands. It only takes a few minutes for the temperature inside a car to soar over 100 degrees, even with the windows down. Pets left in hot cars, even briefly, can suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, brain damage, or death. If you see an animal that’s been left in a vehicle, report it to the store’s manager immediately. If the owner of the vehicle cannot be reached, dial your county animal control or the local police department. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Humane Society is not able to respond to such situations, although we can provide you with the appropriate animal control phone number.

Don’t put your pet in the back of your truck.
In many areas, it’s illegal to have your dog loose in the bed of a truck. It’s also extremely unsafe. Dogs can jump out or be unintentionally thrown from the bed when you slam on brakes, swerve, or collide with another vehicle. Dogs should ride either in the cab (in a crate or wearing a seatbelt harness designed for dogs) or in a secured crate in the bed of the truck. But remember… crates get hot too!

Hydration is key.
Make sure your pet always has fresh, cool water to drink. If your pet must be outdoors for any period of time, make sure he has a shady place to escape the sun. Be careful not to over-exercise him, and keep him indoors when at all possible.

Beware of the asphalt.
Asphalt gets extremely hot on warm days and releases heat slowly, so it stays hot even after sunset. Avoid walking dogs on the blacktop if possible. Not only can it burn sensitive paw pads, but the dog’s body can heat up quickly since he’s low to the ground.

Do not leave pets unsupervised around water.
Not all pets are good swimmers! Make sure your pet wears a flotation device when on a boat, and rinse him off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from his fur.

Keep all unscreened windows and doors closed.
Make sure adjustable screens are tightly secured and never let your pet near a window without a screen. Pets can easily fall out of windows and off of balconies. Please take necessary precautions!!

Know the warning signs of heatstroke.
Lethargy, excessive panting, difficulty breathing, a lurching gait, glazed eyes, vomiting, bright red gums and tongue, and increased salivation are all symptoms. If you see signs of heatstroke, soak him with cool (not cold) water and seek veterinary care immediately!

Autumn Safety Tips

Ah, fall—there’s nothing like crisp, cool air, the first months of school and beautiful foliage to get you excited for the changing seasons. Your pet, too, is probably welcoming the break from hot, sticky weather. But pet parents, beware—fall is also a time of lurking dangers for our furry friends. From household poisons to cold weather hazards, the season is a minefield! Here are some tips to keep your pet snug and healthy during the autumn months:

Beware of chemicals. The use of rodenticides increases in the fall as rodents seek shelter from the cooler temperatures by attempting to move indoors. Rodenticides are highly toxic to pets—if ingested, the results could be fatal. If you must use these products, do so with extreme caution and put them in places inaccessible to your pets.

Kids Supplies. It’s back-to-school time, and those of you with young children know that means stocking up on fun items like glue sticks, pencils and magic markers. These items are considered “low toxicity” to pets, which means they’re unlikely to cause serious problems unless large amounts are ingested. However, since gastrointestinal upset and blockages certainly are possible, be sure your children keep their school supplies out of paw’s reach.

Ease into training. If you and your pooch haven’t been active outdoors in a while because of the summer heat, do some remedial recall training. Dogs, like people, get rusty on their skills if they aren’t using them.

Beware of mushrooms!
Fall and spring are mushroom seasons. While 99% of mushrooms have little or no toxicity, the 1% that are highly toxic can cause life-threatening problems in pets. Unfortunately, most of the highly toxic mushrooms are difficult to distinguish from the nontoxic ones, so the best way to keep pets from ingesting poisonous mushrooms is to keep them away from areas where any mushrooms are growing. Contact your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435 immediately if you witness your pet eating a wild mushroom.

Importance of fresh water. In order to generate body heat, pets who exercise heavily outdoors, or who live outdoors, should be given more food during colder seasons. Make sure horses and other outdoor animals have access to clean, fresh water that is not frozen.

Watch out for snakes. Autumn is the season when snakes who are preparing for hibernation may be particularly “grumpy,” increasing the possibility of severe bites to those unlucky pups who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pet owners should know what kinds of venomous snakes may be in their environment—and where these snakes are most likely to be found—so they can keep pets out of those areas.

