Mosquito Bites and Your Pet: Should You Worry About Zika?

VSSF Admin - Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Zika virus is of grave concern to many people throughout the world, and the topic of mosquito-borne illnesses seems to be on everyone’s mind — pet owners included. With the number of cases of the infectious disease soaring, it’s only natural to wonder if our pets can contract Zika or transmit the virus to us.

Tracking Zika in Pets

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there’s no evidence at this time that dogs or cats can transmit or contract the Zika virus, and the disease doesn’t pose any known risks to animals in the United States.

Interestingly, however, the Zika virus was first discovered in an animal in the 1940s: in a monkey with a mild fever in the Zika forest of Uganda. Despite this early finding, the prevalence of Zika in apes and monkeys is still unknown; further testing and studies need to be conducted to learn more about the virus in other primates. There’s also limited evidence from one study conducted in Indonesia in the late 1970s that horses, cows, water buffalo, goats, ducks, and bats could become infected with Zika but did not get sick.

There’s no evidence that they develop disease or pose a risk for Zika virus transmission to humans.

Mosquitoes in Your Backyard

While your pet can’t give you Zika, did you know that pets can act as “taxis” for mosquitoes and mosquito larvae?

A dog or cat that’s accustomed to going from indoors to outdoors can physically carry these pesky insects and track them into your home, potentially causing problems for both you and your pet.

Pets are indeed susceptible to being bitten by mosquitoes and can contract heartworm disease from the insects — a very common and potentially fatal pet disease in the United States. Heartworm disease is found in dogs, cats, ferrets, and other wild animals like wolves, coyotes, and foxes. The worms can live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of animals, and can cause serious and fatal issues like heart failure, lung disease, and damage to other pet organs, notes the American Heartworm Society.

Dogs are particularly known to be natural hosts for heartworms.

Mosquitoes play a significant role in transmitting heartworms to pets: A mosquito can bite and take blood from an already infected animal and transmit baby worms into a non-infected pet, where the worms can live for years. Although heartworm disease is treatable in dogs, the treatment itself is very dangerous. There’s no treatment available for cats, so prevention is even more important for felines.

In addition to the precautions mentioned below, give your pets heartworm prevention medication to ensure any contact with a mosquito results in nothing more than an annoying bite.

Other notable mosquito-transmitted diseases in pets are West Nile virus, Western equine encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, dengue, and chikungunya (though it’s very rare in pets). Mosquitoes also transmit malaria, which affects humans but not dogs. There is a canine malaria, but it’s passed on from tick bites, not mosquitoes.

Protect Yourself and Your Pets From Mosquito Bites

Indoor pets are at risk because mosquitoes and larvae may be carried into homes by both people and other pets. In addition, improper screening, open doors, and windows are gateways for mosquitoes and other insects to enter your home.

To prevent mosquitoes from getting inside:

  • Remove all stagnant water from your property.
  • Install insect screens on your windows and doors.
  • Use pet-safe insect repellents for your pets (which will be different from yours) and also use a repellent for yourself.
By Jeff Werber DVM

Five Steps To Become A Good Pet Parent

VSSF Admin - Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Dogs and cats love to explore new places in a variety of ways — smelling, licking, eating, jumping, scratching, etc. “Most people don’t consider the prep work they’ll need to do before picking out an animal,” says Kristen Collins, a behaviorist with the ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team.


As a new pet parent, your job is to make sure items like chemicals, cleaning agents, clothes and shoes are either out of the house or out of reach for your furry friend. Keep your countertops and floors clear, cabinets locked, and electrical cords and wires out of sight or secure to walls. Make sure your pet has plenty of dog and cat essentials to play with, such as dog chew toys and cat scratching posts.



Schedules and set routines are an excellent way to encourage desired behavior. Pets are similar to children in this way. They need a regular routine, especially one that begins as soon as they are introduced to you and your new home. Here are a few of the more important schedules to enact:


Bathroom Schedule

Hopefully your new pet has been potty-trained (aka “housebroken”). If not, it will be helpful to initiate a bathroom schedule during the first few days/weeks in your home, especially for dogs. How often the bathroom breaks occur will mostly depend on the age of your new pet. Puppies and kittens (a few months old and younger) will urinate more often due to their small bladders and may need some assistance and encouragement. If an “accident” should occur, don’t fret. Simply clean the spot and show the animal where their “potty” is located (e.g., outside for dogs and litter boxes for cats). Accidents should occur less and less as your new pet becomes acclimated to the bathroom schedule, especially if you encourage the animal (e.g., praise, treats) when they use the potty correctly.


