Tag Archives: pets

Help Keep Rover Safe – Foods that may be toxic for pets!

Are you confused about which foods may be harmful for dogs?


Consult your veterinarian


Knowing what is safe and unsafe for a pet to eat can be a complicated topic as while one dog may eat grapes and be fine, another may fall seriously ill and even die. My own dogs often eat avocados that fall from the trees in our garden. They do, however, always leave the seed, which could cause an obstruction in the oesophagus, stomach, or intestinal tract if part or all of it were swallowed.  As you will see below, avocado is a fruit that should be avoided as it contains persin, a fungicidal toxin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs and may cause any of the following symptoms in birds: Inability to perch; agitation; fluffed feathers; anorexia; difficulty breathing; organ failure; sudden death.  Horses and ruminants that eat avocados could experience lethargy; swelling of the mouth, head, neck, chest; mastitis (inflammation of the mammary glands); heart damage.

There may be several variables that need to be taken into account before you know if a food was ingested by your pet at a toxic amount but, if you suspect your pet has eaten any of the foods listed below or any food, plant or item that you are unsure whether to be safe, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian immediately.

Here is a List Foods to Avoid

Listed in alphabetical order (not order of toxicity)

Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.


According to the ASPCA, avocado is primarily a problem for birds, rabbits, donkeys, horses, and ruminants including sheep and goats. The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain persin, a fungicidal toxin, which may cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs.

Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine

These all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds.  Methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death.

Please note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate.


The stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid which can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts. Small doses, such as eating the fruit, are not likely to present problems beyond minor stomach upset.

Coconut and Coconut Oil

When ingested in small amounts, coconut and coconut-based products are not likely to harm your pet and may even be beneficial. There are lots of articles about the benefits of feeding small amounts of coconut oil to dogs and using it topically, however, we were unable to find any scientific studies.  Care should be taken as the flesh and milk of fresh coconuts contain oils that may cause stomach upset and diarrhoea. If unsure, please consult your veterinarian.

Coconut water is high in potassium and should not be given to your pet.

Grapes and Raisins

Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure and should always be avoided.

Macadamia Nuts

Can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs.

Milk and Dairy

As pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other dairy-based products can cause diarrhoea or digestive upset.


Nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, contain high amounts of oils and fats which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, and even pancreatitis.

Onions, Garlic, Chives

Can all cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage.

Cats are more susceptible, but dogs are also at risk.

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones

We know that many of you may be ‘raw’ feeders, so please don’t shout at us but…

Raw meat and eggs may contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli and more seriously for dogs, campylobacter.

Raw eggs contain the enzyme avidin which decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin). This can lead to skin and coat problems.

Pets might choke on bones or sustain serious injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture the pet’s digestive tract.

Salt and Salty Snack Foods

Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death.

Please avoid feeding salt-laden snacks like potato chips (crisps), pretzels, and salted popcorn.


Used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy (sweets), some peanut butter, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release which can lead to liver failure.

Signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. May progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.

Yeast Dough

Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in the pet’s digestive system. This can cause pain and may lead to Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), also known as gastric dilation, twisted stomach, or gastric torsion, a medical condition in which the stomach becomes overstretched and rotated by excessive gas content – a life threatening emergency.

The above list is based on information provided by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

The list may not be exhaustive.  If in doubt, always consult your veterinary professional!


More Resources

 This great poster by Lili Chin is available as a free download from doggiedrawings.net.

Source: Lili Chin, DoggieDrawings.net

Read this blog post by DogNostics faculty member and the owner of The DogSmith of Estepona, Louise Stapleton-Frappell, written for BARKS from the Guild blog on November 5, 2016, for information about toxic toads, other creatures, food items, products and objects that could prove deadly to your companion and some precautions you can take to help protect your canine companion. Toads, Snakes, Spiders and Chocolate!

Take a look at this slide show from WebMD Food Your Dog Should Never Eat.


The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) is a 24-hour emergency service that provides information and advice to vets and animal welfare organisations on the treatment of animals exposed to toxins. (Europe).

This article is simply intended to share information about foods which may cause a problem for your pet – If unsure, don’t ‘watch and wait’, contact a vet for advice immediately.


