Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Benefits of Pets and Pet Therapy

From mental health to physical health, animals today are helping people in more ways than ever before, and not just as registered service animals or guide dogs. It is not uncommon anymore to see a Therapy Dog visiting a nursing home or school, for example, or you may come across a physical therapist who uses a canine companion to help motivate her patients. Whether a certified therapy animal or not, though, pets in general have an amazing impact on our physical and mental well-being. Here are just a few examples:


·         Lifts spirits and lessens depression

·         Decreases feelings of isolation and alienation

·         Encourages communication

·         Provides comfort

·         Increases socialization

·         Reduces boredom

·         Lowers anxiety

·         Helps children overcome speech and emotional disorders

·         Creates motivation to aid in faster recovery, either mentally or physically

·         Reduces loneliness


·         Lowers blood pressure

·         Improves cardiovascular health

·         Releases endorphins (oxytocin), which have a calming effect

·         Diminishes overall physical pain

·         Petting an animal produces an automatic sense of relaxation, which can reduce the amount of medication a person needs


·         Helps children focus

·         Improves literacy skills

·         Provides non-stressful, non-judgmental audience

·         Increases self confidence, reduces self-consciousness

Physical Therapy:

·         Increases joint movement and improves recovery time

·         Maintains or increases motor skills

·         Provides motivation to move, stretch, and exercise longer

For more information on Therapy Dogs and Certification, visit Therapy Dogs United.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How much is that doggie in the window?

Ahhh, the holiday season. Sipping on hot chocolate, decorating the house, spending time with family.....and puppy fever?? ;)

Certainly there is nothing is cuter than a puppy or kitten for the holidays. But if you are seriously thinking about getting a new furry family member this Christmas, you should take a moment to evaluate your lifestyle and expectations. Young pets are certainly a huge temptation and can be a great fit for many households, but for others an older animal is a much better choice of companion. Plus, there are lots of pets in shelters who are looking for their forever homes. Here are a few things you should consider before you bring home a new addition:

1. How much time do you have? Younger animals require a lot more exercise, attention, and training. Puppies, at least initially, cannot be left alone for more than a couple of hours at a time. More mature pets, even those just a year or two old, are generally more obedient, already potty trained, and require much less time overall (especially if you prefer to relax once you get home from work). 


2. How much patience do you have?  Are you willing to commit to puppy classes as well as follow up training at home? The majority of shelter dogs are surrendered between 6 months and 18 months of age because this is when dogs enter their challenging adolescent stage. If you don't have the time or patience to get through this or to properly socialize or train your dog, a slightly older pet who is already past this stage may be a better choice. Plus, with an older pet you already have a good idea of their personality and whether it would be a good fit in your household. 

3. How often are you home? Younger pets don’t do well being kept alone by themselves. They may try to escape, bark, or become destructive. Older pets are generally more settled and happy to snooze the day away until you’re back from work. If you have a puppy, you need to be home more often for at least the first few months to relieve stress on your pet.


4. How active are you? How physically able are you to care for a pet? A high-energy, working breed of dog will not do well in a household that does not enjoy daily exercise and can't provide that kind of stimulation. Also, buying a puppy or kitten as a companion for elderly parents (or grandparents) may not be the best choice. Many older people have difficulty bending down to change kitty litter, for example, or are physically unable to take a new puppy for 30 minute walks twice a day. Little pets, especially active puppies or kittens, can also become a trip hazard for older people with mobility issues. 

5. What do you want from your pet? Are you looking for a pet to exercise with, take out to the dog park, and play with your kids for hours? Then a puppy or kitten may be the best fit. If you’re looking for a calmer companion, though, an older pet may be more suited.


Overall, choosing a new furry family member is a big decision, and not all pets are created equally. There are definitely certain breeds that are much more active or high maintenance than others, but in general puppies and kittens are going to be much more work (and more of a financial burden initially) than their older counterparts. Therefore, when choosing a pet, it’s important to think carefully about your individual needs and lifestyle before making a decision.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Halloween Safety

Happy HOWL-oween!

Halloween is a time for everyone to have a little fun, and that includes our four-legged family members :) Whether you prefer dressing up or passing out candy, here are some potential dangers to keep in mind as you celebrate this spook-tacular holiday with your pets.

Candy: Candy may taste delicious, but never share any with your pets. Most people know that chocolate is very dangerous, as it can cause everything from vomiting and diarrhea to rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and neurologic problems. However, even non-chocolate treats can be harmful, especially if they contain the artificial sweetener xylitol. Even a small amount of xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, loss of coordination, and seizures.

