Nail Trimming

For a dog that enjoys regular outdoor activity, nail trimming may not be needed. In many cases, walking on pavement maintains a dog’s nails at an acceptable length. However, there are steps to take to ensure nail trimming isn’t an unpleasant experience for your dog:

  • Before you ever attempt to trim its nails, begin by touching its legs, feet and toes, and associate this with an activity it enjoys. When it is resting, begin petting it, gently passing your hands over its back and legs. If this is well tolerated, you may wish to give it a small food treat. Do not try to do too much the first time.
  • Gradually manipulate your pet’s foot more each time. Eventually you should be able to slip your fingers in between each toe, gently squeezing each one to flex the nail, putting gentle pressure as you hold each foot and manipulate the leg. Do not attempt this when your pet is feeling agitated or playful.
  • Once your pet tolerates having its feet touched during quiet times, you may begin to incorporate this into elements of play time. Train your dog to assume a “down/stay” position when it retrieves a ball, for example, and “shake” its paw before continuing the game.
  • Make sure not to cut into the quick, or the living portion of the nail bed that contains sensitive nerves and blood vessels. That is a painful experience for the dog, and he’ll begin to associate the trimming with bad things. If you are unsure how to trim your dog’s toenails, ask your veterinarian or technician to show you how. The nail bed is seen as a pinkish triangle at the base of a nail; however it may not be obvious in dark-colored nails.
  • There is more variety between the shape of toe nails in dogs than in cats. Some pets’ nails grow in a more curved shape as compared with those growing more parallel to the ground. This may determine how short they may be trimmed. Even a skilled professional can misjudge the depth to which a nail may be trimmed.
  • It is better to cut less than to cut more than necessary. Trim off small sections at a time and stop well short of the sensitive portion of the nail. Cut your pet’s nails frequently, a little at a time, rather than occasionally when toe nails are uncomfortable to both your pet and to you.

Source: "Canine and Feline Behavior Problems," Stefanie Schwartz

Don't Let Your Pets Eat These Things

Cocoa Bean Mulch Poses Threat To Pets

Made from spent cocoa beans used in chocolate production, cocal bean mulch is organic, deters slugs and snails, and gives off an appealing chocolate scent.  However, it also attracts dogs, who can be poisoned by eating the mulch.  Cocoa beans contain the stimulants caffeine and theobromine, and dogs are highly sensitive to these chemicals.  Low doses can cause mild gastrointestinal upset; higher doses can cause rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures and even death.  The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center recommends pet owners avoid using this mulch around unsupervised dogs, and dogs with indiscriminate eating habits.

Hold the Onions!

Did you know that onions are not good for dogs? Onions cause toxicity by oxidizing hemoglobin in the red blood cells.  As a result, the dog may become anemic. If a large amount of onions are consumed at one time, the dog may develop sudden anemia several days later. 1/4 cup of onions can make a 20-lb dog sick. If a dog eats a small amount every day for many days, it may gradually develop anemia over weeks to months. While onion toxicity is not common, it's something to keep in mind next time your dog is begging for your onion rings.

Ice Melts

Most pets become exposed when they groom the compounds off their feet and fur. Salivation and mild gastrointestinal signs often ensue. Most problems can be prevented by wiping a pet's feet with a damp towel or bathing a pet soon after it has walked or rolled in areas with ice melt. Using sand or cat litter to help with traction in icy spots is a safe option. If pets must walk over ice melt compounds, paws can be pretreated with a thin layer of nonstick cooking spray to prevent adherence of the compounds. Booties can also help if pets tolerate them.


Ethylene glycol is found most commonly in greenish colored antifreeze chemicals used in motor vehicles, but it is also in rust removers, film-processing solutions, and some solvents. Because of its sweet taste, even a small radiator leak of fluid can attract animals. A single lick can be deadly! Keep chemicals well sealed and out of reach. If ingestion is suspected, prompt veterinary intervention increases the chances of a favorable outcome.

Holiday Hazards

  • Poisonous Plants: Christmas cactus, mistletoe, holly, poinsettia plants.
  • Dangerous Decorations: tinsel, string, ribbon, tree lights, breakable ornaments, metal ornament hooks, artificial snow.
  • Toxic Treats: chocolate, bread dough, liquid potpourri, alcohol, avocado, coffee, garlic, grapes, raisins, hops, macadamia nuts, moldy or spoiled food, onions, salt.

