Can Your Dog Catch Your Cold?

Many of us catch at least one cold during the winter months, and we all know how easy it is to pass a cold around the household!

What about your dog? Can your dog catch your cold? Happily, no. Humans and dogs are affected by different kinds of cold germs and cannot share them.

But dogs can catch colds from other dogs, which is why keeping them home with a pet sitter is so much better than boarding them at a kennel where they can be infected by another dog. If your dog does catch a cold, there are a few things to watch for. (This short video from Pet MD has some quick tips.)

As the video mentions, the best cold treatment for an otherwise healthy dog is to make sure they stay hydrated, and you may even want to put a humidifier near their bed.

If you’re going out of town for the holidays, or just extra busy and need a hand with your furry friend, it’s time to book your VIP sitter. It’s a great way to reduce their chances of catching a cold from other pets at a kennel! We’ll take your dog for a walk, cuddle with your cat, give them a belly rub and a snack, and we’ll even text you a quick update so you’ll have peace of mind.

Our schedules fill up quickly during the holidays – especially Christmas, so click here to book your pet sitter, or leave your number here and we’ll call you…

Pet Diabetes Month



Symptoms of Diabetes

An affected animal will be hungry a lot of the time. Since glucose is not making it to the brain, the levels are too low for the brain to register that it is receiving food. You’ll see an increase in appetite, yet your pet will continue to lose weight because the nutrients in her food are not staying in her body. With glucose constantly leaving the body, she will be tired and unable to exercise or play. There is also increased thirst as a result of an upsurge in urine output while the body attempts to rid itself of the excess insulin.

The liver can also be adversely affected by this condition, as can the eyes and kidneys. Many animals with chronic and/or untreated diabetes will develop cataracts in their eyes and eventually go blind. They may also develop chronic kidney disease.



Veterinary Diagnosis and Treatment

In order to make a complete diagnosis, your veterinarian will take detailed a medical history from you about your pet’s health leading up to the onset of symptoms. The vet will also want details of the exact symptoms, including an estimation of daily urination times and amounts. Standard tests commonly include a complete blood count, chemical profile, and urinalysis. These tests should be sufficient for diagnosis and initial treatment.

Typically, with diabetes, an unusually high concentration of glucose will be found in your pet’s blood and urine. Abnormally high levels of liver enzymes and electrolyte imbalances are also common. Urine test results may also show evidence of abnormally high levels of ketone bodies – water-soluble compounds produced as a by-product of fatty acid metabolism in the liver and kidney. A numbers of other abnormalities may also be found.

The course of treatment for both cats and dogs typically includes…

  • Daily exercise using walks, runs or play therapy.
  • Gradual weight loss through increased physical activity and lowered caloric and carbohydrate intake.
  • Veterinary dietary management plans for all foods and treats. Dr. Spector recommends feeding cats “a canned, high protein, low carbohydrate food twice daily.” The veterinarians at WebMD suggest giving a high-fiber veterinary diet designed to normalize blood glucose levels.
  • Determination and tracking of daily blood glucose levels.
  • Daily insulin injections depending on the size, age, gender and weight of the affected animal. The insulin dosage may need to be adjusted as blood glucose levels sometime vary from day to day.

If left untreated, diabetes can lead to cataracts, growing weakness in the legs, malnutrition, vomiting, dehydration, and the development of ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a metabolic process where fats and proteins in your pet’s liver are broken down to serve as sources of energy not being supplied by necessary glucose. This leads to chronic liver disease, and eventually liver failure and death.

Prognosis of Pet Diabetes

Unfortunately, diabetes is not a disease that can be cured, but your pet’s health can be kept stable and she can go on to live a fully enjoyable life. This will be dependent on your willingness to adhere to your veterinarian’s dietary recommendations and suggested insulin protocol. The best preventive from complications is practicing careful maintenance at home with your animal’s best life in mind.


Holistic Pet Care

By Cate Burnette

A General Overview of the 4 Most Common Alternative Vet Therapies

More and more pet parents are searching for alternative forms of therapy when it comes to the veterinary treatment of the animals. The term “holistic” pet care – when related to veterinary tactics – generally refers to trying to be as minimally intrusive as possible when it comes to treating various ailments within a pet.

The primary advantages holistic veterinarians hope to convey is that through less intervention involving technology or medicine, the more effective and cost-friendly this type of technique will be toward comforting an animal and its family during a time of illness and stress.


Types of Holistic Veterinary Medicine

There are a number of differing alternative therapies available for sick pets. We will go over 4 of the more common treatments here, although your holistic vet may offer other therapies that he or she feels will be more effective for your individual animal.


  • Acupuncture: Veterinary acupuncture is a holdover from Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) that has been practiced on animals for thousands of years. Originally performed on military horses, the demand for modern veterinary acupuncture for use on companion animals has steadily increased over the last 20 years. Used mainly for functional problems involving pain, paralysis and non-infectious inflammation, vet acupuncture can treat patients with arthritis, hip dysplasia, feline asthma, non-infectious diarrhea, and lick granulomas (hot spots).Veterinarians in this country are trained, certified and governed by the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture and approved by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) for the management of pain in cats and dogs.