Never Leave pets outside alone around Halloween: Mischief-loving children and younger adults sometimes use the Halloween season as an excuse to tease, steal, or injure pets. It might sound crazy, but people do this. Please make sure that if your pet is out on Halloween night, you are out there with them and keeping a watchful eye at all times.

Beware of Halloween plants: Pumpkins and corn may technically be nontoxic, but they can cause gastrointestinal upset if pets ingest them in large quantities. Intestinal blockage can also occur from swallowing large pieces, such as a partial ear of corn.

Keep pets confined and away from the door: In the excitement of giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, it is easy for your pet to get spooked or run out unnoticed through the constantly opening and closing door. Your best bet is to keep your pets in a secure area away from the door. Be aware that some pets may also get anxious or territorial from all of the unexpected excitement.

Lit pumpkins: Be extra cautious if you have pumpkins that are lit with candles. Pets can easily and accidentally knock over a jack-o-lantern, which could result in fire or other injury.

Pet Costumes: Who doesn't love a pet in costume? If you choose to dress your pet up for the holiday, be sure to pick one that is the correct size so the costume is not restricting your pet's movement, hearing, or breathing. Also be aware of any loose pieces that may provide a tripping (or chewing!) hazard.

Try on costumes ahead of time: It's best to do a trial run before the big night. That way, you can make sure your pet is comfortable in the costume and can move without restriction. You also want to make sure he isn’t allergic to the fabric as well. Plus, a comfortable pet takes much cuter photos :)

Pet ID’s: Make sure your pet is wearing appropriate (and up to date!) identification before Halloween night. That way, if Fluffy unexpectedly dashes out the door or Fido slips his leash while trick-or-treating, you have a much better chance of getting them back.

Have a safe and hauntingly good time!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hello Autumn!

Autumn is finally here!

Many of us welcome the changing leaf colors, cooler temperatures, and pumpkin-flavored, well, everything. It is a sign that the fall season is finally here! However, there are a few hazards pet owners should keep in mind:

Ticks: Although tick populations tend to dwindle over the summer months, they will often crop up again during the fall. Ticks like to live in long grass and wooded areas. Use a comb to check your animal for ticks every time he goes outside, and don't skimp on the preventative just because the weather is getting cooler. Deer ticks are still out there and can spread Lyme disease, which can be just as much of a danger to you as it is for your pet. We recommend continuing to use flea/tick preventative throughout the fall and, ideally, year-round.

Temperature: Fall is an interesting time for pet care. Depending on where you live, you may have to worry about everything from heatstroke to frostbite (although hopefully not back-to-back!). In general, make sure that your pet has plenty of access to water both outside and inside throughout the fall season so he can regulate his intake as needed. Just because the weather might have gotten cooler, it does not mean that your pet has a decreased need for proper hydration.

Halloween: Everyone loves a pet in costume! But be sure to keep your pet's fun and safety in mind. Some costumes can impair your pet's motion or hearing, and others have small pieces that could be choking hazards. After trick-or-treating, make sure that candy is stored out of your pet's reach, perhaps into a cabinet. Candy smells and tastes delicious! But it can be very dangerous for pets.

Grooming: Many pets will shed their summer coats at the beginning of fall. Regular brushing for those with long hair will prevent serious matting, and pets with shorter hair will appreciate a good brushing to help remove remaining summer hair. If you cannot commit to regular coat care, talk to your veterinarian or groomer about clipping or shaving options that are appropriate for the weather.

Mushrooms and seasonal plants: Fall is mushroom and mum season, both of which can be toxic! Luckily, most mushrooms have little or no toxicity. However, some mushrooms can present life threatening problems, and it is often difficult for an untrained eye to pick out which is which. Mums also may appear benign, but they can cause stumbling, skin inflammation, increased salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested. The best way to prevent ingestion of potentially dangerous plants is to keep pets well away from any mushrooms or mums. If you think that your pet has eaten a mushroom or a mum plant, call your veterinarian or animal poison control for advice. 

Watch out for Wildlife: Autumn is the season when snakes and other animals prepare for hibernation. This can increase the possibility of bites to your pets. Although there are no native venomous snakes in Rhode Island, timber rattlers and copperheads can still be found in nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts. And it’s not only snakes that you need to be aware of. Mice, rats, and other creatures may startle more easily as they are trying to bed down for the winter. As always, it never hurts to call your veterinarian if you have any concerns about a potential bite.

