The Official Houston SPCA Humane Education Blog

Teaching us about our animal friends

Avoiding the Back to School Blues – Pet Separation Anxiety

It is that time of year again when backpacks are packed, pencils are sharpened and lunches are ready to go! As students head into a brand new school year, let’s remember that you may still have some furry friends at home who will need your attention.

During the summer months, students who are able to stay at home with their pets can give them lots of love and attention. However, when those students go back to school, their pets may feel some separation anxiety or loneliness.

Some signs that your pet may be feeling a bit anxious or lonely include:

Excessive barking or meowing

Chewing or destructive behavior

Guilty dog chewing woman's shoes


Trying to escape from their home

Urinating or defecating inside the house (outside of the litter box!)

If your pet starts showing signs of separation anxiety, make sure to take them to your veterinarian! Your veterinarian will check to see if there are other issues that would be causing these behaviors.

To help your pets avoid the ‘back to school’ blues, here are a few tips to keep them happy and occupied:

Mental Stimulation

Cat Scratch DJ on Make A Gif

Keeping your pet mentally stimulated throughout the day is one of the best ways to overcome separation anxiety. For cats, cat trees, scratching posts and puzzle feeders with delicious goodies are great ways to keep busy. For dogs, there are many toys that will help keep them busy all day long. My favorite is the PetSafe Busy Buddy Squirrel Dude. I fill the Squirrel Dude with part of my dog’s diet (don’t want them getting too many extra treats!) and some peanut butter. I freeze this combination overnight then give the Squirrel Dude to my dog during the day. It takes a long time for the inside to thaw out and keeps my pup happy for hours. The more your pets are focused on puzzles and toys, the less they are focused on you being out of the house.

Reward Positive Behaviors

cute dog gif

When training your pets (Yes, you can train cats!), you always want to reward your pet for the behaviors you want them to learn. Try to avoid rewarding your cat or dog with attention or treats when they meow or bark at you. Instead, reward them when they are quiet and calm or have found something to keep themselves busy. More interactive training can be beneficial as well. Helping your pets learn how to ‘sit,’ ‘stay’ or ‘lay down’ can help when you are leaving for the day. Training with your pets every day helps to stimulate their minds and moves them toward being more confident in themselves.

Play with Your Pet Every Day

golden retriever life is good gif

One of the best parts of having a pet is getting to play with them! So why not play with them every day for at least 30 minutes? Everyone in the family will enjoying designated play time – your pets will have fun, your family will de-stress and everyone will bond a bit more with each other.


Another way to help your pet be a little bit calmer while you are away is to make sure they have exercised before you leave. Taking your dog on a 30 minute walk each day before you head to school, or playing laser-tag with your cat for a while, will help them spend some of the energy they may have put toward being anxious on exercising. Exercising each day will also help keep their weight in check!

Do not Make a Big Deal Out of Leaving

If you think your dog or cat is going to be anxious after you leave for the day, try not to make the goodbye process too long. Animals can sense our emotions and the more upset you are about leaving them at home, the more upset your pets may become when you actually leave. Keep your goodbyes casual and your pet will be less worried about you being gone.

Doggie Daycare and Dog Walkers

Another option for your pet to help with anxiety is to not leave them at home – book them with your local doggie daycare! You can leave your dog in the capable hands of a doggie daycare where the staff will play with your dog, help them socialize with other dogs and feed them if needed. Another option is hiring a dog walker to come to your home and walk your dog once or twice a day. This will help your dog get some much needed exercise which can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Now your family is ready to keep your pet happy and busy all day long!

You aren’t the only ones going back to school this August – the Houston SPCA’s School Program is back in full swing with many brand new sessions available to Houston area schools. Sign-up today to enjoy a free presentation at your school from our Humane Education Instructor. For more information about the Houston SPCA visiting your school, please visit!


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Houston SPCA Summer Safety Pet Tips

Temperatures are soaring all over the Lone Star State, and both humans and their pets need to take cover. The Houston SPCA offers these helpful hints to help prepare your pet for the summer heat:


NEVER leave a pet in a parked car. The temperature inside a car, even with the windows cracked and parked in the shade, can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes. If the air becomes too warm, a dog’s body temperature, normally 100.5 to 102.5 degrees, will continue to rise. If it exceeds 106 degrees, heatstroke could result, causing seizures, organ damage and even death.