  • Massage Therapy: Massage therapy for animals is a touch technique that causes the pet’s body to release endorphins, a natural body product that relieves pain and lowers stress levels. Used on both companion animals and horses, therapists claim that massage can increase the circulation improving joint flexibility and muscle tone, help eliminate toxins and wastes from the body, improve the condition of skin, gums, coat and teeth, and positively affect the behavior of nervous, aggressive or anxious animals.The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure & Massage (NBCAAM) was founded in 2008 to establish and uphold professional standards for animal acupressure and massage practitioners. Pet massage therapists do not have to be licensed veterinarians, but they must pass national core competency examinations to be certified in this country. Your veterinarian or the NVCAAM can help your find a certified pet message therapist in your area.


  • Nutrition and Dietary Changes: Just as in human medicine, veterinary nutritionists use common foods and nutrients to prevent and treat diseases in our pets. They teach pet parents how to read pet food labels to find optimal products, how to make homemade meals for sick and ailing animals, which vitamins and minerals will combat certain chronic disorders and which foods are hazardous to a patient’s health.Obese pets, animals with chronic kidney and cardiac disease, cancer patients, animals with arthritis and hip dysplasia, intestinal disorders and skin conditions can all be helped often with just a simple change in diet or nutritional plan.To find a qualified veterinary nutritionist, consult with your vet or visit the website of their governing body, the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition.  


  • Chiropractic Care: Veterinary chiropractors are licensed veterinarians who have undergone post-graduate animal chiropractic training and been certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association.Vet chiropractors manually manipulate the neuro-musculo-skeletal systems of pets in an effort to treat animals with stiffness, tension, pain and even organ dysfunction. As an alternative to regular veterinary care, animal chiropractic adjustment can promote optimal function of the nerves, muscles and tissues supporting the joints, resulting in improved movement, stance and flexibility. Vet chiropractors claim that this alignment promotes increased agility, endurance, and overall performance for sport animals. Broader benefits include superior immune function, healthier metabolism and a vibrant nervous system, facilitating your companion animal’s natural ability to heal.


Official Guidelines

The American Veterinary Medical Association officially describes alternative veterinary practices as “Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine (CAVM).” While the AVMA has recognized these types of therapeutic methods for usage, they have still implemented various guidelines that call for appropriate evaluation of each alternative procedure, insisting that programs dedicated to promoting CAVM practices need to demonstrate “a substantial body of scientific knowledge.”


As the official AVMA guidelines state, these recommendations include:

  • “Veterinarians should ensure that they have the requisite skills and knowledge for any treatment modality they may consider using.
  • Diagnosis should be based on sound, accepted principles of veterinary medicine.
  • Proven treatment methods should be discussed with the owner or authorized agent when presenting the treatment options available. Recommendations for effective and safe care should be based on available scientific knowledge and the medical judgment of the veterinarian.
  • Owner consent should be obtained prior to initiating any treatment, including CAVM.
  • Medical records should meet statutory requirements. Information should be clear and complete. Records should contain documentation of client communications and owner consent.
  • Veterinarians should be aware that animal nutritional supplements and botanicals typically are not subject to pre-marketing evaluation by the FDA for purity, safety, or efficacy and may contain active pharmacologic agents or unknown
  • If a human health hazard is anticipated in the course of a disease or as a result of therapy, it should be made known to the client.”

According to a recent article in the Dallas Morning News, in Texas, holistic therapies must either be offered or approved by your TVMA-licensed veterinarian.


Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

Massage Therapy for Your Pets

By Cate Burnette


A Holistic Treatment You Can Share With Your Pets

Just as it has in human medicine, the practice of less invasive and more holistic approaches to the care and treatment of animals is gaining in popularity. Consultations for nutritional help, physical therapy, acupuncture and massage therapy are becoming more routine in both equine and companion animal veterinary medicine.

Pet massage therapy is in the forefront of treatments that pet parents can easily continue at home while maintaining ongoing contact with the veterinarian on regular health issues of our furry companions.


What IS animal massage therapy and how can it help my pet?

Massage therapy is the therapeutic application of hands-on deep tissue techniques to the voluntary muscle system – those muscles that all animals, including humans, use for movement.


Massage has been shown to:

…increase muscular circulation and help eliminate toxins and waste from the body.

…improve joint flexibility and muscle tone, which can be very beneficial to older animals and those with active lives
    such as performance animals. Massage is very popular with agility dogs and sport horses.

…promote healing and increase the range of motion in all dogs, horses and some cats.

…reduce muscle spasms and soreness and relieve tension.

…correct the condition of the skin, coat, gums and teeth because of increased blood circulation.

…enable atrophying muscles to work the way they are supposed to.

…reduce recovery time from soft tissue injuries.

…relieve the pain and discomfort associated with such joint conditions as hip dysplasia and arthritis.

Additionally, pet massage helps calm nervous and anxious animals through the act of being kindly and consistently touched, allows these pets to trust their human counterparts, helps a shy or submissive animal feel more confident and secure and, on the other side, can relax an aggressive or dominant animal.


Can I do this at home?

Because of the health-promoting qualities of massage, as well as its restorative properties, knowledgeable owners and trainers are incorporating this therapy as an integral part of their dogs’ and horses’ total and continuous health care program.

The therapy is certainly transferable – by virtue of its generally universal effectiveness and similarity of technique – to other companion animals, such as cats and ferrets, but we urge that you contact a veterinarian or professional animal massage therapist before trying these techniques on your own.

There are a number of animal massage demonstrations on YouTube that you can watch for guidance, including one by noted British dog trainer Victoria Stilwell.


