Keep Fido safe while enjoying a day on the water

VSSF Admin - Monday, April 07, 2014

As the saying goes, spring has sprung. The weather is warming up and we all want to spend more time outside. And because it’s warm, many of us spend that outdoor time by the water – be it a lake, river or at the beach. If you happen to have a four-legged friend, it’s likely you’ll bring him along, too.

Many dogs love water play, whether it’s swimming or chasing a ball. If you happen to share your life with one of these partly-aquatic creatures, it’s important to make sure your dog’s time around and in the water is both enjoyable and safe.

The first step is to test your dog in shallow, calm water to make sure he can swim, and swim well. Not all dogs are natural swimmers and they can drown. In case of an emergency, make sure you have something that floats available for a rescue, as a drowning dog will panic and climb on top of the rescuer, which could hinder the rescue and possibly put both the dog and its rescuer in peril. A life preserver on a rope is one possible rescue tool. On a boat, just like humans should wear life preservers, so should dogs. They can jump or fall overboard. A life vest in a bright color will keep your dog afloat and also make it easier to see him in the dark water so you can pull him back on board.

If your dog is skittish or otherwise uncomfortable around or in water, respect his boundaries and do not force him in. Some dogs just do not enjoy playing in water and never will. If you are looking for a dog and want one that will enjoy being in water, do your research and get a breed that’s more likely to enjoy the water. Labs and German shepherds specifically are more likely to grow up to be water dogs, though breed cannot predict an individual animal’s instincts and behavior.

Finally, if your dog swims in a backyard pool, make sure to rinse the chlorine off thoroughly as soon as swim time is over.

Adding a New Pet to Your Family

VSSF Admin - Monday, March 31, 2014

“Please mommy, please, please, can we get a puppy….I promise I’ll take care of it!” How many times have kids used that to convince their parents to get a family dog? If you do choose to welcome a new family member, make sure that you are prepared for the changes and responsibilities. There are a few things that you need to keep in mind before adding a puppy to the family and we are here to help you prepare for the arrival and care of your new puppy.

Delegating amongst the home
As you know, although the kids may claim to care for the puppy before it’s arrival, this initiative tends to fade once the puppy sets paw inside the home. Make sure to divide the work evenly among the family members. There are a few daily chores that need to be taken care of, such as walking, feeding, training, cleaning the yard, and the multiple middle of the night/early morning potty breaks! If you have children who are a little bit older they could probably help out more in the walking and training area. On the other hand, if you have younger ones they can be helpful when feeding and keeping the puppy’s toys picked up and organized. An easy way to keep track of who is completing the puppy chores is to create a chore chart. You can even offer rewards for your children if they carry out their responsibilities.

Prior to purchasing your fluffy mate, find out information on local trainers and see who would work best with your family, and who could successfully train your new puppy.  You want your puppy to grow into a confident and socially welcoming member of your family. While you are in the process of finding the perfect trainer for your puppy, you should also be proactive and begin looking for other pet care professionals like groomers, boarding kennels or pet sitters.

Also consider puppy-proofing your house in order to keep your puppy and your belongings safe. Dogs spend a lot of time outside so remember to keep your yard as puppy safe as possible.

There is much more that goes into the purchasing of a new puppy. So before you make the decision, consider the many factors that need to be taken care of adding that fluffy family member. Make sure to learn all you can about the care of your puppy, before he or she sets paw in a new home. 

The Dangers of Bufo Toads

VSSF Admin - Monday, March 24, 2014

The Bufo Toad is an exotic animal that was introduced to Florida in order to control insects. Since its introduction, it has managed to quickly reproduce and become a native in South Florida.  The Bufo Toad is considered extremely toxic due to the parotid glands located behind the head. These toxins contain high concentrations of hormones including adrenalin. This will attack the cardiovascular system, consisting of the heart, and the nervous system, which is in the brain. 

Signs of Toxicity

Dogs will commonly attack these toads due to their slow movements. Once attacked, the toad will release toxins, which will quickly affect your dog. These are the signs you should be aware of when determining whether your dog was affected.

  1. Foaming from the mouth.
  2. Drooling
  3. Pawing at the mouth
  4. Vomiting
  5. Stumbling
  6. Falling
  7. Tremors
  8. Rigid legs
  9. Seizures


If you see the above signs displayed by your dog, but he or she has not experienced a seizure, follow these steps: 

  1. Rinse your dog’s mouth with running water: place a garden hose or faucet along the side of the dog’s mouth.
  2. DO NOT force water down your dog’s mouth or try to make them swallow
  3. DO NOT feed the dog oil, milk or other substances besides water.
  4. Rinse his or her mouth 3 times for 3 to 5 minutes each.

Making a Lifetime Commitment

VSSF Admin - Monday, March 10, 2014

It’s tough to resist the cuteness of a puppy or kitten – or even an adult dog or cat. They look at you with imploring eyes, their ears erect and their heads cocked, begging you to scratch them behind the ears, throw a ball or dangle a string in front of them. And when you come across such a being in need of a place to live, it’s difficult to walk away.