Playtime/Exercise Schedule

Over 50% of dogs and cats in America are overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. One factor for this extra weight is lack of playtime and exercise. Playtime can begin at any age and pets should be encouraged to participate daily, ideally 10-15 minutes a few times a day.


For an exercise routine, consult with a veterinarian. Many animals should not participate in rigorous exercise until about 12 months of age, and some dogs and cats may have special requirements during exercise due to underlying genetic or health concerns (e.g., brachycephalic, or flat-faced, dogs like the pug or bulldog may tire and overheat more easily). In most cases a regular exercise routine of walking or jogging 2-3 times a week for 15-30 minutes is recommended for dogs. Cats often prefer chasing/pouncing games rather than walking on a leash, but not every cat is the same.


Feeding Schedule

Measure out a portion of food at each meal, if possible, as this will limit the amount of calories your pet is eating at one time. You can meal feed or leave it for your pet to eat at his or her own pace.



Feeding pets a complete and balanced diet is a vital part of keeping them happy and healthy for years to come. Nutritional needs will vary depending on the pet’s life stage. For instance, the nutritional needs of a growing puppy or kitten are much different than those of a sedentary adult. A pet’s nutritional needs may change during his or her senior years. Consult your veterinarian to see what diet is best for your pet's specific life stage and lifestyle.



Be consistent with training from the beginning, but keep it positive. “There should be no need for yelling or physical punishment,” says Collins. “Set yourself up as a leader by asking for good behavior when doing even the simplest things, like preparing to go outside or eat dinner.”


If you encounter any behavioral issues, consult a veterinarian. He or she can help identify if it’s related to an underlying health issue and, if not, may have good recommendations for local pet trainers or behaviorists who can help you resolve the issue.


One common problem you may be able to prevent early on is separation anxiety. Many new pet parents unknowingly encourage such behavior by adopting a pet over the weekend, spending every moment with the animal and then leaving the dog or cat locked up once their “normal” Monday-Friday schedule begins. You can help prevent this anxiety by leaving your new pet alone with a fun toy for a few minutes every day and gradually increasing their “alone time.” Begin this routine on the first day you bring your pet home.



In many ways the veterinarian will be your most trusted advisor and the person you'll rely on the most when you have questions. Need advice on dog or cat food? See your vet. Not sure if you should neuter or vaccinate your pet? See your vet. Is your pet vomiting or scratching? See your vet. Veterinarians have a wealth of knowledge and experience taking care of animals, and they truly care about the wellbeing of your pet. So be sure and visit on a regular basis — once a year for the annual checkup, at a minimum.

From PetMD

10 Facts about Fleas

VSSF Admin - Friday, July 15, 2016

. Fleas have four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, biting adult.


2. Fleas feed on the blood of their host -- humans, birds, reptiles, and wild and domestic animals.


3. The female flea can lay 2,000 eggs in her lifetime.


4. A flea can live more than 100 days without a blood meal.


5. The female flea consumes 15 times her own body weight in blood daily.


6. A flea can jump up to 8 inches high, or approximately 150 times its own height. That's like if you could leap over tall buildings in a single bound.


7. Pets with fleas may develop anemia, tapeworms or intense bouts of itching (pruritus).


8. Some pets may develop an allergy to flea saliva, which causes severe irritation and itchiness.


9. The best way to check for fleas is with a flea comb.


10. Even though there are more than 2,000 known species and subspecies of fleas, one flea species -- the cat flea -- accounts for most of the dog and cat flea cases found in the U.S.

Pet MD

Fourth Of July Safety Tips

VSSF Admin - Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fourth of July is just around the corner. It's a time to celebrate with family and friends. Some of our families are made up of 4 legged fur babies. We found this great article from the ASPCA to help keep them safe and sound during all the celebrations.

For many people, nothing beats lounging in the backyard on the Fourth of July with good friends and family—including furry friends. While it may seem like a great idea to reward your pet with scraps from the grill and bring him along to watch fireworks, in reality some festive foods and activities can be potentially hazardous to him. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center offers the following tips:

  • Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them.Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets. If ingested, the animal could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma. Death from respiratory failure is also a possibility in severe cases.
  • Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.
  • Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your pets’ reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing—or even kidney disease in severe cases. Lighter fluid can be irritating to skin, and if ingested can produce gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression. If lighter fluid is inhaled, aspiration pneumonia and breathing problems could develop.
  • Keep your pets on their normal diet. Any change, even for one meal, can give your pet severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals who have more delicate digestive systems and nutritional requirements. And keep in mind that foods such as onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes, raisins, salt and yeast dough can all be potentially toxic to companion animals. Please visit our People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets page for more information.
  • Do not put glow jewelry on your pets, or allow them to play with it.While the luminescent substance contained in these products is not highly toxic, excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation could still result from ingestions, and intestinal blockage could occur from swallowing large pieces of the plastic containers.
  • Keep citronella candles, insect coils and tiki torch oil products out of reach. Ingestion can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression. If inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia in pets.
  • Never use fireworks around pets! While exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of curious pets, even unused fireworks can pose a danger. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.
  • Loud, crowded fireworks displays are no fun for pets, who can become frightened or disoriented by the sound. Please resist the urge to take them to Independence Day festivities, and opt instead to keep them safe from the noise in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area at home.
  • Be prepared in the event that your pet does escape by downloading the ASPCA Mobile App. You’ll receive a personalized missing pet recovery kit, including step-by-step instructions on how to search for a lost animal in a variety of circumstances.And keep your pets’ IDs up to date! It’s a good idea for all your animal companions—even indoor-only pets—to always wear a collar with an ID tag that includes your name, current phone number and any relevant contact information. July 1 is National ID Your Pet Day, which serves as an annual check-in to make sure your pets’ identification tags and microchip information is up to date.
  • From all of us at VSSF we wish you and yours a Happy and Safe Fourth of July !!!!

Saving Your Pet With CPR

VSSF Admin - Saturday, June 25, 2016
From time to time we like to share this and educate people on how to do CPR on their fur babies. We hope you never have to use it, but it's something everyone who has a pet should know how to do.

How To Get Your Cat To Use A New Cat Tree

VSSF Admin - Thursday, June 16, 2016

So you’ve decided to treat your cat to a fancy new cat tree for her to enjoy climbing, scratching and lounging upon. You excitedly rush home with the new offering only to have her ignore the new cat tree in favor of the box it came in. The tree sits there unused while Fluffy continues to sharpen her claws on the corner of your sofa. Sound familiar? Luckily, there are some things you can do to entice your cat to use that new cat tree.

Pick the right tree
Cats love to stretch out vertically when scratching and climbing, and need a sturdy post that can withstand their acrobatics and energetic scratching; besides being a safety hazard, few cats will use a wobbly cat tree. Make sure the tree is tall enough for your cat to really stretch out—for most cats, the taller the better! If you have the space, try to get a cat tree with lots of different platforms, levels and sleeping nooks. Also, cats have different preferences when it comes to scratching surfaces whether it be sisal, carpet, wood, or corrugated cardboard. Choosing a tree covered in the material your cat prefers will increase your odds of success.

Location, location, location! 
If you put the cat tree in an empty corner of the house that you never frequent, why should your cat go there? Cats like to be where the action is. Observe the areas in which your cat enjoys spending time, and try to place the tree in one of those locations. Often this will be near a window, and the cat tree will only enhance your cat’s outdoor viewing opportunities.

Nice to meet you
Don’t just place the new tree somewhere and expect your cat to figure it out by herself. While some cats might get the hang of it immediately, for others a proper introduction will go a long way towards generating some excitement and interest in the new furniture. Use treats, toys or catnip to entice your cat onto the tree. If your cat responds to catnip, sprinkle it generously on the cat tree. Hide your cat’s favorite treats on various levels of the tree, or dangle a favorite toy just high enough that your cat needs to climb the tree to reach the toy. Give your cat lots of praise and positive reinforcement when she spends time on the tree.

By Jennifer Simms

Hurricane Season Has Arrived

VSSF Admin - Saturday, June 04, 2016
Hurricane Season...We can't stress enough the importance of being prepared! We found this great article from NBC 6 to help you and your family prepare and keep your furry family members safe in the event of a storm!

Before The Storm

The most important thing you can do for your pet right now is to get him or her microchipped. Many pets go missing during and after storms for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. Every pet should have a microchip anyway, so now is a good time to check this very important box. If your pet already has a microchip, be aware that these chips are not locators. To increase the chances of being reunited with your pet, call the company who manufactures your pet’s chip, and make sure all of your information is registered and up to date. Your veterinarian will be able to scan your pet’s chip and advise you how to contact the manufacturer. Roughly 60 percent of pet microchips are either never registered, or are registered with outdated information, so take this step whether Erika hits or not. Since storms often disrupt the flow of business, place an ID tag with your pet’s contact information on your pet’s collar.
Next, figure out where your pet will ride out the storm. I recommend keeping pets crated in the same room where your family will be staying. Try to stay calm, as storms can be frightening for pets as well as people.
While litter boxes make it easier for cats to handle being inside during a storm, dogs may require a place to void inside the house. Puppy training pads and newspapers work well, as do indoor grass patches such as the Fresh Patch or the Potty Patch.