What are some precautions with massage therapy for animals?

As noted above, if your animal is acting injured or ill, you should consult with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis to make sure massage therapy is appropriate and beneficial, not detrimental to veterinary treatment, and/or contraindicative with any prescribed medications.

Furthermore, never massage an animal that has low blood pressure, a fever, any type of poisoning, severe tissue trauma, severe debilitation, is in shock, has heat stroke, indicates symptoms of a limb or hindquarters having a circulatory problem due to thrombosis (blood clots), or an injury or illness not diagnosed by a vet.


Certification of Professional Pet Massage Therapists

When seeking massage therapy for your dog, cat or horse, first ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Many equine and small animal vets now have qualified massage therapists either on staff or on call that can work with you and your animal to provide whatever treatment is needed.

A professional, qualified therapist will have taken classes and studied the appropriate techniques in both the lecture and hands-on format. Many therapists will have interned under holistic vets or other therapists while learning.

Look for a massage therapist certified by the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure & Massage. This national organization, founded in 2008, develops standardized national certification examinations in order to establish and uphold professional standards for acupressure and massage practitioners. The NBCAAM examinations for Equine Massage, Equine Acupressure, Canine Massage and Canine Acupressure are entirely based on the Scope of Practice for each discipline.

The minimum standard for sitting for the NCEAAM is documented proof of attendance at a school or schools of either animal massage or animal acupressure resulting in an accumulated course of study equaling a minimum of 200 hours.


PLEASE NOTE: Natural remedies and alternative therapies can complement traditional veterinary or medical care. If your pet is sick, injured, on medication, or you have any other concerns, we recommend that you can check with your veterinarian prior to offering any remedy or massage therapy. Be aware that your vet or medical professional may advise you to not use the natural/holistic/alternative remedy or therapy. Do your homework and explore your options. If your pet is seriously ill or has a life-threatening condition, please always seek proper veterinary care.



Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.


Dehydration & Pets

By Cate Burnette


When Texas summers get as hot as they normally do, all pet parents need to watch out for our dogs and cats becoming dehydrated from a lack of body water. Dehydration occurs when the total body water is less than normal and involves loss of both water and electrolytes (minerals such as sodium, chloride and potassium).

When there is not enough body water, fluid shifts out of the body cells to compensate, leaving the cells deficient in necessary water. This leads to dehydration. The severity of the dehydration is based on the magnitude of these body water shifts. Pets normally lose fluid through breathing, panting, urinating and defecating and those fluids must be restored regularly to maintain optimum health.


Causes and Symptoms of Dehydration

There are a number of ways your dog or cat can become dehydrated. Your pet may not be eating or drinking enough to take in appropriate amounts of water. Dehydration can cause the loss of appetite and, in a frustrating cycle, your animal loses even more body water when she won’t eat or drink. Illnesses that cause bouts of frequent vomiting or diarrhea and/or high fevers can result in your pet becoming dehydrated. Any dog or cat that is overheated may also be suffering from dehydration.

So what are some of the symptoms that you need to watch for?

There are basically 3 levels of clinical dehydration, with the final levels being the most serious.

Beginning Signs

  • Excessive panting and warm skin
  • Dry mouth, nose and gums
  • Visibly tired, less animated
  • Sunken eyes, lack of moisture

Intermediate Signs

  • Loss of skin elasticity – If a gentle pinch of shoulder or neck skin doesn’t immediately pop back into place, your pet is probably dehydrated. As the tissue under the skin loses moisture, the skin moves back more slowly. In extreme cases, the skin doesn’t pop back at all.
  • Delayed Capillary Refill Time (CRT) – Place your thumb or index finger firmly against your pet’s gums so that they whiten. Remove your finger and count how many seconds it takes for the gums to become pink. Any time longer than 2 seconds is a sign of dehydration and/or other illness.
  • Rectal temperature greater than 105º F

Final Signs

  • Your pet is wobbly and unsteady on her feet
  • You notice hind end weakness


How to Prevent Dehydration

Maintaining a constant body fluid level is as important in animals as it is in humans. The Humane Society of the United States issues these tips for keeping your pet hydrated in even the warmest weather.

  • Leave several bowls of water around the house so that your cats and dogs get enough to drink.
  • If you notice your pet hasn’t had a drink in a while, start by allowing her to have a few sips of water every few minutes. Overdrinking can easily lead to nausea and vomiting and losing even more fluids that she needs.
  • After strenuous exercise, monitor the amount of water your dog drinks and don’t allow overdrinking.
  • Take a collapsible bowl and plenty of cool water with you when you’re exercising or playing outside with your pet. Allow plenty of down time (especially on hot days) and find a place for shade so your pet can cool down.
  • If your dog or cat is outside for any length of time, ensure there are bowls of clean, cool water available for drinking.


What can I do if I suspect my pet is dehydrated?

  • Give an electrolyte (such as Gatorade®) mixed with water if your pet is showing the early signs of dehydration. While water helps in replenishing a lot of nutrients, electrolytes can do the job more quickly.
  • Animals who have gone a long time without drinking water may have a hard time holding it down. Allow your dog or cat to lick ice. She’ll rehydrate herself as the ice melts.


  • If your pet refuses to drink for any extended period of time, see your veterinarian immediately!