How to Travel Safely With Your Pet

We are all accustomed to car safety rules and devices for ourselves and our children.  Seatbelt laws are commonplace and air bags are found in virtually every production vehicle in the US.  Sometimes however, we forget to apply the same principles and safeguards when we are traveling with or transporting our pets.  An unrestrained pet in a moving vehicle can distract you, preventing you from driving safely and greatly increasing the likelihood of an accident.  In an emergency situation an unrestrained pet can not only be seriously injured but can also cause injuries to you and other passengers.  The American Automobile Association estimates that unrestrained pets inside vehicles cause 30,000 car accidents every year.   Even if an accident doesn’t result, many thousands of injuries are suffered by unrestrained pets in vehicles thrown around or from the car in a sudden stop or turn. Read here to know how motorcycle accident attorneys miami fl help victims to claim for accidental injuries. 

More and more states are recognizing the hazards caused by distracted driving and are implementing stricter laws concerning cell phone use and unrestrained pets.  Although there is no perfect system for keeping your pet safe while riding in your vehicle there are many steps you can take to minimize the chance your pet will be injured in an accident or be the cause of one.

Read this guide to pet friendly vacations.


  • Don’t’ let your dog hang its head out the car window.
    • Just think of the debris that hits your windshield as you drive down the road so that you call for help from Ready AutoGlass & Windshield repair when back home.  Dust, bugs, stones, leaves and other objects can make it into your pets’ eyes and cause a major injury. You wouldn’t let your children do this and the same risks exist.
    • If you need to make a defensive maneuver your dog it is more likely to fall or be thrown from the vehicle if it is hanging out the car window.
    • Dogs often jump from vehicles when stopped in traffic creating a potentially deadly situation for you, other drivers and your pet. 
  • Don’t let your dog ride unrestrained inside the vehicle
    • This is simple physics.  Objects in motion stay in motion.  If your car is traveling at 55 miles per hour, then your pet is as well.  Should you need to stop suddenly, your pet will continue to stay in motion.  This could result in a 55 mile per hour impact with a window, another passenger or  the driver.
  • Don’t let your pet ride in your lap
    • Just as riding with a human child in your lap is unsafe, so is riding with your furry friend in your lap. 
    • Should your pet panic or if you brake suddenly, your pet could be thrown around causing damage to itself or others.
  • Don’t leave your pet unattended in your vehicle
    • It is illegal in many cities and states to leave your dog unattended in a vehicle.  This is true even if you left your dog with water and the windows down. 
    • The temperature inside your vehicle can become much hotter than the outside temperature risking your pet’s life.
  • Don’t let your pet ride in the back of a pickup truck
    • This is the primary cause of animal deaths in vehicle accidents. It doesn’t matter if they are tethered or loose.
    • A dog tethered in a pickup bed can easily hang itself if it jumps out of the truck. 
    • You could be liable for injury should someone be bitten by your animal while they are in the back of your truck.  This could result in a costly lawsuit that is not covered by your auto insurance (find more information at https://www.ladanlaw.com/).
  • Don’t smoke in the car 
    • Smoking inside vehicles can increase feelings of nausea in humans and it does the same for our animals.  Please smoke outside of the vehicle away from your pet.
  • Don’t let your pet ride in the front seat
    • The guidelines on Blue Buffalo about this say that front seats are ok if you can disable the airbags but otherwise airbags are very powerful and can injure or kill even a restrained pet in the front seat.  Just like child car seats, pets should be kept away from airbags.
  • Don’t rely on vehicle barrier systems
    • Barrier systems that prevent your dog from moving to the front of the car don’t secure the pet enough to prevent injury in the event of an emergency.  Barriers may keep you safer by preventing your pet from distracting you while driving, but your pet could still be injured from being thrown around behind the barrier in the event of an accident.
  • Don’t rely on a tether that clips to a collar
    • A tether secured to a dog’s collar will not prevent your dog from injury and may potentiall break your pet’s neck in a sudden stop.


