Is Catnip Safe?

Many cat owners wonder whether catnip is safe for their pet, especially if their cat exhibits the sometimes extreme behavior that can be associated with coming into contact with the plant.  The simple answer to this question is yes, catnip is completely safe for your cat.

Catnip is an herb and part of the mint family.  There are many different varieties, but all of them contain an essential oil known as nepetalactone that is believed to simulate kitty pheromones.  Cats will often sniff and rub on the plant and may even chew on or eat it.  Not all cats are affected by catnip, but those that are may become sedate or even cause head-rubbing, rolling, or playful behavior.

So let your kitty enjoy!  Catnip is a completely safe, natural substance that can help ease boredom for an indoor cat.

Holiday Baking Hazards

The holiday season is a time of indulgence for many Americans, and you may be tempted to pass along the good cheer to your four-legged friends.  When including them in the festivities, be careful not to overdo it, however.  Many traditional holiday baked goods are not good for, or are even harmful to, our pets.

Be wary of the following:

  • Chocolate – Most people know that chocolate is not good for their pets.  The compound theobromine can cause digestive side effects (think diarrhea and vomiting) at lower doses, but at higher doses it can cause increased or irregular heart rate, seizures, and even death.  Dark chocolate and baking chocolate contain higher levels of theobromine.  The dose is also size dependent, making smaller critters at the highest risk of serious side effects.  Play it safe and find a different treat for Fido.
  • Macadamia nuts – A frequent ingredient in holiday baked goods, macadamia nuts are also on the naughty list.  Ingestion can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, and loss of coordination.
  • Pastry/bread dough – Uncooked yeast-containing treats can expand when mixed with body heat and cause bloating or obstruction.  Also, the organisms can produce enough alcohol as they ferment to lead to alcohol poisoning!  Don’t let your pets sneak a taste of your baked goods!
  • Grapes/raisins – Many treats contain this ingredient.  Grapes and raisins have the potential to cause kidney failure in dogs, and the amount needed varies greatly from pet to pet.  For some animals, very few can cause devastating results.
  • Xylitol – If you use this artificial sweetener in your baking, be aware that tiny amounts can cause severe side effects in dogs resulting in liver failure, low blood sugar, and even death.

Instead of sharing people treats with your pets, find a recipe for homemade treats or visit a local dog bakery.  Doing so helps to make sure that your pet enjoys the holiday season as much as you do!

Give Me Shelter

Well, the weather outside may be frightful, but that doesn’t mean that your pets are necessarily coming indoors.  Along with providing your outdoor dog or cat adequate nutrition and a fresh, non-frozen water supply, it is vital that a good shelter providing protection from the wind and cold be supplied.  Use the following guidelines to be sure that your pet stays toasty during the hard winter months:

  • Be sure your pet is up for the challenge.  Young, old, sickly, or small pets such as cats are best brought inside or into a heated area during the coldest months.
  • Be sure your shelter is waterproof as well as windproof.
  • Check frequently to be sure that there are no leaks, damage, or wet bedding.
  • If possible place your shelter in a sunny, south-facing area.
  • The entrance to the shelter should be placed away from any wind or drafts.  An “L” shaped entrance can be very helpful to prevent wind from blowing in.
  • Be sure that the shelter is well insulated.  The floor should be several inches off the ground.  Using heavy blankets to cover the roof can add insulation.
  • Do not use blankets or rugs for bedding as they will accumulate moisture.  Straw or hardwood shavings make the best bedding.
  • Make sure that the roof is angled so that snow and rain cannot collect.

Anaplasmosis

Not only are ticks nasty little critters, but they carry with them the risk of disease to you and your dog.  Many of these diseases, such as Lyme disease, are well known.  Others, although equally as dangerous, are lesser known.  One of these is anaplasmosis, sometimes also called ehrlichiosis or dog tick fever.

Anaplasmosis is found throughout much of the United States including the northeast, mid-Atlantic, north-central states.  It has also been found in California.  Dogs infected with anaplasmosis often exhibit a high fever, stiff joints, an lethargy.  The disease can often be diagnosed with a blood test.  Some dogs may require extensive treatment, however most respond well to treatment with a certain type of antibiotic.

Like many diseases, prevention is the best cure.  Utilize tick-preventative products as recommended by your veterinarian and inspect your pet for ticks regularly.