The Official Houston SPCA Humane Education Blog

Teaching us about our animal friends


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Sand, Sun and Safety: 9 Tips for Taking Your Pets to the Beach

Everyone loves a day at the beach, including your pets!

Everyone loves a day at the beach, including your pets!

Pack a tote bag and load up the car! The beach is calling! But before you and your pet head off to enjoy the sand and surf, there are things you can do to keep your four-legged friend safe from heatstroke and other summer dangers.

Hydration is the Name of the Game

Like us humans, animals can fall victim to dehydration in the summer months. If you’re headed to the beach, pack plenty of fresh water for your pets, and a bowl they can access regularly for refreshment.

When you’re at the beach, be sure to frequently monitor your dog’s activities. If she doesn’t have enough cool, clean water to consume, she may resort to drinking seawater, which can cause additional dehydration, an upset stomach or even salt toxicity.

heat-safety-weekKnow the Signs of Heatstroke

While we rely on sweat to help cool our bodies down, dogs pant to remove body heat. If your dog is panting hard or in a way that is out of character, find shelter immediately from an umbrella, beach tent or other structure, and make cool, clean water available. Take special care with short-faced dogs, like bulldogs or pugs, since they are more susceptible to heatstroke.

Keep Their Paws Cool

Hot sand, gravel, shells and other beach surfaces can seriously injure the paws of your animal. Make a beach towel available for your dog, and be sure to rinse and examine their paws before leaving.

Apply Sunscreen Liberally to Your Pets, As Well

Too much sun exposure is equally as bad for your cats and dogs, and can result in sunburns and an increased risk in skin cancer for every member of your family. Use a sunscreen with SPF 15 or 30 on dogs, especially on breeds with lighter coats. Use a non-toxic, hypoallergenic sunscreen specially formulated for pets.

Not All Dogs Can Do the Paddle

While some dogs are adept swimmers, others may struggle in the water. Even if your dog can swim, exhaustion can set in at any moment and present a dangerous situation. Keep careful watch of your pet, and never allow her to get too far beyond the shore. Never force a dog into the water if they seem uncomfortable or are unable to stay afloat on their own.

A canine life vest will help keep your dog safe in water or while on a boat, Make sure the vest is fitted properly, since loose-fitting vests can be a choking hazard, or may cause the dog to slip out in the water.

Watch for Algae and Red Tides

Red tides which appear in salt water, and blue-green algae which can be found in freshwater both present the possibility of irritating the skin of your pets. Your dog can also experience digestive problems, liver failure, and even death if these toxins are ingested. If you detect red tide or blue-green algae, keep your pet away from the water.

Support the Houston SPCA’s Mission – Make a Donation

Pack a Picnic—and Watch What They Eat

Always pack snacks and a meal for your dog — fun at the beach can work up an appetite. Monitor her activities closely to be sure she doesn’t eat seaweed, decaying fish or other refuse, which can cause an upset stomach.

Avoid the Dunes, Grasses and Marshes

Dogs love to explore, but be very careful before allowing your animals to scout out grassy areas of the beach that could be infested with ticks, snakes and other dangers. Always check your dog’s coat and skin for signs of bites and ticks after visiting the beach.

Observe Good Pet Ownership

Always keep your dog leashed while at the beach, and follow all local laws and ordinances. Be a responsible owner by picking up her waste and disposing of it properly.

Need a friend to take to the beach? Check out all of the Houston SPCA’s adoptable animals. Founded in 1924, the Houston SPCA provides the most comprehensive array of animal adoption, shelter, rescue, rehabilitation and other programs and services in the Gulf Coast area.

Houston SPCA Summer Heat Safety Week

Sources and Recommended Reading

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9 Reasons You’ll Love Adopting a Shelter Cat

June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, and if there is anything we know better here at the Houston SPCA it’s that adopting a cat or kitten is a life-changing experience.  It’s very easy to assume a shelter cat gets a better life by providing a forever home, but as you’ll soon learn, the benefit is absolutely mutual.

Here’s why:

1. All together now: awwwwwwwwwwwwww!

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2. Her zero-calorie biscuits will leave you feeling full of love. Not just for breakfast anymore!