Signs of heatstroke include (but are not limited to): excessive body temperature, excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, staggering, stupor, seizures, bloody diarrhea or vomiting, and coma. If you suspect heatstroke in your pet, seek veterinary attention immediately.

To see just how quickly a car can heat up, watch the video below of a veterinarian who decided to experience what a pet might go through when locked in a hot car:


Both dogs and cats should be on heartworm preventative year-round. Heartworms are potentially fatal parasites spread through the bite of just one infected mosquito. During the summer months, heartworm preventative is especially important due to the increased mosquito population.


On very hot days, limit a pet’s jog or walk to the early morning or evening hours. Keep in mind that asphalt gets very hot and can actually burn your pet’s paws.


It’s best to leave your pet inside your air-conditioned home. If your pet must stay outside, make sure he / she has adequate shelter with access to plenty of cool, fresh water and shade.


Dog Vaccine


Your pet should be up-to-date on all vaccinations.  If you are planning a vacation and your pet will be boarded, make sure to speak with your veterinarian about any additional vaccines they would recommend for the kennel environment.


Fleas are a common problem, but they are possible to get rid of and prevent further infestations. Talk to your veterinarian about the appropriate product for your animal and follow all instructions exactly. Many accidental poisonings and deaths happen each year because people use the wrong product on their pet.


Many people head to the beach, lake or pool to escape the heat and humidity. Remember that not all dogs are excellent swimmers. Always supervise your dog near the pool.  At the beach, a strong undertow or riptide can drag a frolicking pet out into the water.  Make sure you bring lots of fresh water for your pet to drink. Rinse any sand, salt or chlorine off your pet as soon as possible.


Plant food, fertilizer and insecticides can be fatal to a pet if ingested. Pet owners should read labels carefully and contact manufacturers for specific recommendations about using certain herbicides and pesticides around pets.

If you have any questions about the safety of your pets this summer, please consult your veterinarian as soon as possible!

To learn more about the Houston SPCA, please visit our website – 


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We wish you a pet-safe Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The holidays are right around the corner and we are here to share a few more tips from the Houston SPCA on keeping your winter traditions pet-safe and fun!

We had lots of excellent tips on keeping the holidays pet-safe from our previous post on having a pet-safe Thanksgiving ( – keep all of those tips in mind when celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Here are a few more tips on how to keep your pets safe and happy while celebrating this season.

Some plants are dangerous!

Dog Cat Mistletoe

Do we really have to?

We all love to decorate our homes during this time of year but be aware of the various plants that can be toxic to your pet if ingested. The toxicity ranges from mild to severe but if you think your pet has eaten any of your gorgeous plants this season, call the vet right away for a consultation or take them to an emergency vet clinic.

Here is a short list of some toxic holiday plants:

Baby’s Breath

Calla Lily






Fir tree(also known as your Christmas tree)

Symptoms of your pet eating something toxic: weakness, trembling, staggering, panting, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, cramps, convulsions, or rigid neck and limbs. Seek immediate medical attention for your pet if they show any of these symptoms!

Wrapping paper, tissue paper, and ribbons

Cat Presents Open

Giving gifts this time of year is a wonderful tradition and can show our family and friends how much we love them. Keep an eye out, though, when wrapping presents as you do not want your pets to eat any of the wrapping paper, ribbons, or tissue paper you might use to make your gifts look gorgeous! These items, while not inherently toxic, can cause digestive issues for your pet and can make going to the bathroom a very unpleasant experience. Keep your wrapping station above where you pets can reach and make sure to clean up all extra bits of paper and ribbon that you cut to keep your pet safe. If you think your pet has ingested something they should not have, take them to your vet as soon as possible!

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree!

cat ornament

Christmas trees can bring light and warmth into your home during the holiday season but remember that they are also something large and strange to your pets. Try to place your tree in an area that your pet does not frequent or in a corner that your pet has not claimed as its own. Make sure that your Christmas tree has a sturdy base and will not fall over if your pet decides to try to ‘climb’ the tree (I’m looking at you kitties!). Many ornaments look like potential toys and your pet might try to play with them or eat them.  Try to keep ornaments above the level that your pet can reach so they aren’t tempted to pull them down.

If this is your first time having a Christmas tree with your pet, try to introduce them to the tree outside so they are not frightened by this beautiful addition to your home. You wouldn’t want Fido to think your tree was his new personal indoor bathroom.