Car coolants. Many people choose fall as the time to change their car’s engine coolant. Ethylene glycol-based coolants are highly toxic, so spills should be cleaned up immediately. Consider switching to propylene glycol-based coolants—though they aren’t completely nontoxic, they are much less toxic than other engine coolants.

Winter & Holiday Tips

Even in our relatively mild winters, dogs need protection from the rain and cold, either inside your house (best) or inside their own. Dogs can freeze! Most small and shorthaired dogs are best kept inside when it gets cold. An outdoor dog needs a winter coat and its dog house should be dry and elevated with clean, dry bedding and a flap over the opening to keep out drafts. Consider adding a dog door to the garage and a soft cushion in the warmest corner if you must keep your dog outside.

NOTE: The AHS strongly encourages pet owners to keep pets indoors year-round. After all, they are members of the family! Dogs are very social creatures who do not do well when isolated from their families. If your dog is banished to the yard because he tears up the house or behaves badly, please take him to obedience classes so he can live inside.

Diet Needs. Check water bowls often when the temperature dips below freezing, and break the ice or refill with water as necessary. An outdoor dog may need more calories in the winter to produce body heat; on the other hand, an indoor dog may exercise less during the colder months and need fewer calories. Ask your vet about increasing or decreasing the amount you feed your dog.

Chemicals are Deadly. Antifreeze smells and tastes great to dogs, but it is a deadly poison. Watch for radiator drainage spots in driveways and flush them clean immediately. Chemicals used to melt ice and snow on sidewalks can irritate your pet’s paws (and burn your pet’s mouth if it licks), so you may need to wipe them with a wet cloth after an outing. Pets outside in the snow may need the ice between their paw pads removed.

Extra Food During the Holidays. Overindulgence during holidays is a human tradition which can be serious trouble for dogs. Alcohol or chocolate can be toxic for your dog. Keep it away from Easter baskets, Christmas stockings, and Halloween bags. During family feasting times, be strong with your “no people food” rule! If you must give your dog something special, there are plenty of dog treats that are tasty and healthy.

New Year’s Eve Festivities. To ensure your pet’s security and peace of mind on days such as New Year’s Eve, we recommend that you leave your pet inside the house, or sheltered in a basement or garage, with the windows and curtains closed and the air conditioner or heat on at a normal level. In winter, it is nice to leave a radio or TV on with soothing music. These precautions will reduce and muffle the frightening sounds outside. It will also help during parties when doors are frequently being opened. Any pet who is easily frightened at the backfire of a car or who is frightened by ordinary thunder and lightning should NOT be left at home alone during fireworks.

Holiday Decorations. Crepe paper, tinsel, ribbons, decoration hooks, fragile glass ornaments, holiday lights, Halloween costumes, and all of the other holiday decor we add to our households are all tempting and dangerous to dogs. Candles are fascinating, and it only takes one wag or sniff for disaster to strike. Many traditional holiday plants are toxic. Check with your vet for a list of poisonous houseplants. Decorate with careful thought to placement and access.

Exercise and Play. Many dogs seem to really enjoy playing outdoors in the colder months, so strap on your boots and grab the leash! In addition to games of fetch and the like, your dog will still enjoy long walks (as long as it isn’t too icy) and being with you. When the really foul weather drives you both indoors, play “mind games” like Hide and Seek or Find It. Consider an interactive toy for your pet like a Buster Cube. Spend the wintry indoor days teaching your dog tricks, too.

Valentine’s Day Safety Tips For Pets
Valentine’s Day can be a festive and fun time of year for couples, children and families, but for family pets, it can be a stressful and even dangerous time of year. The Atlanta Humane Society offers pet owners some common sense tips to help owners keep their pets safe during this time of year.

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.

Easter Lily Pet Safety Tips

As spring showers give way to fragrant flowers, the Atlanta Humane Society wants to remind animal lovers and pet parents that one of the season’s most popular plants, the Easter lily, can result in tragic consequences for our feline friends.

“All lilies belonging to the plant genus Lilium are considered highly toxic to cats,” says Dr. Steven Hansen, board-certified veterinary toxicologist and director of the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. “The consumption of small amounts can produce a life-threatening situation.”