Even if a storm is not predicted to become a major hurricane, it’s a good idea to ask yourself what you would do if such a storm were to threaten our community. Should you decide to evacuate ahead of a storm, make sure you can take your pets with you. For a list of hotels that accepts pets, please visit www.dogfriendly.com. If you plan to use a public shelter, bear in mind that not all of these facilities allow pets. Check out these lists of pet friendly shelters in Miami-Dade http://www.miamidade.gov/animals/disaster-preparedness.asp and Boward Counties http://humanebroward.com/hurricane-news/hurricane-pet-friendly-shelter/ and be advised that you cannot use these shelters unless you are pre-registered to do so. If you think you will need to use these facilities, you must pre-register NOW!

When you’re stocking up on food, water, and extra medications, don’t forget about your pet. Finally, make sure your pet’s first aid kit is well-stocked and ready for action.

During The Storm

Be sure to provide your pet’s favorite chew toys and food puzzles to keep his mind on something other than the chaos outside. If your kitty enjoys catnip, by all means, allow her to partake! If she just wants to hunker down and be left alone, that’s okay too. Watch her closely after the storm for inappropriate urination. This can be the first sign of stress-related cystitis or urinary tract infections.
This is a great time to run your dog through his favorite trick and obedience routines. It gives them the sense of confidence they need to get through a potentially frightening experience - and may help to refocus your frazzled mind as well! Zohan will be literally jumping through hoops while sporting his awesome Thundershirt! For more tips on keeping pets calm throughout the storm,  If you think your pet may need some anti-anxiety medications, now is the time to see your veterinarian.
After The Storm
Even during a relatively minor storm event, the fences, gates and pool guards that keep our pets safe can be first things to take a hit. Sadly, this is how quite a few of our patients have perished in the aftermath of storms. It is very easy to fall into our pre-storm habits and simply open the door for our pets. Please do not do this until you have had the chance to thoroughly inspect your property. Make sure fences are holding steady and gates are firmly in place. Many homeowners take down their pool fences to prevent them from blowing away. Several of our patients drowned in their owners’ pools after Katrina and Wilma in 2004. If your pool fence is down, secure any doggie doors to prevent your pet from entering the yard unattended.
Storms also stir up nasty critters such as snakes and bufo toads. Flushed from their homes by heavy rains, these these animals are likely to feel more defensive and will not think twice about harming your pet. To best preserve your sanity, it’s best to err on the side of caution and leash-walk your pets in the yard until life returns to normal. Have maps to the nearest pet emergency clinics handy just in case.
In addition to hiding downed power lines, standing water can carry nasty parasites. Make sure your pets are current on heartworm and parasite prevention, and do not allow them to drink or play in standing water.
If you lose power, monitor pets for signs of heat exhaustion. Provide plenty of fresh drinking water, and consider seeking out an air-conditioned boarding facility for pets who may be having a tough time. Keep pets, especially cats, away from burning candles. About 100 house fires per year are started by pets, and candles are often the main culprit.
Finally - try to stay calm. We’ve got plenty of time to prepare for Erika, if we even need to do so at all. Our pets take their cues from us, so the more we relax, the more they relax. We’ve only just entered the most active part of the season, so think of it as a fire drill - and above all, stay safe,

Source: Hurricane Planning and Pets | NBC 6 South Florida http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Hurricane-Planning-and-Pets-323075811.html#ixzz4AbnljNXD 

Rainy Season and Poisonous Mushrooms

Renee Lewis - Sunday, May 22, 2016

Rainy season is here. We've talked about the poisonous toads, now lets talk again about the poisonous mushrooms. Here are the 5 most common. Please if you see them in your yard remove them. Do a check in the yard before you let your furry loved ones out. If they do ingest them seek immediate veterinary help. If possible take the mushroom with you if they vomit it up or if there are more in the yard grab one so that your veterinarian can identify it. They can cause death!
Common signs to watch for:

Abdominal pain
Walking drunk
Organ failure


VSSF Admin - Friday, May 13, 2016
It's almost that time of the year again.. We have been lucky for  many years now, please don't let your guard down. Preparedness is the key to safety. Here's an article we found that will help you and your furry family member
 in the event of a storm.