Sitting by the warm fire place

Many homes in Houston have fire places and amazingly, some people actually use them! If you do have a fire place, make sure to keep it well maintained before use and when in use keep the screens shut. With a fire going, a pet might be tempted to get really really close to stay warm and you do not want them to get burned. Also, keep your wood pile covered if possible and pick up all wood chips that fall off of your fire logs. Some pets might see those little wood chips as a tasty snack and you do not want them to have to go to the emergency vet because they ate a pile of splinters.


When the clock strikes midnight, the sky glows bright!

When bringing in the New Year, fireworks are a must. Many cities’ New Year’s Eve celebrations will have a plethora of fireworks go off right at midnight. This can be stunning and gorgeous for you and your family but don’t forget about your pets.


Fireworks bring very loud and scary sounds which can scare even the well-trained pet. How can you keep your pets safe when the fireworks start?

First keep them inside! Many pets have been known to run when they hear loud noises and you do not want your pet getting lost. On that note, make sure they have proper identification on their collars just in case they do make a run for it. Having your pets micro-chipped will also help if your pet does happen to get lost. For your cats, the safest place to be during a fireworks show is in the bathroom – put their litter box and a bed with some blankets and cat-safe toys to give them a smaller area to relax in when the fireworks start. For dogs, if they are kennel trained, being in their kennel might be the most comfortable place for them to be during the fireworks show. Give them water and a bunch of dog-safe toys to play with while you and your family enjoy the show. If they are not kennel trained, keep them in a room with warm blankets and their favorite toys so they still feel comfort when those loud noises start.

We hope you follow all of these tips as well as those found in our Thanksgiving Day post found here: !


From all of us at the Houston SPCA, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season!

Come down and see us sometime!

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It’s Thanksgiving time! Here are some tips for keeping your holiday happy and pet-safe!

It’s that wonderful time of year again!

Thanksgiving Turkey Outfit

During Thanksgiving, we gather with family and friends to eat until we are stuffed, watch football on the big screen, and generally relax around the house while being thankful for what we have been given in life. During this time, however, do not forget about your furry friends – they need to be kept safe from a few things that you may not think about during the holiday season.

Here a few tips on how to keep your pets safe during the Thanksgiving holiday:

Keep an eye on the front and back doors


You might be hosting Thanksgiving this year or be traveling to a family or friend’s house to enjoy your meal. No matter who’s home it is, keep an eye on the front and back door if they have a pet. Many people have cats or dogs who may run outside the second they see the door open. A good solution is to keep your pet in a back room with some fun puzzle toys while everyone is coming in the house and then let them out to meet and greet your guests after everyone has arrived.

Try to keep your pets out of the kitchen

Counter Surfing Thanksgiving

When cooking for Thanksgiving there may be up to 10 dishes at a time in my house cooking on various stove burners, baking inside the oven, or being prepped on the counter. There will be food everywhere that will be tempting for your pet. There will also be potentially hot plates that your pets may not know could burn them. Try to keep your pets outside of the kitchen, maybe playing with your family or with a favorite toy, to ensure that they are not in danger of eating something they aren’t supposed to or touching a plate that is too hot.

Avoid giving them any turkey or turkey bones


Any type of poultry bone is a danger to your dog. Bones from chickens, turkeys, and other poultry can splinter in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines of a dog which can cause them major damage and an emergency trip to their veterinarian. You don’t have to let your dog miss out on the fun, though! Have a dog-safe treat ready to go when your dog comes running up to the Thanksgiving table. You can even make fall-themed dog treats using peanut butter or canned pumpkin which is good for their digestion in small quantities.

Do not give them any chocolate


If your family is like mine, the desserts will consist of chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate! However, chocolate is toxic to dogs and you do not want to be going on an emergency trip to your veterinarian during your Thanksgiving holiday! Keep the chocolate away from your dog and send it straight to me!

After everything is done – take out the trash!


After the meal is complete, the football game is over, and everyone is in a food coma – do not forget to put away your leftovers and take out the trash. That garbage is probably smelling amazing to your pets right now and they might just try to sneak in while you are taking a quick couch snooze to taste what is in that delightful bin. Do yourself and your pets a favor and take out the trash once you are done cleaning up the leftovers – you’ll save yourself a bunch of cleaning and keep your pets away from anything that may not be good for them to eat.

Have a safe and warm Thanksgiving from everyone here at the Houston SPCA!!