  • Get a safety harness designed and tested as a restraint for your pet
    • Safety harnesses for your pet should be designed and constructed of the same materials required for human seatbelts. 
    •  Ideally the harness should be certified by a qualified testing facility (at this time we are aware of only one harness that has been thus tested –  http://www.ruffrider.com/).
    • Use your best judgment and select a restraint harness that is well constructed, fits your pet and allows some freedom of movement so your pet can sit up and lie down but not so much freedom of movement that it risks injury.
    • Do not have your pet restrained in the front seat but if you do deactivate the air bag to that seat.
    • A standard harness used for walking your dog is normally not of sufficient strength for use as a restraint harness.
    • Get a crate for your car
      • If you have room you can use a crate to restrain your pet.  Make sure it is of good construction and tied down to your vehicle.  Most pets also feel safer while in a crate because they won’t be sliding around as much.
      • Keep in mind that if you choose to use a crate to restrain your pet that the tie-down method you use may not meet ‘crash’ standards and may not protect your pet in the event of a serious accident or a roll over.
      • Crates may serve to keep your pet confined should emergency personnel need to care for you.  It makes it easier for them to concentrate on caring for you first in the case of injury.
      • Always attach information to your crate with your name, address, phone number, veterinarian’s contact details and your pets’ information.  You should keep a form on file with your vet allowing your pet to receive medical care in the case of emergency when you are unable to release it.


  • Keep control of your animal getting into and out of the car
    • Teach your dog to only get into or out of the car when released by you and always on a leash.  Getting into and out of the car is a privilege and should be treated like a life reward.

Please restrain your pet while traveling.  It is safer for humans and for our pets!


Happy training and safe traveling.

Angelica Steinker and Niki Tudge

www.CourteousCanine.com and www.DogSmith.com

Written January 2013 The DogSmith Tampa FL and Oxford MS

News Release – Be Sure Your Pets are Prepared for Hurricane Season

Another Hurricane Season is upon us and The DogSmith Dog Training and Pet Care Company wants to help you prepare to care for your furry family members if disaster strikes.

Oxford, MS, May 22, 2011 – Animal experts agree, preparing to take care of your pet during a hurricane, tornado or any other natural disaster takes just a little planning and isn’t much more complicated than preparing your pet for a family car vacation.  According to  Niki Tudge, owner of The DogSmith and a Certified Animal Behavior Counselor, “Your pet’s emergency kit will contain almost the same things you would include for your pet when it travels with the family but you may want to keep essentials in a waterproof bag or plastic container.”

The Humane Society advises that you always make sure you have enough food and any medicine needed for your pet for about a week.  Be sure to include your pet’s needs when calculating how much water you will take with you; you don’t want to be caught short on food and water if stores are closed, especially if your pet is on a special diet.

“Also, in your kit, include an extra leash, collars or harnesses (preferably a collar with your phone number) and keep copies of ID chip registration or tattoos, recent photographs, vet records (including rabies certificate), any license you may be required to have and your vet’s phone number,” said Tudge.  Favorite toys and treats, blankets, beds, waste bags, food and water bowls will make sure your best friend can enjoy a ‘home away from home’ while on the road.  Tudge said, “You will also want an accident cleanup kit containing plenty of paper towels and an organic odor/stain remover.  Even the most reliable pet can have accidents in unfamiliar surroundings when stressed.”

Tudge emphasizes that the best thing you can do for your pet, at home or on the road and long before a disaster strikes, is to make sure your pet is properly crate trained.  “Crate-training your pet pays big dividends.  No matter where you go or what you do, your pet’s crate is its mobile home where it can feel safe and secure.  A dog or cat that feels happy and safe in its own crate will find any new environment easier to cope with,” said Tudge.  The DogSmith offers a free guide to crate training at www.DogSmith.com.

The American Automobile Association also recommends that pets should master car travel and being with strangers long before a disaster strikes.  Any type of emergency or evacuation can be filled with new and unusual activities.  The more comfortable and confident your pet is will help it cope with new sights, sounds and smells.  Tudge recommends, “If your pet is not comfortable traveling by car you can help it by taking it on local car trips of increasing duration.  Here again a crate secured inside your car is a valuable tool to keep your pet safe.”  A variety of specialty seatbelt attachments and harnesses designed for car travel are also available at most pet stores.  Visit www.AAA.com for a list of pet-friendly motels and more information on traveling by car with your pet.  You can also get a free guide to socializing your pet at www.DogSmith.com.