Veterinary Treatment of Dehydration

The veterinary care for moderately and severely dehydrated pets revolves around the administration of supplemental fluids. Typically, fluids are given either subcutaneously (SQ) under the first layer of skin or intravenously (IV) through a vein. The latter requires hospitalization and the insertion of an intravenous catheter. Your vet can determine the amount of fluids to be given and the route of administration in the best interests of your pet.



Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.


Cuts & Scrapes On Your Pet

By Cate Burnette

Minor Injuries You Can Care For At Home

When a pet sustains an injury, concerned pet parents often have a lot of the same questions as human parents, such as, “How bad is this, really? What should I do to treat this? Is this an injury requiring immediate professional medical care, or can it be dealt with at home?” That’s why it’s good to have a little understanding of what the difference is between a major and a minor injury in your furry companion.

What is the difference between a major trauma and a minor injury?

Major traumas include bite wounds, puncture wounds, burns, scalds, snake bites of any kind, deep lacerations and broken bones. These injuries should NEVER be treated at home and your pet needs to see your local veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately. A deep cut can get infected and require stitching and even small burns or scalds can send an animal into shock. Snake bites – both poisonous and non-poisonous – can cause pain and extreme inflammation and, of course, broken bones necessitate professional care to set and lessen pain.

Minor injuries are issues like torn nails, bruises, skin scrapes, insect bites or stings (without allergic reaction), and/or minor intestinal problems such as occasional constipation or diarrhea. You can treat most of these matters at home and contact your vet if you have any concerns.

Home Treatments for Minor Injuries

As concerned pet parents, you know that your veterinarian needs to be called for traumatic wounds, ongoing illnesses and sudden, acute disease symptoms. However, for any inconsequential injuries, there are treatments you can do at home with items from your medicine cabinet and kitchen to help your pet heal quickly and pain free.  


  • Bumps, Bruises, Twists, and Sprains – Tenderness, swelling, limping and mild to moderate pain can indicate a bruise, sprain or strain of limbs and paws. Keep your pet quiet and restrict exercise by crating if necessary. If the signs continue for more than 2 or 3 days, contact your veterinarian.
  • Torn Toenails – Dogs and cats can slice up their nails in a variety of ways – everything from a too-close nail trim that nicks the quick, to running outdoors over sharp rocks. When the bleeding doesn’t stop, dip the hurt nail into a tiny amount of styptic powder, typically found on the shaving aisle found in most commercial pharmacies. If you don’t have styptic powder available, corn starch or regular baking flour will also curtail the bleeding.
  • Cuts and Scrapes – Please Note: If the injury site is swollen, bruised or bleeds excessively, you must assume your pet has sustained a bone break or sprain and you should allow your veterinarian to provide treatment and pain meds immediately. For minor cuts and scrapes with no other signs, clean the site of dirt with a cloth or towel and a non-stinging antiseptic diluted in warm water. Apply a cold compress (you can use a bag of frozen veggies) and keep it in place for a few minutes to alleviate any inflammation and pain. Place a dab of 3-in-one antibiotic ointment on the cut and bandage lightly to keep your pet from licking the area. Contact your vet for further advice and additional treatment.
  • Bug Bites or Bee Stings – Bug bites or stings typically occur around the face and head of a dog or cat. Once you notice the area, apply a cold pack to the bite to reduce swelling and itching. Look for a stinger. If one is still in the skin, use a credit card or other flat, rigid object (NOT tweezers) to scrape it out. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately if you notice any swelling in the head or neck area that can affect breathing or if you find a stinger in the tongue or the roof of the mouth.
  • Swallowed Objects – In many cases, if your dog swallows an inappropriate object, you can take a wait-and-see approach to watch if the item passes without any trouble. However, swallowing sharp objects, such as needles or pieces of glass, extremely large objects, or any type of long item, such as string, pantyhose, or fishing line, is very dangerous because a serious bowel constriction or obstruction can result. Additionally, cats often swallow tinsel, fishing line or thread that can become wrapped around the tongue. In those cases, or if your pet shows signs of consistent vomiting, has a distended or painful abdomen, or is not having bowel movements, contact your veterinarian for immediate emergency treatment.
  • Constipation, Diarrhea, Hairballs, and Other Minor Digestive Issues – Most pets, at one time or another, experience digestive upsets that last for a few days and disappear. If these upsets are not related to other major health issues, then a dose of canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling) can do the trick. Veterinarians recommend giving 1 teaspoon per every 10 pounds of body weight either as a treat or in the normal diet one or two times a day until the issue resolves. Pumpkin is rich in a soluble plant fiber that eases the pains of both constipation and diarrhea.



If the symptoms of any injury or trauma are excessive – or continue for more than 1 or 2 days – contact your veterinarian for treatment. Remember, if your pet is sick or injured, it’s important to protect yourself and anyone else who may be caring for or handling her, so using a muzzle on dogs or a pillowcase on cats may be necessary. Even the most docile and gentle of pets can bite in response to pain or fear.


Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

Enjoying 4th of July with your Precious Pets

Summertime is a wonderful time of year when we can celebrate with family and friends, frolicking in the sprinklers, enjoying barbecue and picnic foods and relishing the holidays that fall during the warmth of the season.  One of the most popular holidays is the 4th of July, but this can be a scary and dangerous time for our pets.