Hurricanes … not something we want to think about, but something we definitely should plan for, for the sake of our pets. After Charlie hit Florida in 2004, and Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, we cannot pretend that these events aren’t going to happen and our pets depend on us to make sure they are safe during these events. As a Florida resident, I remember in my frenzied preparation for Charlie, trying to figure out how to get all of my pets into my safe room, the bathroom. I had 7 dogs, 11 cats and a very small bathroom. In addition, a friend of mine who lives on Sarasota Bay evacuated to my house with her cats and birds, so it was like those old college games where you try to cram as many people as possible into a phone booth, only not as funny. Well, I guess it was sort of funny. There was much chaos as we shoved cats into crates trying to figure out how best to stack them in the tub, dragged mattresses to and fro for the best protective use, and moved furniture and dog crates around in an attempt to form some sort of fortress that presumably a Category 5 hurricane would not be able to penetrate. Even if you don’t want to prepare for yourself, it is your responsibility as a pet owner to take every precaution to ensure the safety of your pet. Many pets were displaced and lost as a result of hurricane Charlie in 2004, and many, many more died unnecessarily in Katrina in 2005, because the people in the area where hurricanes hit were largely unprepared for a direct hit. Besides, there seems to be some cosmic law that invokes to prevent an event from happening when you prepare for it in advance. Regardless of whether or not I’m right about that cosmic law, here are things you can do now that will promote your pet’s safety in the event of a direct hit. 1. If you evacuate, take your pet(s) with you. If you are ordered to evacuate, then evacuate – with your pet. Many shelters now accept pets if you contain them in crates, so have a crate for each of your pets. Also, most hotels will accept pets during emergency situations. There’s really no excuse to stay behind and endanger your pet because you want to prove something. If you must stay, at least evacuate your pet to a safe facility (be sure to leave proper next-of-kin documentation). As most experts have agreed, though, if you haven’t evacuated by the time the hurricane is starting its approach, DO NOT try to evacuate at that time. Trying to outrun a hurricane is insane and leads to pure panic and direct endangerment of yourself and your pet. 2. If you stay, secure your pet(s). Have a crate on hand for your cat and/or small dog and use a waterproof marker to write your name, address, and phone number on the crate. Crates that are big enough for large dogs will not likely fit in your safe room, so leashing them securely (I use harnesses for my large dogs, because I don’t feel that neck collars are sufficient to secure them) and keeping them very close to you in the safe room is your best bet. Other important things to do: 

1. If you evacuate, be sure to take plenty of food and water for your pet, as well as your pet’s vaccine records. Also, keep your pet crated or leashed at all times. Store dry pet food in water-safe containers and have a manual can opener on hand for canned food.
 2. Get your cat and/or dog micro-chipped well in advance of hurricane season for more reliable identification should you become separated from each other. Your vet can do this for you.

 3. Give your dog a good potty break well before the storm hits. If there are high winds and heavy rain, falling branches and electrical wires are a real danger to your pet, as well as to you. Keep your dog on leash and under close supervision after the storm passes to protect it from hazards, including displaced alligators, snakes, and floating fire ants. 

4. Try to remain calm. Hard as that might seem, your pets will very likely be stressed out from the situation as well as from the dropping barometric pressure, so move slowly and methodically (unlike what I did when Charlie passed this way). One way to do this is to be prepared in advance. Another way to manage your hurricane stress is to have plenty of Häagen Dazs Chocolate Chocolate Chip ice cream on hand (for you, not your pet). That way, when the power fails, you have to eat it all at once! 

Hurricanes are an unpleasant fact of life in the Southern states and the East coast. But we have been weathering hurricanes for a long time, so it shouldn’t be something that continues to take us by surprise. Be pro-active and protect your pet with proper planning.

By Elizabeth Chandler

Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs

VSSF Admin - Saturday, April 30, 2016
Did you know that your chewing gum could be toxic to your dogs?  Many gums today contain artificial sweeteners to make them sugar free.  One of the most common types is a sugar alcohol called Xylitol.  Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs.  At the low end of the dose, Xylitol can cause severe hypoglycemia or low blood sugar which can lead to lethargy, vomiting and seizures.  At higher doses, Xylitol can lead to acute liver failure and unfortunately, death.   Generally Xylitol affects dogs more so than cats, and previously chewed gum is often safe.  
So what does this mean if your dog ingests Xylitol?  More than likely your dog will need immediate medical attention.  If possible please bring the container with the brand of gum with you as Xylitol concentrations vary brand to brand.  Also if possible, document how many pieces of gum your pet has ingested.  One of the most important things is to bring your pet in immediately after ingestion so we can induce vomiting to try and get as much of the gum out as possible!  Please call poison control or your veterinarian, if you are concerned about exposure to gum or if you have any questions or concerns

Written by

R.S. Singh DVM

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