As a rule, never leave your pet home alone if you need to evacuate.  Plan ahead and know if you will be going to friends, family or investigate the availability of pet-friendly hotels/motels.  Identify and establish a relationship with pet sitters and pet hotels/motels/kennels that are outside your evacuation zone.  Remember if you are evacuating to an emergency shelter most do not allow pets.    With a little planning, you will ensure all of your family members stay safe during times of natural disasters.

About The DogSmith

The DogSmith Franchise Services Inc. is a Florida based company whose mission is to enhance the lives of pets and their owners by improving their relationship, and the quality of the life they share, through providing professional support and training to pet dog owners, supporting and assisting animal shelters and rescue organizations to minimize the number of unwanted animals and offering affordable and professional care to family pets so that pet ownership is never a burden. To learn more about the DogSmith or become a DogSmith Dog Trainer, visit www.DogSmithfranchise.com or call 1-888-364-7648.

Marriage advice: Treat your partner like a dog?

A psychologist says your relationship will improve if you show your significant other the same unconditional love you give your pet

Best Opinion: PsychCentral, Strollerderby, New York Times

Clinical psychologist Suzanne B. Phillips says there’s an easy way to improve your marriage — treat your spouse like a dog. Phillips says that in her work with couples she has found that no matter what their differences, her clients seem to share a soft spot for their pets. We’d all be happier, Phillips says, if we showed our romantic partners the kindness and unconditional love we lavish on our dogs and cats. Here’s a quick summary of the theory:

Greet your partner as warmly as your pet
Animal lovers generally drop everything when they get home, and shower some attention on their pets. Next time you walk in the door — “no matter how you’re feeling” — try giving your significant other “a positive, even animated, hello and often with a display of physical affection,” Phillips says. Animated hellos and warm hugs shouldn’t be reserved just for the dog, says Sandy Maple in Strollerderby.

Re-evaluate grudges
Our pets “throw up on rugs, pee in the house, and steal food from counter tops,” says Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times. “Yet we accept their flaws because we love them so much.” Phillips says we should try being just as forgiving when your spouse messes up. And remember: Your dog’s mistakes aren’t deliberate attempts to ruin your day — your spouse’s slip-ups aren’t, either.

Appreciate the benefits of devotion
“Pets are home to stay,” Phillips says. They don’t “live with the fear of being betrayed,” or being dumped. “Just consider,” says Phillips, “how the absence of such fears enhances the trust and connection you feel from them!”

Sources: PsychCentral, Strollerderby, New York Times

Cold Weather Tips for Pet Owners

The ASPCA offers some great advice for keeping your dog or cat safe from winter hazards, and I’ve added a few suggestions of my own to the list.

Ten Cold Weather Tips for Pet Owners

  1. Keep your cat indoors. Kitties allowed to wander unsupervised outdoors are at much greater risk than house cats, no matter the time of year. But a cat left outside in cold weather can literally freeze to death, or become permanently lost or stolen while looking for shelter from the cold. Even if your kitty lives indoors, a cat collar with an ID tag is an excellent investment.
  2. You keep your cat inside, but your neighbors may not, or there could be strays or feral cats in the area. Kitties left out in cold temperatures will sometimes tuck themselves up under the hoods of cars, or in the wheel wells. Starting or moving the vehicle can hurt or even kill the animal. During the winter months, it’s a good idea to bang loudly on your car hood before starting the engine as a warning to a cat that might be in or around your vehicle.

  3. Keep your dog on his leash when you’re outside with him, and make sure his ID tag is current. More dogs go missing in the winter than any other time of the year. It’s very easy for pups to lose their scent and get lost when snow or ice is on the ground, and especially during snowstorms.
  4. Snow accumulation can make it impossible for your dog to know if he’s in his front yard or standing out on a street or highway. Light-colored dogs with snow on their fur can quickly blend into the background, making them nearly impossible to spot.