The Pet Amber Alert blog reports that national statistics show an increase of shelter use and missing pets between the days of July 4-6th.  When the neighborhood is outdoors enjoying the fun and loud fireworks, pets indoors can become overwhelmed, and the likelihood of them running away and becoming lost is greater.

Fireworks and food can be fun for humans, but not necessarily for pets.  Here are just a few things you can do to keep your pet safe during this Independence Day:

Serve Goodness. Although it’s tempting to offer your pet a special barbecue nugget, the safest thing for their sensitive systems is to keep pets on their regular diets during the holiday season. You can find more out about people food that can be harmful to pets by checking out a handy publication by the ASPCA.

Dim the Flame. Matches and fireworks can be scary, and dangerous to your pets.  Any exposure to fireworks has the potential for an injury involving burns and trauma for your pet. Also, fireworks are made with substances that are toxic to pets, not to mention that loud noises can cause pets to run off seeking the solace of a quiet space. Keep your pet indoors while the fireworks are outside.

The 4th of July can be great fun for everyone including your pets.  With a bit of preparation and caution, you and your pets can enjoy a fun-filled Independence Day.   


Preventing Sunburn for Your Pets

There’s something about a sunny day that inspires us to get outside and into the sunshine. For domestic animals, the sunlight does more than encourage a long walk or an opportunity for a long, peaceful catnap. When outside, however, the ultra-violet rays from the sun can be dangerous for dogs and cats, because just like humans, they run the risk of sunburn.  Some people think that because our pets have furry coats, they are protected from the sun’s harmful rays, but this simply isn’t true.

Similar to humans, dogs and cats have certain areas that are vulnerable to sunburn. Some of the most susceptible areas for pet sunburn include the nose, around the eyes, on the front and back of the ears, underneath the paws, and the underside of the belly.  

How can you tell if your pet is sunburned? First, you may observe redness around the area in question.   Also, the nose, belly, ears or eye areas are tender to the touch.  Finally, you may notice dry or cracked skin, and if severe enough, you may even see hair loss on the affected area.  If your pet gets sunburned, you can apply Aloe Vera gel to cool and soothe the area.  

Prolonged exposure to the sun will negatively impact any living creature. Over time, serious sunburns can cause painful skin conditions such as sores and abscesses, which could lead to infections or skin cancer.

You can protect your pet from sunburn by applying an over-the-counter sunscreen or visiting your veterinary clinic for prescribed sunscreen made just for animals.  Just like you would your family, keep your pet’s time in the sunshine limited, seek shade and apply sunscreen, especially after a dip in the water.


The BARF Diet

Going From Commercial to Raw Foods For The Health of Your Pet

By: Cate Burnette

BARF is an acronym for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. This feeding program is focused on nourishing your pets responsibly and properly to maximize health, longevity and reduce allergies and vet bills. The diet is based on human-grade whole foods including raw meat, finely ground bones, offal and other healthy ingredients such as fruit and vegetables.

Why feed a raw diet?

It is a scientifically proven fact that cooking food robs it of heat-sensitive vitamins, amino acids and trace minerals, deforms needed proteins in meat enzymes, and changes the molecular structure of lipids (fats). For those pet parents wanting to give their animals the best possible value in their food, moving from a traditional, cooked commercial pet food to a raw diet may be the best solution to this nutritional dilemma.

Veterinary studies over the years have proven that feeding a raw diet benefits pets in numerous ways including:  

  • increases overall health
  • reduces obesity
  • lessens the chance of certain diseases including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes an improves the temperament and energy levels of domesticated animals

Animals fed raw bones typically suffer fewer incidences of gingivitis and gum infection, have fresher breath, and reduced digestive problems.

Additionally, commercial food products and treats are manufactured with additives and chemicals that preserve shelf life by binding the ingredients into a more stable form, artificially color the food, and add synthetic flavor. Animal Digest, the most commonly used flavoring in store-bought foods, is a cooked-down liquid made of parts of unspecified animals.

According to the USDA, those animals can include “4-D animals” (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), rats, goats, horses, pigs, animals euthanized at shelters, miscellaneous roadkill, supermarket and restaurant refuse, and so on. While many of these additives have not been shown to be toxic to pets, others are suspected of causing thyroid, liver, and kidney diseases including some cancers.

What is a raw diet?

Raw diets typically consist of ingredients that are fresh, raw, and raised organically, without exposure to chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, and/or synthetic hormones. The main 6 components of the BARF diet consist of meat and dairy proteins, whole-grain carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, and the natural fats, minerals and vitamins from various seeds.