Guinea Pig 101

Guinea pigs (cavies) can be a great addition to any family!  Being larger than other pocket pets, guinea pigs are usually a good match for small children.  They are daytime critters and are slower moving than hamsters or gerbils, making them easier to handle.  They also have a generally happy disposition and rarely bite.  This, along with their amusing squeaks, grunts and adorable looks, makes guinea pigs an irresistible small pet.



Read more: Guinea Pig 101

Spraying: How To Fix It

Cats’ spraying is a form of communication for other felines – and a source of annoyance for their humans. When it’s geared toward other cats, it might be a show of status, sexual interest, or indicate stress or frustration. If it’s aimed (not literally, hopefully) at humans, it’s likely showing their irritation at something – perhaps at an upcoming trip if they mark on your suitcase, or a mess if you’ve added another cat to the household.

Spraying can be tough to eliminate, and all cats can backslide. Here are some tips on how to combat it:

  • Most spraying is done by unneutered males and unspayed females in heat. Get ‘em fixed! Sterilization will dramatically cut down on spraying.
  • Don’t avoid the problem. If you ignore the spraying, the cat will keep doing it and it will become an ingrained behavior.
  • Play detective and try to determine the cause. Then, remove the cause from the environment. If it’s a crowded house, another home might be necessary for a foster kitty. Use a fence topper to keep stray cats from entering your yard - and putting your indoor kitty on edge. (Shades, shutters or other barriers could help with this, too.)
  • If you’re having trouble figuring out the cause, ask an animal behavior expert for a consultation – or call the Tri-County Humane Society (320-252-0896). One of our staff members would be happy to try to assist you.
  • Clean marked areas carefully with a commercial odor neutralizer. (They are sold at Tri-County Humane Society’s store, located in the front lobby! All proceeds go back to our animals.) If a cat can still smell the markings, that’s an invitation to reoffend.
  • Combine treats with the stressors. For instance, if your cat is nervous about you leaving on a trip, feed him or her near your suitcase – or bring the luggage out even when you’re not going anywhere to make sure the cat gets used to its presence.
  • If the behavior doesn’t stop, plan a trip to your veterinarian immediately. Drug therapy may be needed to help make a permanent change.
  • Whatever path you take, don’t delay. You don’t want this behavior to become a pattern. Best of luck!

Source: Adapted from information by Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT

The Importance of Daily Walks

In addition to basic needs such as food and shelter, a dog needs social interaction, positive attention from its owner, exercise and mental stimulation. Many of these needs can be met by taking the dog for a walk. Ideally, every dog should be walked on a leash for a minimum of 20 minutes, preferably after each meal.


  • Most cities and counties have some form of leash law. When leashed, a dog is safe from traffic and unable to follow his instincts to chase children, investigate garbage cans or dig up landscaping.
  • Remember to get your pet licensed in accordance with your city’s laws.
  • It is best to keep your dog on a leash, regardless of the leash laws in your area. Keep leashes to six feet or less on public sidewalks.
  • Do not use retractable leashes in areas frequented by joggers, skaters or cyclists. The thin line blends into the background and all too often athlete and dog collide.
  • Pick up feces using a plastic bag and knot the top to control odor and flies before deposing of it in a waste receptacle. Train your dog to urinate in gutters or on nonliving vertical surfaces, such as fire hydrants. Avoid trees and flower beds.

Benefits of Walks

  • A walk is a chance for attention. Perhaps more than anything, pets simply want our company.
  • A walk allows you to practice obedience skills with your dog to increase the reliability of training. Reviewing the basic obedience commands increases the benefits of a walk because your dog is not simply ambling along, but is performing additional tasks.
  • A walk provides mental stimulation through territorial investigation. The dog can gather information about how its territory has changed since the last walk.
  • A walk has many physical benefits. Walking your dog is the best way to exercise a dog that may not move about much in your home or even in your yard. Aging pets must be kept as agile and fit as possible but may not be inclined to exercise without much encouragement. Even if your dog is active in your yard, it’s most active during a walk.
  • A walk is a chance for socialization with others. If you pass by another dog or person along the way, your dog has an opportunity to greet them. Dogs are social animals and it’s their nature to investigate unrecognized and recognized individuals. If a dog does not have an opportunity to socialize, it will not learn to interact appropriately with other dogs or people. Puppies should be encouraged from a young age to appropriately greet and interact with other dogs and people while on walks. However, it's always crucial to ask "May my dog say hello to you?" before letting your dog may any physical contact.
  • A walk can prevent destructive behavior.

Source: "Canine and Feline Behavior Problems," Stefanie Schwartz; ASPCA

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