  5. Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s feet, legs and underside after she’s been out in snowy or icy conditions. It’s possible she picked up salt crystals, antifreeze or some other toxic chemical on her paws, which she could later ingest by licking the area.
  6. Be especially careful not to leave antifreeze leaks or spills where your pet can sample them. Antifreeze is lethal to dogs and cats. Also check your dog’s paw pads for any signs of injury or bleeding from walking on frozen or snow-packed surfaces.

  7. Don’t shave or clip your dog’s coat too short during the winter months. A longer coat will keep him warmer. If your pup has short hair, a doggy sweater might be in order, especially if he’s a small breed, an older fellow, has arthritis or other joint problems, or if he’s prone to shivering.
  8. Consider paper training a puppy if you get her during cold weather. Puppies don’t handle frigid temps as well as older dogs do. If you add a puppy to the family during the winter months, you may find housebreaking her more of a challenge than you expected. If so, you can paper train her instead, then retrain her to potty outdoors when the weather warms up.
  9. If you and your dog participate in lots of outdoor winter activities, make sure his species-appropriate diet has sufficient calories and protein to meet his energy requirements. This may mean increasing his meal portions during the winter months.
  10. If, on the other hand, you and your pet tend to hibernate during cold weather, it’s important not to let your dog lose muscle tone and physical conditioning. You’d be amazed at the number of canine knee, soft tissue, cervical disc and neck injuries I see in my veterinary practice each spring.
  11. These problems occur most often in out-of-shape dogs that go from zero to 60 on the first warm day of late winter or early spring. There are many creative ways to keep your pet active during cold weather.

  12. Don’t leave your pet outside in the car. Just as your vehicle can become an incinerator during hot weather, it can become a freezer, holding in the cold air, during the winter. While not as common as pets expiring in hot cars in the summer, too many precious dogs and cats have frozen to death in a cold car.
  13. Make sure your pet has cozy, draft-free winter sleeping quarters. If your dog has her own crate, make sure her winter bed inside it is one that will keep her warm. Kitty should have a snug sleeping spot as well, with warm bedding she can curl up in.
  14. Give your frail or older pet some extra TLC. Cold winter temperatures can be especially hard on a senior pet or a dog or kitty with degenerative joint disease or another chronic, debilitating condition. Talk with your integrative or holistic vet about physical therapy treatments and other safe, natural methods for improving your pet’s comfort and mobility during cold weather.

Keeping Your Dog Safe at Christmas

With the excitement and activity of the holiday season the  four-legged family members can be easily neglected.  Between the disruption in normal schedules, strange visitors and tempting goodies on the table, the family dog faces numerous opportunities for mischief.  But with a little planning and a few precautions, the holiday season can be as safe for pets as it is joyous for the entire family.

Niki Tudge, the DogSmith founder, says, “Remember that many of the foods we serve during the holidays that we think are yummy can be dangerous and even fatal to our family dog.  So be extra careful to make sure your dog doesn’t have access to any of the goodies we serve during the holidays especially sweets, bones, alcohol, chocolate, coffee and tea. And keep an eye on the overflowing trash bins that can be a huge temptation for your pooch.  You want to keep it away from the gravy soaked aluminum foil and things like toothpicks and plastics that can cause serious internal damage to your dog.”

In addition, many decorations and ornaments can present a danger to the family dog and some decorations, whether real or artificial, can be toxic.  Tree lights, extension cords and many holiday trimmings can be dangerous if chewed.  Other Christmas decorations can be toxic to a dog including the water in the Christmas tree pan, pine needles, tinsel and glass ornaments.

Marty Smith, DVM, suggests, “For dogs who may not behave or could be aggressive, placing them in a separate room, using pet gates, or having them stay at a friend’s house during a party, may be necessary.  Sometimes, boarding a dog in a kennel may be the safest alternative.

Tudge says, “One of the best ways to prevent problems and keep your pooch safe and happy is to provide your dog with a safe and comfortable refuge away from household activities.  A dog crate or a quiet, secure room will keep your pup safe and limit the stress it may be feeling because of strangers and holiday activities.  You may want to consider hiring a dog sitter for any extra busy days on your holiday calendar.”  For more information on pet sitting services visit www.DogSmith.com.

How Do I Know If My Pet Has a Bed Bug Bite or Some Other Insect Bite?