School Supplies: Remind your children to be careful with their supplies! Items like glue sticks, pencils, and magic markers are generally considered to have low toxicity, but pets may mistake them for chew tows and they can cause gastrointestinal upset and blockages if ingested.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fire Safety

Home fires happen more often than we'd like to admit. Do you know what do to with your pet if there was a fire in your home? Here are some great tips to keep your entire family - including your beloved four-legged members - safe from fires:

1. Always make sure you have a “pet alert window cling” in your window. This should be located in a window in the front of your house. The “pet alert window cling” will help rescuers know what kind of animal they are looking for and will make it easier to locate your pet. Ask your local fire department for a window cling, or get a free one by filling out this form on the ASPCA website.

2. Consider using monitored smoke detectors in your home. These smoke alarms connect to a monitoring center and allow emergency responders to be contacted even when you are not home, providing an added protection to your pets than a battery operated smoke alarm.

3. Make sure your pets are away from potential fire starting hazards when you are away from home. For example you can use crates or even a baby gate and keep them in secure areas. You should also place your pets near a door so if anything were to happen they can be easily reached.

4. Ideally, you should remove stove knobs because pets can accidentally turn them on while jumping up. Also, remember to blow out any candles before you leave your home. Pets don’t mean to, but they can easily knock over a candle and start a fire.

5. If you are trying to escape a house fire, remember to leave your door open. That way, your animals can find their way out of the house if you are unable to get to them during an emergency.

6. Never use glass water or food bowls on a wooden deck. The glass will magnify the sun's rays and can cause a fire on wooden surfaces.

7. If you have a puppy or a pet that likes to chew on wires, make sure when you leave either block off the pet from that area or fix the wires so they cannot reach them.

8. Try to put your pet’s collar on or near the door knob so if emergency services come in, they will know that an animal is living in the house.

9. Always place a metal or tempered glass screen in front of any fireplace to keep pets away from open flames.

10. Know your animals' favorite hideaways when they panic or when they are scared. Your pets may go to these spots if there is ever a fire.

11. Try to keep a go-bag near the door for emergencies containing items like leashes, food, and other emergency supplies. This bag should be hung up right beside your door so it could be grabbed easily.

With an estimated 500,000 pets affected in home fires each year, it’s very important that pet owners and family members keep these tips in mind and have an emergency plan in place...just in case. Fires are very scary, but you can make a difference starting in your home :)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Feline House Soiling Behaviors

72% of cats surrendered to animal shelters are euthanized.
Many of are surrendered because of house-soiling issues. 
Feline house-soiling and marking behaviors are some of the most common complaints of modern cat owners. In fact, 66% of owners feel their cats are soiling out of spite. The reasons why a cat may choose to not use the litter box are numerous, which makes tackling the issue seem daunting, but the solution is out there! 

Here are the steps your vet will take to help pinpoint and solve the issue:
AAFP and ISFM Guidelines for Diagnosing and Solving House-Soiling Behavior in Cats
  1. Take a Patient history. By getting the full history and a timeline of when the issue started we can begin to determine whether there is a medical or behavioral basis for the behavior. We will ask you questions like when the soiling started, where the accidents are occurring, how often it happens, if your cat is using the litter box at all, and if anything changed in your household dynamics or habits.  Noting the ratio between cats and litterboxes, where litterboxes are kept, and where the house-soiling occurs is also helpful. 
  2. Thorough physical exam to look for medical causes.
  3.  Additional testing or procedures based on history and exam findings.  Your vet will likely run tests to rule out common medical causes for these behaviors, such as kidney disease, urinary tract infections, and arthritis.
  4. Make a Diagnosis. If any abnormalities show up in the labwork, those will be considered first as potential causes. If everything medically checks out, however, a diagnosis of marking behavior can be made.  Cats may mark for various reasons including anxiety, stress, or simply feeling the need to make a “calling card” for other cats.  At this point we consider household interactions and other cats along with any changes in litter boxes or litter, which can cause problems.
  5. Treatment - Treatment involves addressing the underlying medical issues as well as tackling the behavioral component. One major consideration is determining your cat's optimal litter box scenario (number, location, size, covered/open, litter, how often the box is cleaned).  According to the AAFP there are five pillars of a healthy feline environment: (1) a safe hideaway place; (2) separate environments for resources (i.e. food,water, play, rest); (3) opportunity for play and predatory behavior; (4) positive and consistent human-cat social interaction; and (5) an environment that respects the importance of the cat’s sense of smell.  Your veterinarian may suggest some of the following: synthetic pheromones, removing negative triggers, using positive reinforcement, or adding medications/nutraceuticals.  It is important to make sure the number of litter boxes is appropriate as well, and that access to the litter box is safe (providing both visual security and separation from other cats).  It is also important to clean any marked areas frequently and thoroughly to discourage remarking.
  6. Follow-up - Make sure that the treatment plan is appropriate with regular followup and reevaluation for progress. 
  7. Monitor treatment plan and adjust as needed. Sometimes plans have to be altered several times to find the best solution for everyone involved. If all of the above options fail, direct rehoming may be considered (rather than a shelter).