But adopting or purchasing a dog or cat is not something that one should do on a whim, especially if you have never been a pet parent before. Pets not only need food, shelter, medical care and attention, they also need someone who will commit to caring for them for years – sometimes decades. Depending on size and breed, a dog can live anywhere from 9 to 15 or possibly even 20 years. A cat – especially one kept indoors – can live more than 20 years.

It may not be your entire lifetime that you must commit to the animal you bring home, but you should at least be willing to commit to the animal’s lifetime. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6 to 8 million cats and dogs end up in shelters each year and of those, the shelters euthanize about half. Many of these are animals that were once someone’s pet and that someone decided he or she no longer wanted to or was able to care for them.

Clearly, most people who buy or adopt a pet have good intentions, but many don’t do the proper research or think clearly about the commitment  they’re making. An animal is a family member. They get as attached to their people as their people get attached to them – sometimes more so. They are not objects that you can give away or sell without consequence.

Consider your future plans. If you plan to have children and don’t think you have the energy to devote to a newborn and a pet, don’t get a pet. If you don’t want to take the time to train your pet to handle new situations that arise, don’t get a pet. And, finally, keep in mind that a puppy or kitten will become an adult dog or cat. They get bigger, they sometimes seem less cute, but they are still living creatures in need of love and attention.

So You Want to Own a Pit Bull

VSSF Admin - Monday, March 03, 2014

Sharing one’s life with a dog can be a rewarding experience. It’s important, though, to be familiar with breed traits before making that commitment.

Bully breeds— the Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, boxer, bullmastiff and several others – are becoming popular, but their reputation also scares some people away. If you’re thinking about adopting one of these spirited creatures, there are several things to consider first.

To start, there are several municipalities that do not allow people to own these dog breeds, so check to make sure yours isn’t one of them. You also have to consider whether your homeowner’s insurance covers the breed you want. If you rent, check with your landlord. Once you’ve passed those hurdles, think about the dog’s needs against your lifestyle, as well as the dog’s likely temperament against yours.

With the right owner and training, bully breeds can make wonderful, loving pets; but they need a lot of attention and training. More than anything else, it’s vital that you establish dominance so your dog knows who’s in charge. This is necessary with any dog, but when the dog is as strong and energetic as bully breeds tend to be, it’s even more so.

Bully breeds are especially active. They need a lot of exercise and attention. These are not dogs that are content to lie around the house sleeping, so if you don’t have the time or energy to take them for walks and play every day, rethink adopting one. Lack of activity can lead to destructive tendencies, such as eating your furniture or tearing apart your other possessions.

If you have a fenced yard, be certain the fence is high enough that the dog can’t jump over it and secure enough that it can’t open the gate or tunnel beneath, as they are notorious escape artists. Due to their reputation in the general public, it’s essential that you always have control over your restrained bully. The last thing you want is for your dog – no matter how sweet and friendly he is – to scare someone, leading to possible legal problems or issues with your neighbors. Bullies are large, strong and energetic and can be frightening to people who aren’t familiar with them.

If you aren’t familiar with the breed but still think it’s a good match for you or your family, speak with a reputable trainer or a veterinarian about how to train your new companion so that he’s a model citizen and a joy to have in your home. In short, while you should never adopt any animal on a whim, bully breeds require a bit more time, attention and research. Be certain you’re interested in the breed for the right reasons and that you’re prepared to take on the responsibility. 

Urinary Tract Obstruction in Cats

VSSF Admin - Monday, February 24, 2014

If you have a male cat in your house, there is a particular health issue for which you should be on the lookout: urinary tract obstruction. The most common cause is crystals forming in the urethra that prevent urine to flow from the kidneys. The backup causes the cat to become septic and can be deadly if untreated.

One of the first signs of a blockage is your cat will strain to urinate and often in places he shouldn’t – outside of the litter box. He will also make frequent urination attempts, as though he has a urinary tract infection, though little to no urine will come out. There also might be blood in the urine. In the early stages of a block, this may be the only symptom your cat exhibits. Later symptoms include lethargy and appetite loss, and without treatment, your cat could die within five to seven days.

Diets high in protein, calcium and salt increase your cat’s vulnerability to a blockage, and if your cat is not getting enough water in his diet, it can cause a blockage. There are some cat foods available specifically for urinary tract health. If your cat has had a previous obstruction, he is susceptible to another, so you should talk to your vet about switching his diet once he’s recovered from his first bout.

Because this condition is serious and potentially deadly, it’s important to get him to the vet as soon as possible once symptoms present themselves. The vet will insert a catheter to drain the backed-up urine and perform diagnostic tests to determine the severity of your cat’s condition, then treat accordingly. For the worst cases and if the condition recurs, surgery may be necessary.