An interview with Susan E. Little, DVM, PhD, Diplomate EVPC (professor and Krull-Ewing Endowed chair in Veterinary Parasitology at Oklahoma State University), elicited some interesting information about the current bed bug epidemic in the U.S.

Bed bugs haven’t been a problem in this country for over 50 years, but they remained prevalent in other locations throughout the world, including Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

However, bed bugs are again turning up across the U.S. in a wide variety of locations, including:

  • Homes and apartments
  • Hotels and motels
  • Office buildings
  • Health care facilities
  • Schools and dormitories
  • Shelters
  • Public transportation
  • Movie theaters
  • Laundries and dry cleaners
  • Furniture rental outlets

According to thesleepguide.org, the problem is thought to be a combination of:

  • Increased travel, especially internationally
  • Growing resistance to pesticides
  • The move away from using ‘broadcast’ pesticides (sprays and bombs) in households, leaving areas of homes (primarily bedrooms) where bed bugs proliferate pesticide-free

If you suspect the source of your pet’s itching might be bed bugs, the first things you should carefully inspect are the mattresses, box springs, bed frames and the areas around the beds in your home. A leak in air mattress may also indicate presence of bugs.

Then widen your search to include other areas of the bedrooms, including around baseboards, in corners, cracks, crevices and similar hiding places. Look for dark staining or speckling. Bed bug droppings look similar to flea dirt. Also look for eggs and molted skin that has dropped off.

As Dr. Little points out in her interview:

“Bed bugs are really a human problem that also happen to affect the pets that live in the home. As veterinarians, clients may come to us with a bed bug problem and we need to be able to help them, but the pets are not the source of the infestation or the only host sustaining the bed bugs in that home.”


Dr. Becker’s Comments:

To most people, there is something especially unsettling about bed bugs.

The idea the little blood suckers are hanging out, invisible, in your mattress or bedding, waiting for you to doze off so they can swarm over you, biting you dozens or even hundreds times while you sleep, can be downright disturbing.

According to this short but dramatic National Geographic video on bed bugs, the little beasts deliver both an anesthetic and an anti-coagulant when they bite a host. The purpose of the anesthetic is so you won’t awaken from the bite; the anti-coagulant guarantees your blood will flow freely so the bed bug gets a good meal.

The Common Bed Bug, Cimex Lectularius

The common bed bug is a small, flat, brown-colored insect that feeds exclusively on the blood of animals. Cimex lectularius is the species of bed bug best adapted to living with humans.

There are other bed bug species, but they prefer to feed on wild hosts, in particular bats and birds.

Adult bed bugs are less than a quarter inch long and are often mistaken for ticks or cockroaches. The younger insects are smaller and lighter than the adults.

Bed bugs can’t fly, but they can move quickly across flat surfaces.

During their lifetime, female insects lay hundreds of tiny eggs the size of a speck of dust. The eggs are sticky and adhere to surfaces. When the eggs hatch, the offspring, called nymphs, are no bigger than a pinhead. They will molt five times while they mature, and they require a meal (blood) between each shedding.

If the temperature stays around 70 – 80°F, a nymph can grow to adulthood in about a month and produce at least three generations each year. If the temperature is cooler or the insect has less access to a host, it will take longer to mature.

Bed bugs are incredibly durable. Immature insects can go months without a meal; adults can live for over a year without food.

Cimex lectularius prefers humans to feed on, but in the absence of their preferred host, these bugs will go after other warm-blooded animals, including your birds, cats, dogs and rodents.

Do Bed Bugs Carry Disease?

This is a common concern, but although these parasites can carry pathogens, it is unlikely they will be transmitted to their hosts.

The primary physical complaint with bed bugs is itching and inflammation at the site of the bite. However, if the infestation is significant, a person’s quality of life can be dramatically affected due to discomfort from the bites, insomnia, anxiety, and/or embarrassment.

It’s important to realize bed bugs are extremely transportable and resilient. They can arrive home in your luggage after a vacation; they can also find their way to your apartment or condo from another unit in your building. Since these parasites feed on warm-blooded animals, especially humans, they proliferate wherever there are hosts. Consequently, they are found just as often in immaculate environments as in unclean ones.