According to Dr. Hansen, certain species of the daylily genus Hemerocallis are known to produce similar toxic effects.

Some examples of common lily varieties that are dangerous for cats include:

  • Easter Lily
  • Tiger Lily
  • Rubrum Lily
  • Japanese Show Lily
  • Daylily (certain species)

Within only a few hours of ingestion, these plants may cause a cat to vomit, become lethargic or develop a lack of appetite. Without prompt and proper treatment by a veterinarian, a cat may develop kidney failure in 36 to 72 hours. Time is of the essence for treatment and if an owner suspects that his or her cat may have ingested any part of a lily, the pet should seek medical care immediately.

AHS also suggests leaving lilies out of Easter baskets or Mother’s Day bouquets destined for homes with cats, or using safer flower varieties as a substitute. Safe alternatives include Easter orchids, cacti, and daisies, as well as roses and violets.

If your dog or cat accidentally ingests any potentially harmful flowers or plants, please call the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe on the 4th of July

Fourth of July fireworks can frighten pets, and that fear can cause your dog or cat to panic and try to escape the confines of your yard or house. The pet behavior experts at the Atlanta Humane Society recommend you do the following to keep your pet safe on the 4th of July:

  • Keep your pet indoors in a quiet and isolated room with covered windows, or the basement where there are no windows, to help them feel safe and secure.
  • Turn on a fan along with a radio or television to muffle the sound of the fireworks. They’ll provide familiar indoor sounds and may help soothe them if they must be alone on this noisy holiday.
  • Don’t take your pet to a fireworks display. Even if the pet is not normally frightened on the 4th of July, the large crowds and noise may be too much for them to handle.
  • If your pet behaves nervously by pacing, whining or crying, distract it by playing with the pet or doing something they enjoy. DO NOT stroke, pet or reassure them by saying, “Don’t worry, it’s okay.” This will actually reinforce their nervousness or fright. It is best to ignore these behaviors. Consult with your veterinarian about prescription or alternative remedies to calm your pet.
  • Sometimes, pacing pets get static shocks from carpeting, so they tend to seek out bare floors. This may be because they associate the negative shock with the storm. Allow your pet access to a safe area with no carpeting. If you use a crate, it’s best not to lock your dog in it. Place the crate in the “safe area” and leave the crate door open.
  • If you are at home, the best thing you can do for your pet is to ACT NORMAL. Your pet will feed off your energy. Stay upbeat; talk to your dog in a normal voice. Do not stroke or pet it if it is exhibiting fear, as this rewards that behavior. IGNORE minor upset, and leave your pet alone. Allow it to be with you if it wants to, but avoid coddling it. You can get a pretty good idea of how your pet will react to fireworks by watching how it reacts to other loud noises. Prepare ahead of time to minimize discomfort. There is also a method of reducing the fireworks stress in pets called desensitization. This involves playing recordings of fireworks sounds in your home prior to your pet’s exposure to the noises on July 4th. Please contact the Atlanta Humane Society Education Department at (404) 875-5331, ext.261 for more details on this method.
  • Make sure your pet always wears an appropriately fitted collar. If your pet is a dog, you should be able to slip no more than three fingers beneath the collar. If your pet is a cat, it should be wearing a stretch or safety collar. Your pet should always wear an identification tag with your current phone number and address, as well as a current license/rabies tag.
  • If your pet does escape from your house or yard due to stress from fireworks and you are unable to locate your pet, it’s important that you visit the Atlanta Humane Society and other area animal shelters as soon as possible to look for it. You can find addresses and phone numbers of municipal shelters listed in the front section of the “white pages” telephone book. At each shelter, provide a photo and specific description of your pet.

These steps will greatly increase your chances of finding your animal friend!

With a little planning and a lot of patience, pets can enjoy the Independence Day holiday. For more information on how to help your pet get through the 4th of July without becoming a bundle of nerves, call the Atlanta Humane Society Education Department at (404) 875-5331.

Halloween Safety Tips For Pets

Halloween can be a festive and fun time of year for children and families, but for family pets, it can be a stressful and even dangerous time of year. The Atlanta Humane Society offers pet owners some commonsense tips to help owners keep their pets safe during this time of year:

Don’t leave your pet out in the yard on Halloween. There are plenty of stories of vicious pranksters who have teased, injured, stolen and even killed pets on this night.