By working with your vet and going through a process of elimination (no pun intended!), it is possible to discover why your cat is acting inappropriately and fix the issue before rehoming becomes a serious consideration. 

For more information visit PetsMatter blog

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lumps and Bumps

Dogs and cats can develop lumps and bumps any time during their lives. Sometimes they are noticed by a groomer, a veterinarian during an exam, or by you when you are petting them. If you notice any new lump on your pet, it is important to have them examined by your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian will examine your entire pet and then evaluate the mass as best as they can.  They take into account things like location, shape, size, duration and color, and these can help provide clues as to the type of mass it may be.

The next step is to examine the mass further using a fine needle aspirate. This is an easy and minimally invasive way to get more information about the mass.  Cells are placed on a slide and stained so they can be examined under a microscope by a pathologist.  Aspirates generally do not require anesthesia or sedation. Since some masses do not release their cells as well, however, a sedated biopsy may be required so your vet can obtain a better sample.

Many masses turn out to be benign, but even benign masses can cause sores or interfere with motion if they get too large. In these cases, surgical removal is often recommended so your pet becomes more comfortable. There are also masses that are malignant. These are much more concerning and require surgical removal or, in some cases, chemotherapy and radiation. Malignant tumors often grow fast and can occur in any pet, regardless of age or overall health, so it is best to get all lumps checked as soon as you find them.

Veterinary medicine has come a long way when it comes to dealing with masses. Both benign and malignant masses can be surgically removed. Both NorthPaws and WestPaws are capable of removing nearly all masses. If a mass is in a particularly difficult or delicate position, we have a surgical specialist who travels to our hospital for these special cases. For cancerous masses, a veterinary oncologist can help you determine whether surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these is best for your furry family member.

Sometimes your veterinarian will recommend that you monitor a mass at home. By keeping a log of the location, relative size, and appearance of any masses, and alerting your vet to any changes, you and your vet can keep tabs on any masses and more easily develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Top Poisons of 2015

Top 10 Poisons Affecting Dogs and Cats

As reported by Dr. Justine Lee (Animal Safety, Blog, Pet Health) and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

Some of the most common pet poisons may surprise you! Here's a quick list of the top ten culprits of 2015 according to the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center (APCC). You can find more information on all of these, as well as over 275 additional toxins, by visiting the APCC website at
    1. Over-the-counter medications
    For the first time ever, over-the-counter medication topped the APCC list with more than 28,500 cases! That's nearly 16% of all APCC calls. There are over 7,000 different products in this category, including many herbal and other natural supplements. 
     2. Human prescription medications
    Previously the number one pet poison, prescription human medications fell to the second spot on the list last year. Not surprisingly, the prescriptions that were most commonly ingested by pets correlates strongly with the most popular medications prescribed to humans.
    3. Insecticides
    Insect poisons accounted for nearly 9 percent of the calls to APCC (more than 15,000 cases) and come in at 3rd on the list. Although generally these products have relatively low toxicity to pets when used correctly, they can be very dangerous if label directions are not carefully followed.

    4. Human foods
    There are a number of seemingly harmless human foods that can be quite toxic to pets. Some of the biggest culprits include onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, alcohol, and xylitol, a sugar substitute that can be life-threatening for animals. Since dogs tend to ingest human foods much more often than cats, they are often the most commonly afflicted with human food toxicity.

    5. Household items
    Products found around the home made up more than 14,000 APCC cases in 2015. The most common items for this category include cleaning products, fire logs, and paint.
    6. Veterinary medications 
    Overdoses of veterinary medications - especially the chewable kind, which taste especially good - made up nearly 7 percent of all APCC cases in 2015.
    7. Chocolate
    Chocolate continues be very dangerous for pets, averaging over 30 cases a day according to calls made to the APCC. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it can be, especially for smaller dogs and cats.
    8. Plants
    Indoor and outdoor plants represented nearly 5 percent of the calls to the APCC in 2015. Most of these calls involve cats and houseplants, such as lilies or philodendron. Be sure to understand the toxicity of plants before putting them in or around your house.
    9. Rodenticides
    Rodent poisons can be just as toxic to pets as they are to the mice and rats these products are designed to kill. Last year, the APCC handled more than 8,100 cases involving rodenticides.
    10. Lawn and garden products.
    These products, which include herbicides and fungicides, round out the top ten with about 3 percent of all APCC calls. It’s incredibly important to store lawn and garden products out of the reach of pets.

    If you think your pet may have ingested something toxic, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA 24-hr poison control hotline (1-888-426-4435) right away.