Insect repellents used to prevent or kill mosquitoes and ticks aren’t effective against bed bugs. Neither wearing insect repellent to bed nor sleeping with the lights on is a solution.

How Do I Know If My Pet Has a Bed Bug Bite or Some Other Insect Bite?

Unfortunately, it’s not all that easy to tell.

Because bed bugs resemble other pet pests, as do their bites, the best way to determine if the problem is bed bugs is to look for telltale signs of the insects yourself, or hire a professional to inspect your home.

Bed bug bites will cause itching and a raised area of skin at the site of the bite, much like most other insect bites. Only in cases of very heavy infestation will anemia develop in either humans or pets.

There are no specific tests your veterinarian can run to distinguish a bed bug bite from other insect bites. However, if both you and your pet are being bitten, especially during the night, there’s a good chance it’s bed bugs. Unlike fleas, which tend to bite humans on the lower legs, ankles and feet, bed bug bites are usually found on the torso or upper body.

It’s possible to mistake a bed bug for a tick, but bed bugs don’t stay attached as long as ticks do. They bite, feed for a few minutes and then go elsewhere to digest their meal.

As is the case with humans, unless the infestation is significant, there’s no indication your pet will suffer from more than some itching and sleeplessness. Bed bugs are not known to transmit disease to pets like some other parasites. However, you do want to insure your pet doesn’t scratch any bite to the point of infection.

I Think I Have a Bed Bug Problem. What Now?

Don’t try to solve the problem yourself unless you happen to be an expert in bed bugs and pesticides.

Contact a local licensed pest control company with experience with bed bugs. They will have information on the bed bug situation in your area, including what types of pesticides are proving effective, as well as toxicity concerns. They will also know where and how to look for the insects, and should be expert at recognizing bed bug droppings, eggs, molted skin and other residue.

Depending on where you live, the company you call might use bed bug sniffing dogs.

Many conventional pesticide treatments are toxic to you and your pets, especially if applied incorrectly. Most are not recommended for use directly on either mattresses or bedding. That’s why it’s important to hire an expert to help you resolve the problem.

Some pest control companies now offer “greener” options that include essential oil derivatives (including cedar oil) that are much safer for you and your pets than conventional pesticides.

If you’re unsure about a pest control company’s level of expertise concerning toxic pesticides or their ability to provide less toxic alternatives, or if you just want a second opinion before deciding on a course of action, your integrative/holistic vet will be a good resource for how to best keep your pet safe while the insects are being eradicated.

If your bed bug infestation is small and you’d prefer not to involve a pest control company, there are a few things you can try yourself, including:

  • A do-it-yourself bed bug detector.
  • Treat your mattress and box spring with a natural bed bug-killing dust, safe for humans and pets. Then encase mattresses, box springs and pillows in good-quality bug proof covers. These covers will keep existing bed bugs from getting at you, and will prevent new bugs from taking up residence in your bed.It’s a good idea to leave the covers on for eight months. Remember, bed bugs are resilient and can live for long periods without food.
  • Alternatively, if you can afford to, replace infested mattresses and box springs with new ones.
  • Wash bedding several times a week or every day if necessary during an active infestation.
  • Thoroughly inspect your bed frame and if you find bed bug evidence, remove it from the house away from pets and family members and treat it with the safest, most effective product available to exterminate bed bugs.
  • Try a heated steam sprayer to kill bed bugs.
  • Clean floors and furniture often and thoroughly, preferably with a vacuum that uses bags. Remove and dispose of the bags in sealed bags so any live bed bugs will be unable to escape into your garbage can and back into your home.

Sourced from Dr Becker December 13th 2010

Dr. Becker is the resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian of HealthyPets.Mercola.com. You can learn holistic ways of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to MercolaHealthyPets.com, an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for FREE to Mercola Healthy Pet Newsletter.

Keep Your Pets Warm This Winter

Cold Weather Tips – From the ASPCA

Brrrr…it’s cold outside!  The following guidelines will help you protect your companion animals when the mercury dips.

  1. Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.
  2. During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.
  3. Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm—dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.
  4. Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.
  5. Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.
  6. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
  7. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.
  8. Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him—and his fur—in tip-top shape.
  9. Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center more information.
  10. Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.

Sourced December 8th 2010 ASPCA website