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3. She does all her own stunts, and if you’re lucky, she’ll amaze you with these feats of daring.

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4. She’ll show you all the best hide-and-seek spots.

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5. This never gets old. Ever.

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6. She’s cool and empathetic. When the conversation wanes and dinner party guests overstay their welcome, her glance screams what you’re already thinking: “Get these people out of here!”

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7. She’s not going to judge you if you stay in your pajamas until 4 p.m., and have the laziest day ever.

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8. She’ll have your back, through thick and thin.

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9. She’ll be your friend ’til the end. XOXO

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See all the adoptable cats at the Houston SPCA, and come meet them in person Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

 


Heat Stroke in Pets: Signs and Prevention Tips

heat-safety-weekSummertime is here and so are the scorching hot temperatures that make us all reach for that extra glass of water. Did you know that, like humans, your pets can suffer from heatstroke? In fact, being outside all day or in a warm environment can affect an animal’s health just as much as it can affect ours.

Here are some signs and symptoms of heatstroke in cats and dogs, as well as ways to prevent it happening to your pet.

If your pets have any of the following signs or symptoms, take them to your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic immediately!

Signs of Heat Stroke in Cats and Dogs

  • Excessive panting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Bright or dark red gums
  • Vomiting
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Weakness/difficultly moving
  • Increased pulse and heartbeat
  • Excessive drooling
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

How to Keep Your Pets Cool this Summer

  • Keep your pets inside the house while you’re away. Your pets love the air conditioning as much as you do.
  • Always find a shaded area for your pet — keeping them out of the sun will help cool their body.
  • Avoid heavy exercise with your pets during the hottest hours of the day. Exercise with your pets outside during the early morning or late evening hours to keep them from overheating.
  • Have fresh water available for your pet at all times.
  • Be sure to use cool water, since ice water may constrict blood vessels and impedes the cooling process.
  • Place cool, wet cloths around your pet’s paws. This helps with the heat that is being released through the pads of their paws.

If you think your pet may be suffering from heatstroke, call your veterinarian immediately. It’s always important to watch your pet for any behaviors that seem abnormal. At the first sign of abnormal behavior, it’s time to act.

Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated this summer along with your pets!

Houston SPCA Summer Heat Safety Week

Founded in 1924, the Houston SPCA provides the most comprehensive array of animal adoption, shelter, rescue, rehabilitation and other programs and services in the Gulf Coast area. Check out all of our adoptable animals and consider the adoption option this summer.

Thank You for Supporting the Houston SPCA’s Mission – Make a Donation!

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any ailment or disease, and is provided for reference. Please consult with your veterinarian with questions or concerns related to heat safety.


Animal Behavior: How to Introduce Yourself to a New Cat or Dog

When meeting new people, you probably don’t walk right up and hold their hand or give them the biggest hug you can, right? That could be awkward or uncomfortable depending on the person you are meeting. The same rules apply when meeting new animals.

Learning the cues that animals give us before walking up and petting them is incredibly important and can determine the beginning of your relationship with that animal. Let’s check out some common animal behaviors that you can look for to help with your first interaction with a new dog or cat.

For both cats and dogs we will discuss vocalization and body language.

Why Do Cats Purr? (And Other Cat Sounds)

Cats vocalize in quite a few ways, all of which can give you a clue as to how they are feeling. Here are a few sounds that can help you determine if you can safely pet a new cat friend:

  • Purring is normally a sign that your cat is pretty happy. If your cat is purring, they probably wouldn’t mind some love and attention. For a new cat, you could introduce yourself calmly and start to pet them gently.
  • Chirrups are sounds that a mother cat would typically use towards her kittens. You may hear your cat use a ‘chirp’ to ask you for something or ask you to follow them somewhere. Sometimes it helps when meeting a new cat to practice making a small chirping sound so the cat can be more comfortable around you.
  • Hissing or growling (YES, cats can growl!)indicate a cat who is upset, angry or frightened. Stay away from this cat! They are definitely not safe to pet.

What is Your Cat’s Body Telling You?

A cat’s body language is incredibly indicative of how they are feeling at that moment in time. You have to keep a cat’s eyes, tail, ears and overall body posture in mind when determining if you can pet them or not.