The Yellow Ribbon Campaign

VSSF Admin - Monday, February 17, 2014

Perhaps you’ve noticed people walking their dogs with a yellow ribbon tied around the dog’s leash. Have you wondered what this means or even given it a second thought? If you didn’t ask but wanted to know what it means, you’ve come to the right place.

This is a new trend to help people who have dogs that “need some space.” The yellow ribbon tells you, without your having to ask, that this is not a dog you should approach. Its formal name is The Yellow Dog Project, which you can find at www.theyellowdogproject.com.

According to the website, the ribbon can denote a dog that needs space for any number of reasons, whether it’s unfriendly, in pain or has pain issues, among other reasons the dog might not be friendly. It also may denote a dog in training to be a service animal.

The program is international and not-for-profit. Dog owners can obtain ribbons from the organization itself or simply educate themselves on the meaning and find their own ribbons.

Since the ribbon doesn’t necessarily mean a vicious animal, it’s generally OK to ask the owner if you may approach and pet the dog. This is something everyone should do with any unknown dog, not matter what, but it’s even more important with a yellow ribbon dog.


VSSF Admin - Monday, February 17, 2014

Anyone who’s seen or read Marley and Me should be familiar with the term bloat regarding dogs. It’s a serious, possibly deadly condition. Certain breeds that have deeper chests, such as Dobermans and German shepherds, among others, are especially at risk.

Bloat, in short, is excess gas that causes the dog’s stomach to shift its position in the abdomen. Symptoms include anxiety; regular, unsuccessful vomiting attempts; and a bloated, tight abdomen. Your dog will also likely behave in an unusual manner. If you suspect bloat in your dog, try listening to his stomach. If you don’t hear gurgling or other digestion sounds, this is another symptom. In any case, if you suspect bloat, get your dog immediately to a vet – an emergency vet if it occurs during off-hours.

If you know your dog’s family history, a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) that had bloat puts your dog at a greater risk. Specific breeds, as mentioned, and older dogs also have higher instances of bloat. Also, anxious and nervous temperaments put dogs at risk. There are other causes, however, that you have more control over:

  • Try not to exercise your dog just before and especially right after a meal.
  • Place food bowls on the floor. Do not elevate them.
  • Avoid foods like beans and yeast that cause gas.
  • Don’t allow your dog to become dehydrated to the point where she gulps her water quickly, which will cause her to ingest air along with it.
  • If your dog eats too quickly, find a way to mitigate the behavior.

Show Pets Some Love on Valentine’s Day

VSSF Admin - Monday, February 10, 2014

It seems every time we turn around, another holiday is upon us. This month, it’s all about expressing love, not only for our significant others, but for our friends, children, family and especially our pets. Cats and dogs bring so much joy into our lives and this is a great opportunity to show them a little more than usual how much we appreciate their selfless love. Well, dogs offer selfless love. With cats, it’s a bit debatable. Still, they bring smiles to our faces every day.

So head to the pet store and pick up some heart-shaped treats, take your dog for an extra walk and pour some catnip on the carpet for your feline friends. But more importantly, remember that your human expressions of love can be dangerous to Fido and Fifi.

Chocolates and special, rich dinners are temptations for your dog that he unfortunately cannot take part in healthfully, so keep the food and candy out of his reach. And that beautiful rose bouquet? Rose petals are a temptation for both cats and dogs. While not deadly, chowing down on these pretty flowers will cause several days of diarrhea. Try to find a spot in the house – the top of a very tall bookcase, for example – where neither dog nor cat can reach. You’ll be able to enjoy your gift that much longer and your pets will avoid the consequences of a few pleasurable seconds.

The Power of the Purr

VSSF Admin - Monday, February 03, 2014

The cat purr has fascinated mankind for many years. The way a purr works physically is muscles that travel from the brain to the cat’s voice box push air through a valve and causes the vibration. Why they do this is slightly complicated. We assume a purr means the cat is happy, and it often does. But they also purr when they’re in pain or really during any periods of high emotion or stress. If you’re a cat person who has had many feline companions in your life, you know that some cats – even as kittens – purr more than others. Some never purr at all.

The sound is soothing to the human ear, but more than that, a cat’s purr may have health benefits for its human companions! It is believed that if you’ve recently broken a bone, one of the best therapies in which you can invest is to get yourself a cat or spend more time with the cat you already have. The cat purr, while lowering stress and reducing heart attack risk, may also strengthen bones and helps heal a broken one. The trick is in the vibration, which is between 25 and 150 Hertz, according the Scientific American.

Some scientists theorize that domestic cats, which are more sedentary than their wild cousins, developed purring as a way to stimulate their own bones and avoid atrophy while lying sound asleep in a comfy spot in the sun.

Perhaps in years to come, we’ll learn that a purring cat can mitigate or even cure osteoporosis. So far, there are no published studies on the subject, but it’s probably only a matter of time. Cat ladies won’t seem so crazy, after all!

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