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

Obedience Training

Obedience commands allow you to teach a dog desirable behavior in any given situation. Practicing obedience skills with your dog is also good exercise for your dog and provides it with mental stimulation. In addition, your dog enjoys constructive social interaction, for which it is rewarded with your praise. Skills should be practiced everywhere, in your home and beyond.

When to begin training

  • The best time is the moment you get your pet. Behavior learned early, desirable or not, is the basis for all future patterns as an adult. This does not mean that adult dogs are untrainable; however, appropriate habits should be instilled from the start regardless of your pet’s age.
  • Once your pet is protected by the basic inoculations against common puppy diseases, puppy classes provide essential training for you and your pup.

Basic obedience commands

  • Five basic commands can be applied to set the limits for acceptable behavior in a variety of situations: sit, down, come, heel and stay.
  • Issue the command the same way each time to avoid confusion. This is particularly important when your dog is first learning to connect your command with an expected action. Always say “come,” not “come over here” or “come here.” Use the command alone, rather than including it in the middle of a sentence.
  • Precede each command by saying the dog’s name in a firm but gentle tone. If the command word is not preceded by the dog’s name, the animal may not realize that you are addressing it.
  • Say any commands in a firm and low tone. You need not shout to make yourself understood to make your dog understand that you are in charge. In fact, raising your voice may only frighten the dog or raise its level of excitement.
  • Exhibit a calm but controlled attitude, conveying authority without anger. There is one exception. The command to “come” should be said in a light and happy tone of voice. Your dog must never anticipate any problems when you call it to come to you, or it could start avoiding you.
  • Inform all family members or other frequent visitors of your rules. Everyone should act consistently to avoid confusing the animal.

Hand signals

  • Consistent use of a gesture in conjunction with a verbal command can be a useful addition to basic training. In hearing-impaired and congenitally deaf dog, hand signals can replace verbal commands. By making the hand signal each time you pronounce the corresponding voice command, your dog will eventually make the association between the signal and its behavior response.

Additional commands

  • Once your dog has learned the basics, you can add commands. Such commands could include “jump” or “off” (to get off the furniture), “hurry” or “do it” (for bathroom time), or “drop it” or “leave it” (for play). Make sure new commands are distinct from each other and consistent in form so your dog will not become confused.
  • Release commands let your dog know when it is acceptable to be at ease. For example, every dog should be taught to sit calmly before it is fed. The dog should be taught to sit calmly before it is fed. The dog should not touch its food dish until you release it from “sit/stay” with the command “okay.”


  • At your dog’s first sign of obedience to your command, offer immediate and generous praise. Do not wait until after your pet has complied. Praise the dog as it begins to obey your command to help the dog associate your command with that action. If you delay or don’t praise, your dog might not understand what is expected of it.
  • Praise may be verbal, such as softly saying “good dog.” Your tone of voice should be soothing. If you excitedly praise your dog for a successful “sit/stay,” your dog will respond to your excitement and break out of its position to jump at you. You also can pat the dog on the head.
  • A food treat can help improve a dog’s motivation to cooperate, but they should not be continually used, particularly for pups. Food treats may help motivate a recently acquired adult dog.

Collar and Leash

  • Nylon or leather collars are adequate for many dogs. For dogs that pull, consider an Emily Weiss Walkie, which can be purchased at Tri-County Humane Society’s store in the front lobby. (All proceeds go back to the animals.)
  • For training sessions, a short training leash is best. A longer leash of 4 to 6 feet can be used if you can control the slack. Retractable leads are awkward and difficult to firmly grip, and provide little control for training.

Daily Training Sessions

  • During the initial phase of obedience training, you should practice obedience commands in one or two daily obedience training sessions of 15 to 30 minutes each. During these formal training sessions, practice the five basic commands in every room of your home.
  • Use a leash at first during indoor obedience reviews so your dog will be more compliant and understand that you are in control. Once your dog is more reliably obedient, you will not need to use the leash inside your home.
  • Practice obedience commands during walks outside. This will teach your dog obedience everywhere, regardless of distractions.
  • Do not feed, walk, brush or play with the dog without asking it to perform an obedience skill. For example, if your dog follows you into the kitchen, call it to “heel” as it walks by your side. Tell it to “sit/stay” as you prepare your snack. Return to your place and call your dog out of its “sit/stay” in the kitchen by calling it to “come” to rejoin you in the other room. Make the dog “sit/stay” before its food dish is delivered. Make it “sit/stay” while you remove its leash.
  • Obedience skills must be practiced throughout a dog’s lifetime so the skills are not lost. View every episode of misbehavior as an opportunity to teach obedience. Do not just scold your dog when it misbehaves. Rather, show it a desirable alternative activity by giving it a command, such as “down/stay.”