  1. Protein sources commonly include raw beef, chicken, turkey, lamb and small amounts of organ meats, such as beef heart, chicken liver, calves liver, and sweetbreads. Some pet owners choose to feed very fresh – or lightly cooked – fish or shellfish. The occasional raw egg is another good source of natural, organic protein. **Please note: If you choose to feed your dog or cat raw or lightly cooked fish, you need to ensure the meat is free of parasites.
  2. Dairy proteins can consist of raw milk and raw cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese treated with lactase enzymes to avoid digestive upset.
  3. For a mix of proteins with high-value carbohydrates, you can feed small quantities of lightly cooked beans, brown rice, quinoa, or other whole grains. Oatmeal or other grain cereals soaked in raw milk, yogurt, or raw vegetable juice (carrot juice is a good choice here) can add variety to your pet’s diet. When feeding foods high in carbs, many holistic veterinarians recommend adding an enzyme powder containing amylase, which helps your pet digest carbohydrates and may prevent an upset tummy.
  4. Dogs and cats can eat all types of vegetables on this program. Finely grated carrots, parsnips, cucumbers, zucchini, peas, sweet potatoes, sprouts, wheat grass, sweet bell peppers, and herbs can be added to proteins or used as natural treat foods. Small pieces of raw carrot or sweet potato, in particular, can serve as a sweet, tasty treat while also helping your pet’s teeth to stay clean and breath smelling fresh.
  5. Some proponents of a raw diet suggest that you may not need to feed raw fruit if you’re heavily into the vegetables, but, if you choose to give your pet fruit, apples, blueberries, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, pears, dates, and mangoes can be a good source of Vitamins A, C, and E as well as necessary antioxidants. You can also juice these fruits and add to a meal as a way to introduce extra moisture when needed. **Please note: Feeding grapes, raisins, onions, large amounts of garlic, and avocado has been shown to be toxic to some canines and is not recommended by the veterinary community.
  6. Sunflower seeds, chia seeds, Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts all provide natural oils, vitamins, and minerals to your pet’s diet. They can be served chopped, grated, or ground and mixed with the regular meal. A bit of almond butter on a baby carrot makes a great, all-natural treat for your dog or cat.


Special Needs for Feline Raw Diets

As obligate carnivores (animals that must eat mainly meat for survival), cats need:

  • Protein from meat or fish
  • Amino acids like taurine and arginine (from meat or fish)
  • Fatty acids
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water

Taurine and arginine are essential amino acids necessary to your cat’s diet found in raw meat and fish. Without taurine, the retinal cells of the eyes will eventually degenerate, impairing vision. Deficiency of taurine will also lead to a weakening of the muscle cells in the heart, causing a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. Additionally, a lack of taurine may cause digestive disturbances.

Without arginine, a cat cannot fully process normal food proteins, resulting in high ammonia levels in the blood. Severe signs such as salivation, vocalization, ataxia, and even death can result from the high ammonia levels.

Dependent on the amount and quality of meat or fish you feed your cat, either of these amino acids may be wanting, and supplementation of both taurine and arginine may be necessary.

Holistic veterinarians often recommend adding psyllium (a plant fiber) to your cat’s raw diet during the transition phase to aid in any possible digestive upset.

If you can’t find a supportive veterinarian and you are determined to go raw, go to or, both of which provide detailed information.

The following recipe, developed by Lisa Pierson, a veterinarian in Lomita, California, yields enough food for 10-14 days for the average cat. For more guidelines in making this food, go to

    • 3 pounds of whole fowl or rabbit, including bones, organs, and skin
    • 1 cup water
    • 2 eggs (use raw yolks, and lightly cook the whites)
    • 2000 mg wild salmon oil
    • 400 IU vitamin E (powdered E in capsule form works)
    • 100 mg vitamin B-complex (start with a smaller amount when beginning a raw meat diet; the vitamin has a strong odor)
    • 2000 mg taurine, powdered
    • ¾ tsp. lite salt with iodine (when using chicken parts)
    • Liver (add 4 oz. if the meat you are using does not include organs)
    • Psyllium (add when first introducing the raw meat diet to your cat.)

How do I transition my pet from commercial to a raw diet?

Veterinarians are of two schools of thought when it comes to changing your animal’s meals from a commercial product to fresh, raw foods – going cold turkey and introducing the new foods all at once, or making a gradual transition over a period of a week to 10 days. Most will agree that this decision should be made on an individual basis depending on the age, health, and breed of your pet.

On her website The Whole Dog, holistic veterinarian Dr. Jeannie Thomason recommends fasting your dog from solid food for at least 12 hours before feeding her the first raw meal. This allows her digestive system to clear itself of any leftover commercial product that might interfere with the digestion of the new material. During the fast, your dog should always have access to free choice water. By allowing the body to clear itself of any commercial additives or toxins, the nutrients in the raw diet are able to be ingested and used without causing stomach upset when going “cold turkey.” **Please note: Veterinaries DO NOT recommend fasting any animal under one year of age.

She also suggests staying with one meat protein source – preferably easily digestible chicken – for the first couple of months, allowing your dog’s body to cleanse and detoxify. As you gradually begin to add in different proteins, you’ll be able to tell which foods best suit your dog without creating additional problems.

However, there is one caveat to Dr. Thomason’s recommendation; for senior dogs or animals coping with an illness, transitioning to the new food over a period of time may be the best way to avoid intestinal problems.

Dr. C J Puotinen, author of “The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care,” advises using the transitional method of switching foods. He suggests keeping your pet on her traditional food during the switch and gradually adding in increasing amounts of the raw diet over a period of 10 days to 2 weeks. Simultaneously, you’ll want to decrease the amount of the old food during the same time period.

This type of transition works best for seniors who have lived their lives on commercially produced food, animals with sensitive stomachs or prior incidences of diarrhea and/or pancreatitis, and pets with chronic illnesses.  

If you choose the transitional method, we recommend feeding the commercial food and the raw food out of separate dishes to avoid any hint of contamination.

How much raw food does my pet need?