The chart below (from artist Lili Chin -DoggieDrawings.net) is a great resource for visualizing what we are talking about:

NEW: Cat Language!A big thank you to the Training and Behavior Dept of Oregon Humane Society for their help with cat body language information. I have been a cat-less dog person for many many years, so some of this stuff was new to me! For example, I didn’t know that cats also emoted with their WHISKERS (relaxed = fanned out and horizontal; anxious = pulled backwards) Pupils, ear positions, body weight, and tails are the other indicators of how a cat is feeling. *As with dog body language, we look at the whole body and context *. And yes, cats feel and express DISGUST. I didn’t make this up. :)I will be selling 11″ x 17″ and 11″ x 14″ Cat Language prints at CatConLA this weekend, along with other cat-related stuff! I hope to see you there! Booth #333.If you cannot attend CatConLA, a print-resolution version of Cat Language will soon be available as a FREE DOWNLOAD from my website at www.doggiedrawings.net/freeposters   [Please feel free to share, download, print, distribute! As per the Creative Commons License terms on my website: please don’t crop, modify, or use these images commercially.]Donations are always welcome and appreciated. :)- Lili x

The best way to say “hi” to a cat you do not know is to turn your face or body sideways,  then hold out one finger, at right about the height of her head, so she can come up and give you a good sniff. You only want to do this if the cat looks relaxed and calm. You definitely don’t want to offer your finger towards a cat who is hissing at you.

Once the cat has sniffed you and possibly rubbed her head on your hand, you can go ahead and pet her gently behind the ears or on their back. You do not want to put your face near hers— she may like being pet, but you do not know if she will want to be that close to you.

To meet a cat who may be shy, remember to be calm and patient. Never try to force interaction with a cat. Oftentimes a cat will approach someone who is not paying attention to them at all because they feel less threatened. You can try to use toys or small cat treats as ice breakers for a shy cat. It may just take a bit of time for the cat to warm up to you.

Why Do Dogs Bark? What Are They Saying?

Dog vocalization is also diverse, just like cats, and can include barks, whines and growls.

A dog’s bark can actually mean quite a few things and learning to tell between the different types of barks can help make your first introduction to a new dog a bit smoother.

If the dog you want to pet has a high-pitched bark, that may indicate excitement and happiness. They may want to play with you or want you to give them a treat. Dogs also have a low-pitched bark that may be indicating or alerting you to something going on that you do not know about yet. They may or may not want to be pet if they are vocalizing with a low-pitched bark.

If the dog you want to pet is whining, they might be frustrated or want something they cannot get to. Whining may also sound very close to whimpering, which can indicate that the dog does not feel well. Definitely pay attention to the dog’s body language. He may be frustrated he is not being pet enough or might not be feeling up to being pet by a stranger.

And as you already know, dogs can growl. Growling is the way a dog tells people and other animals to back off and give him space.  Never pet a dog that is growling at you or any animals near you. And be sure not to punish a dog for growling- it’s actually a very important form of communication that dogs use, and punishing them for growling means they might not warn you before they bite in the future.

Reading Your Dog’s Body Language

When looking at a dog you want to pet, always be aware of their ears, tail, hairs on their back (hackles) and overall body posture. The chart below gives great examples of what a dog may be feeling based on their body language.

So how do we introduce ourselves to a new dog? First,  you do not want to stand directly over the dog. He probably doesn’t want to feel overwhelmed by having someone stand over him. Stand or sit next to the new dog and offer him your hand, palm down. Let the dog sniff your hand and if they look like they are comfortable, give them a gentle pet behind the ears or under their chin. Don’t go straight for the top of the head- this makes dogs very uncomfortable!

You always want to avoid the dog’s mouth on your first pet. That’s where the teeth are. If the dog you are meeting looks a little nervous, give him time. Some dogs do warm up to people really quickly, others may take some time and patience for them to give you a good sniff and feel comfortable with you.

This quick introduction guide is a great start for meeting new cats and dogs. If you are looking to adopt a new cat or dog into your family, this guide will help you when interacting with new animals at the Houston SPCA! Before taking an animal to your home to join your family, spend a good 10 to 15 minutes with them in our Meet and Greet rooms so you can see if the dog or cat’s personality matches that of your family.