  • Keep your outdoor cats inside several days before and several days after Halloween. Black cats in particular may be at risk from children’s pranks or other cruelty-related incidents. Many shelters, including the Atlanta Humane Society, do not adopt black cats on Halloween as a safety precaution.
  • Trick-or-treat candies are not for pets.
    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.

  • Be careful of pets around a lit pumpkin. Pets may knock it over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned.
  • Don’t dress your pet in a costume unless you know he/she loves it. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict movement, hearing or ability to breathe or bark. Be careful not to obstruct your pet’s vision. Even the sweetest animal can get snappy when he/she can’t see.
  • All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room during trick-or-treat visiting hours. Too many strangers in strange garb can be scary for an animal.
    Also, animals may find the front door opening to be too hard to resist, and they could escape!
  • Make sure your cat or dog is wearing proper identification. If for any reason they escape and become lost, you increase the chances that they will be returned to you.
Thanksgiving Safety Tips
‘Tis the season for friends, family and holiday feasts—but also for possible distress for our animal companions. Pets won’t be so thankful if they munch on undercooked turkey or a pet-unfriendly floral arrangement, or if they stumble upon an unattended alcoholic drink.

Check out the following tips from ASPCA experts for a fulfilling Thanksgiving that your pets can enjoy, too:

Talkin’ Turkey.
If you decide to feed your pet a little nibble of turkey, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. Don’t offer him or her raw or undercooked turkey, which may contain salmonella bacteria.

Sage Advice. Sage can make your Thanksgiving stuffing taste delish, but it and many other herbs contain essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to pets if eaten in large quantities. Cats are especially sensitive to the effects of certain essential oils.

No Bread Dough.
Don’t spoil your pet’s holiday by giving him raw bread dough. According to ASPCA experts, when raw bread dough is ingested, an animal’s body heat causes the dough to rise in his stomach. As it expands, the pet may experience vomiting, severe abdominal pain and bloating, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring surgery.

Don’t Let Them Eat Cake.
If you’re baking Thanksgiving cakes, be sure your pets keep their noses out of the batter, especially if it includes raw eggs—they could contain salmonella bacteria that may lead to food poisoning.

Too Much of a Good Thing.
A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don’t allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of an upset stomach, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it’s best keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays.

A Feast Fit for a Kong. While the humans are chowing down, give your cat and dog their own little feast. Offer them rawhide strips, Nylabones or made-for-pet chew bones. Or stuff their usual dinner—perhaps with a few added tidbits of turkey, vegetables (try sweet potato or green beans) and dribbles of gravy—inside a Kong toy. They’ll be happily occupied for awhile, working hard to extract their dinner from the toy.

Christmas Safety Tips For Pets
The Atlanta Humane Society wants pet owners to be aware of potential dangers to their pets this holiday season. Below are some tips to remember as you deck the halls:

  1. Holiday poinsettias, mistletoe, evergreen needles and the Japanese Yew are plants that pose dangers to pets. The needles of evergreens are not toxic but can become lodged in the throat or stomach of your pet. Poinsettias and mistletoe are very toxic. The bright red berries and bark of the Japanese Yew will cause death to animals.
  2. Beware of open flames. Candles, menorahs and fireplace fires can be dazzling for your dog or cat. Candles can also be knocked over by curious pets and cause a fire in your home. Do not wait for your pet to learn on its own that fire is dangerous.
  3. Chocolate is a deadly treat. Chocolate has a toxic effect on animals, especially dogs. Unsweetened chocolate, often used for baking, is the most dangerous.
  4. Keep holiday ornaments and decorations out of your pet’s reach. Ribbon, tinsel, electrical cords and edible decorations sometimes attract curious mouths.
  5. Antifreeze tastes sweet and delicious to your pet, but is a deadly poison. Do not let your pet drink out of puddles and be sure to flush radiator drainage spots in your garage with water immediately. There are now several companies that produce brands of antifreeze that is not only safer for pets, but are more environmentally sound. Be sure and ask for those brands next time you are at the store.