Because your dog or cat will be able to more easily assimilate the nutrients in raw foods, you’ll be able to feed less food daily than you have when using commercial products. We suggest using the 2- to 3% rule, meaning you feed 2- to 3% of your pet’s weight daily. Based on a ratio of 2.5% to maintain the optimal weight of a healthy, active animal, those proportions allow a 20-pound dog to eat approximately 2.7 pounds of raw meat weekly, or around ¾ of a cup of food daily. If you’re feeding twice a day, you would half that proportion at every meal.

These figures would, of course, change depending on the weight of your dog or cat and your pet’s age, activity level, metabolism, and breed. A good food calculator can be found on the Primal Pet Foods website.  

What are some signs of digestive upset and what do I do about it?

You need to consult your holistic veterinarian if your pet has diarrhea for more than 48 hours, becomes lethargic, runs a fever, has blood in the stool, or begins to vomit large amounts of liquid.


By giving your dog or cat the raw diet she would eat in the wild, you’re returning her body to its natural source of nutrients, removing the toxins and chemicals found in today’s commercial foods, and giving her the best shot at living a long, healthy, and happy life.


Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.


May is National Service Dog Eye Examination Month


By: Cate Burnette

Service Animals Need Healthcare Too…

What One Alliance of Veterinarians is Doing To Help

Because good eyesight to so important to the work of the approximate 20,000 service animals in the US, the ninth annual American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) National Service Animal Eye Exam event provides a free screening-wellness eye exam to all working animals. Those animals include guide dogs, hearing assistance dogs, drug detection dogs, police/military animals, search and rescue animals, therapy animals, and those assisting people with disabilities other than blindness. This program incorporates both dogs and horses in their exams.

To be eligible, all service or therapy animals must be formally trained and certified, currently working animals with proof of active registration. Animals currently enrolled in a formal service-training program are also eligible, based on clinic availability. The client must provide all qualification paperwork to the clinic at the time of the exam along with an online registration number. This complimentary eye exam through your veterinarian is of a screening nature and is not appropriate for animals with known eye issues.

So how do these wonderful working animals assist their human partners and what effect to they have on the daily lives of persons with disabilities?


Types of Service Dogs and Their Duties

According to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, the approximate 20,000 service animals in this country – which includes 10,000 guide dogs – empower their disabled owners to function with greater self-sufficiency, summon help in a crisis, and to become aware of events in the environment that might prove stressful or harmful.

The types of tasks these animals are asked to perform revolve around the physical or psychological limitations of the pet parent and, by necessity, require the animal to be able to see clearly and without hesitation.


Guide Dog TasksA guide dog’s 4- to 6-month education involves mastering a set of tasks which, taken together, allow a blind or visually-impaired person to negotiate the unseen environment with greater ease, independence and safety. Some of those duties involve:

  • Navigating their person around stationary objects, hazards, low-hanging objects and moving objects while watching for oncoming or intersecting traffic in the team’s path.
  • Signaling changes in elevation, such as stepping off a curb, going up and down stairs, warning of a ditch, cliff or other outdoor drop-offs, halting when confronted by a barrier or refusing to go forward if there is a drop-off.  
  • Locating objects on command. Some of those objects might be finding an exit and indicating the door knob from a room, finding an empty seat, locating the person’s customary seat in a particular classroom, following a designated person (waiter, fireman/police officer), finding a specified designation after appropriate training.
  • Other tasks may include retrieving dropped objects or finding specific objects, such as the morning newspaper.


Hearing Dog Tasks Hearing dogs are schooled for 3 to 6 months to alert to the specific sounds needed by their partners, primarily in the home setting. Some hearing dogs also work outside the home, alerting to specific sounds in public settings. These service dogs are trained to get the attention of their human partner by touch, either a nose nudge or a paw on hand or leg, and to then lead the partner to the source of the specific sound.


A hearing dog’s specific tasks may include:

  • Alerting to specific sounds at home. For example, a hearing dog needs to warn a non-hearing partner to the doorbell, a smoke alarm, a crying baby, a cooking timer, an alarm clock buzzing, phone ringing or someone calling the name of the dog’s partner.
  • Alerting to specific sounds away from home, such as police, ambulance or fire truck sirens, car horns, cell phones, smoke alarms at work or school, and fire drills.
  • Other duties may include the retrieval of dropped objects (keys, glasses, coins), carrying messages between spouses or other family members, warning of a vehicle approaching from behind, entering a dark home first at night to turn on any lights and provide safety against possible intruders.


Service Dog Tasks – Service dogs generally receive 6 months to a year of schooling to assist people with a wide variety of mobility issues. While many service dogs partner with humans who are severely impaired or have a degenerative disease, others benefit those people who suffer with hidden disabilities such as a seizure disorder, a psychiatric disorder, or conditions which cause chronic pain. These highly trained service animals work to provide their partners with the ability to manage pain, conserve energy, and secure a measure of self-sufficiency.