To see all of our amazing adoptable animals, visit www.HoustonSPCA.org today!

Sources:
http://www.cathealth.com/how-and-why/greeting-a-cat
http://www.dogster.com/dog-training/dog-body-language
Humane Society of the United States


Brushing up on Your Pet’s Dental Health

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February is pet dental health awareness month. To celebrate we have some of our very own smiling pups here to tell you all about keeping your pet’s teeth healthy!

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You know your dentist’s orders: Brush and floss twice a day to keep your human teeth nice and healthy. But what about your pet’s teeth?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age three! Dental care is not always a priority at a vet’s office, but as a pet owner you can make it one. Having your pet’s teeth cleaned properly by a veterinarian can help prevent infections and prolong your pet’s life.

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Let’s discuss ways to keep your pet’s teeth nice and healthy:

1. Take your pet to get a dental exam at your veterinarian’s office at least once a year.

2. Start a dental-care regimen at home – ask your vet for appropriate methods to help keep your pet’s teeth clean on a daily basis.

3. Schedule a yearly dental cleaning with your veterinarian. You have to go to the dentist once a year for a full dental cleaning – your pet should too!

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Common signs of dental disease (if your pet exhibits any of these, please take them to your veterinarian):

  • Consistently stinky breath
  • Loose or discolored teeth or teeth covered in tartar
  • Your pet is not comfortable with you touching their mouth
  • Abnormal drooling or dropping food from the mouth
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Loss of appetite or loss of weight

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To find out more about pet dental health, visit these sites:

https://www.avma.org/Events/pethealth/Pages/February-is-National-Pet-Dental-Health-Month.aspx

https://community.petco.com/t5/animal-care/How-to-Brush-Your-Dog-s-Teeth/ba-p/54644

http://www.vetstreet.com/care/dental-health

For more information about the Houston SPCA, visit our website: www.HoustonSPCA.org


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A cold front is on its way to Houston – Are your pets prepared?

The forecast is looking chilly for the Houston area! With temperatures expected to drop we all want to make sure our pets are prepared for the cold weather.

Housing

Provide proper shelter for your pet whether indoors or outdoors. Indoor pets should have their bed or crate placed in a safe and warm place that is away from drafts.

Outdoor pets should have a well insulated house that is wind AND waterproof as well as elevated off the ground so wind and moisture cannot find a way inside.

Extra blankets and straw will also help increase your pet’s warmth.

Make sure to keep room and floor heaters away from your pets as they are an obvious fire hazard and could cause serious injuries.

Food & Water

Make sure to provide fresh , clean water for your pets every day. Each pet should always have a fresh water source.


Outdoor pets need to consume 25 – 50% more calories than usual during the winter because the cold weather tends to deplete their energy. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian to find the right food for your pet.

Cars

Never leave your pet inside of a car! Cars can act like a refrigerator in the winter and your pet could potentially freeze to death if left alone inside a car during the winter months. Even if you are just going out for a little bit to run errands, leave your pets safely at home.

Also – check under the hood! A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor cats. Check underneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to encourage those hiding kitties to abandon their spot under the hood.

When taking care of your car’s winter needs, please remember to store all chemicals properly. Dogs and cats are attracted to the sweet smell and taste of antifreeze which contains ethylene glycol. A tiny lick can kill your dog or cat, so make sure to check your car for leaks on your driveway and in your garage. Keep containers tightly closed and clean up spills immediately.

Pet Protection

If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him/her outdoors only to relieve himself/herself. Check with your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s tolerance of the cold weather.

For more information about the Houston SPCA, please visit www.HoustonSPCA.org today!


Valentine’s Day Throwback: Houston SPCA tips for a pet safe Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day is almost here and the Houston SPCA has the best tips on how to keep your pets safe during this loving holiday!

Head over to our Valentine’s Day pet tips by clicking here: https://houstonspca.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/houston-spca-tips-for-a-pet-safe-valentines-day/

If you want to add a little bit of extra love to your Valentine’s Day, take a trip to the Houston SPCA to find a new furry friend for your family.

You can see all of our adoptable animals by clicking this link: http://www.houstonspca.org/site/PageNavigator/adopt_main