Professional Training

  • Obedience training by professional trainers can be a positive experience for both you and your dog. A competent dog trainer can correctly demonstrate the skills that you, the owner, must use to communicate your desires to your dog. The purpose of a dog trainer is to teach you how to train your pet.
  • Group classes also are beneficial because your dog can learn skills in a very distracting situation. If it can demonstrate obedience while surrounded by other dogs and other people in an unfamiliar location, the training should be easier to transfer (with ongoing practice at home) to relatively calmer places.
  • Do not send your pet away to be trained. The purpose of an obedience trainer is to train you so you can train the dog. You are the one who must function from day to day with your dog; it must be trained to obey you.
  • To locate an obedience trainer or training classes in your area, consult your veterinarian or call Tri-County Humane Society at 320-252-0896. And remember, no recommendation can replace a personal visit to the location of the class.

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

Cats, Dogs Living Together

I'm not sure where the phrase "fighting like cats and dogs" comes from, but in the majority of homes I am acquainted with, dogs and cats share living quarters quite amicably. In fact, it is often more difficult to introduce a second male cat or a second female dog to a
household than it is a member of the other species.

There are exceptions, of course. Socializing stray cats that border on feral presents a serious health risk to resident dogs, even friendly ones. Dogs with strong prey drive (the desire to catch, shake, and kill) can put the family cat in considerable danger.

Do Fence Them In

To make a successful inter-species introduction in the average household, one needs little more than a dog who understands a few rudimentary commands and a sturdy baby gate. A canine who has learned to respond to basics such as "leave it," "down," and "come" can most likely be controlled around a new cat while indoors.

Outdoors is another matter completely. Many otherwise cat-friendly dogs view outdoor cats as prey to be chased down and dispatched — a strong case for keeping cats indoors (particularly when the dog is out in the yard) and dogs on a leash when out for a walk!

If the resident dog lacks basic manners or is the newcomer, a four-foot house leash and buckle collar can give the caretaker control
over the situation. If he shows the slightest interest in chasing the cat, growl "Leave it" at him and reward him when he looks away from the cat. When the dog rushes past in a raucous game of "catch the cat," step on the end of the leash. As the dog brakes and turns to look at you, utter your "sit" or "down" command. Don't forget to reward the dog when he complies.

The baby gate is crucial in providing the cat with a dogfree sanctuary. A nervous feline can hop the gate to find a safe haven, and the food bowl placed behind it will be untouched by canine slobber. First, you may have to teach the dog to respect the gate — or invest in an extra-tall one.

What's the Scoop?

Placing the litter box behind the gate will ensure that cat feces stay right where the cat leaves them. You may be thinking, "Ugh, how tasteless!" but the dog's response is more likely to be, "Yum! How tasty!" Anticipate this eventuality and prepare for it.

In some situations, a gate will not be a viable solution. If this is the case in your home, creative thinking will play a crucial role in household management. Is your bathtub tall and your dog small? If so, then a litter box at one end and a food dish at the other will adequately meet your cat's needs.

A covered litter box prevents thievery in some cases, but beware! More than one dog has managed to lodge its head in the box and run hither and yon trying to break free.  In one household, the cat was actually in the litter box when the dog got the cover stuck on his head. Could a case of lapsed litter box visits be far behind?

If you own your home, there are more viable options open to you. Some folks cut cat-size openings in closet doors or bathroom vanities as a good way to keep Bowser out of the cat box and keep the box itself out of public view.

Separate Tables

As for alternative feeding stations, countertops and wide window sills can provide out-of-reach dining spots for felines. Remember, cat
foods and dog foods are not interchangeable. Much research has gone into developing specialized canine and feline diets. Keeping them out of each other's bowls is crucial.

With a little forethought, a home occupied by dogs and cats is a living example of the Peaceable Kingdom. Thoughtful management can guarantee that a full house is always a winner.

Information adapted from Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT

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