The duties of a service dog may consist of:

    • Retrieval-based tasks, such as bringing a partner the phone, picking up dropped items, fetching an out-of-reach wheelchair, retrieving a purse/wallet and unloading towels from a dryer.
    • Carrying-based tasks may include transporting items from one person to another, paying for purchases at high counters, bringing in the mail or a newspaper, and/or moving items upstairs or downstairs.
    • Deposit-based tasks; for example, dropping trash into a wastebasket, putting dirty dishes into the sink, loading clothes into the washing machine, and placing shoes or other items into a closet.
    • Tug-based tasks can include opening drawers, cupboard doors and a refrigerator with the use of a strap, closing a bathroom stall door for the disable partner, tugging off socks without biting the foot, and opening or closing drapes by pulling on a drapery cord.
    • Nose-nudged tasks are the exact opposite of tug tasks; i.e., shutting doors and cupboard drawers, calling 911 on a K9 rescue push-button phone, turning light switches on and off, and returning a paralyzed arm or foot to its correct physical position.
    • Pawing tasks are taught to those dogs who prefer using their feet instead of their noses while on duty and include the same set of assignments geared to provide access and safety to their disable pet parents.
    • Mobility assistance revolves around such tasks as opening doors, assisting a partner to turn over in bed, preventing a fall by bracing, getting a partner in and out of a bathtub, helping an ambulatory partner to walk short distances or climb stairs, transporting textbooks, and possibly working with a partner to pull a wheelchair up an incline.
    • Crisis assistance means the dog may need to bark for help on command, find a care-giver on command, hold the partner in an upright position so that a wheelchair user can take meds or access a phone, or wake up a sleeping partner if the smoke alarm goes off.


  • Medical assistance for a disabled partner can include duties such as fetching an insulin kit, calling 911 for help in a crisis and letting first-responders into the home.


Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks – The psychiatric service dog is trained to help individuals with such debilitating conditions as Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Depression, ailments attributed to a brain chemistry malfunction. In addition to the task training given other service dogs, psychiatric dogs must have mastered the behaviors of no nuisance barking, no aggressive or intrusive behaviors and no intrusive sniffing into another person’s or dog’s space to accommodate their partners’ emotional issues.

Even more important than assisting with everyday tasks, psychiatric service dogs provide emotional support using some of the following methods:


  • They provide tactile stimulation to disrupt any emotional overload happening with the partner. When their human experiences flashbacks, nightmares, or any other psychological distress, service dogs are trained to vigorously lick the person’s face or use a nose nudge in order to bring the partner back to full awareness and interrupt any inappropriate behavior.
  • When tactile stimulation doesn’t work, psychiatric service dogs can cause an abrupt change of scene to ‘break the spell’ of emotional overload. For example, a dog can turn on room lights, switch on the television, fetch a beverage or medication, or initiate a game of ‘tug toy’ to vanquish the distressing thoughts, feelings and images and prevent sleep disturbances of their person.
  • These dogs are taught to wake up their human partner for work or school. Panic Disorder, PTSD, and Major Depression can disrupt normal sleep patterns. Success has been noted in fighting back against avoidance behavior, apathy or withdrawal by having the service dog respond like a hearing dog to the alarm clock in the morning. It may also be possible to train the dog to go by his internal alarm clock to eagerly awaken the person at a certain hour of the day, through use of a feeding schedule or, if not motivated by food, by the promise of a walk.
  • Those who suffer from panic attacks have reported that the deep pressure of the weight of a medium size dog or a large dog against their abdomen and chest has a significant calming effect. It can shorten the duration of the attack and often prevent the symptoms from escalating. This same task performed by service dogs on autistic children and adults prone to panic attacks has become known as ‘deep pressure therapy’ in the assistance dog field.


To get a visual idea of exactly how service dogs affect the lives of their human partners, you can watch this short, informative video.


How is a veterinary eye exam performed?

Whether your pet is a service dog or just your furry companion, eye exams should be an integral part of your pet’s annual health exam. During an ophthalmic (eye) exam, your veterinarian may perform a number of tests. These tests can help identify problems with the eyes or underlying diseases that may affect the eyes. Your vet may recommend that a veterinary ophthalmologist – an eye-care specialist – evaluate your pet if the eye problems are found to be chronic or extensive.


A complete veterinary eye exam should include the following tests:

  • A visual exam of the eye and its functionality. The veterinarian may observe how the pet moves around the room or if he or she follows a cotton ball when tossed near the eyes. A menace test may also be conducted to see if the pet blinks when a finger is moved toward, but without touching, the eye.
  • A Schirmer Tear Test to determine if your dog is producing enough tears to properly lubricate the eye. This test works by positioning a small strip of paper in each lower eyelid and holding it in place for 60 seconds. A gauge on each strip indicates the amount of tear production.
  • A fluorescein stain test shows any painful abrasions or ulcers on the cornea that cannot be seen without a vet exam. During this procedure, the vet or vet tech drops a small amount of fluorescent, lime-green dye on the eye and the cornea is examined under a blue light looking for scratches or divots in the tissue.
  • An intra-ocular pressure reading will be taken using a device called a ‘tonometer.’ Testing for glaucoma (high eye pressure caused by improper fluid drainage within the orb), a few drops of liquid ocular anesthesia are placed on the cornea to numb the eye surface. The vet will gently tap the tonometer on the surface of the eye several times to get an average eye pressure number. High pressure is a sign of glaucoma – a symptom of unchecked diabetes and some genetic disorders, while low pressure may be a sign of uveitis (inflammation of an interior layer of the eye).
  • Your vet can facilitate a thorough inspection of the fundus (the back of the eye) by dilating the dog’s pupils and examining the interior of the eye, including the retina, the optic nerve and the interior blood vessels.


Because a service dog’s ability to see the world around him is so important to the safety and independence of his disabled human partner, regular eye exams are necessary. The ACVO’s commitment to service dog health with National Service Dog Eye Examination Month and free exams allows people without veterinary health insurance to get much-needed healthcare for their canine life partners.



Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.