Paws and Ice Melt Don't Mix!

Ice melt, or salt, that is commonly used to clear ice from sidewalks and other icy surfaces can be harmful to pets.

The main ingredient in most ice melt products is either sodium chloride or calcium chloride. Both sodium and calcium chloride can irritate a dog's paws or be harmful to the animal if ingested.

A dog's paws should be cleaned after walking outside on snowy days. Even if you don't see the ice melt, it may still be on surfaces. A dog that licks its feet after coming inside could experience vomiting or diarrhea.

To keep your dog from ingesting large amounts of ice melt products, keep him from eating snow or drinking from puddles.

A dog that ingests 4g (less than 1 oz.) of sodium chloride per 1kg (2.3 lbs.) of body weight could die. That would mean a dog that weighs only 4 lbs. would only need to eat about 2 ounces of ice melt containing sodium chloride before resulting in death.

When using ice-melting products around your pet, consider using non-toxic brands, such as Safe Paws or Morton Safe-T-Pet. These products do not contain salt or chloride.

Another alternative for pet owners are dog socks or boots. Simply put the socks or boots on your dog's paws before going out. The dog's paws will be protected from any salt that is on the sidewalks. Most dog socks and boots can be machine-washed after use.

Most people will have to use some sort of ice-melting product this winter. As a pet owner, it is not difficult to protect your animals. Use a non-toxic ice melt product, clean your dogs paws or use dog socks or boots this winter.

Article from Accuweather

Thanksgiving Pet Safety (from AVMA)

Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings together family and friends, but it also can carry some hazards for pets. Holiday food needs to be kept away from pets, and pet owners who travel need to either transport their pets safely or find safe accommodations for them at home. Follow these tips to keep your pets healthy and safe during the holiday.

Poison Risks

Overindulging in the family feast can be unhealthy for humans, but even worse for pets: Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest. Poultry bones can damage your pet’s digestive tract. And holiday sweets can contain ingredients that are poisonous to pets.

  • Keep the feast on the table—not under it.  Eating turkey or turkey skin – sometimes even a small amount – can cause a life-threatening condition in pets known as pancreatitis. Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest, and many foods that are healthy for people are poisonous to pets – including onions, raisins and grapes. If you want to share a Thanksgiving treat with your pet, make or buy a treat that is made just for them.

  • No pie or other desserts for your pooch. Chocolate can be harmful for pets, even though many dogs find it tempting and will sniff it out and eat it. The artificial sweetener called xylitol – commonly used in gum and sugar-free baked goods – also can be deadly if consumed by dogs or cats.

  • Yeast dough can cause problems for pets, including painful gas and potentially dangerous bloating.

  • Put the trash away where your pets can’t find it.  A turkey carcass sitting out on he carving table, or left in a trash container that is open or easily opened, could be deadly to your family pet. Dispose of turkey carcasses and bones – and anything used to wrap or tie the meat, such as strings, bags and packaging – in a covered, tightly secured trash bag placed in a closed trash container outdoors (or behind a closed, locked door).

  • Be careful with decorative plants. Don’t forget that some flowers and festive plants can be toxic to pets. These include amaryllis, Baby’s Breath, Sweet William, some ferns, hydrangeas and more. The ASPCA offers lists of plants that are toxic to both dogs and cats, but the safest route is simply to keep your pets away from all plants and table decorations.

  • Quick action can save lives. If you believe your pet has been poisoned or eaten something it shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately. You may also want to call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 888-426-4435. Signs of pet distress include: sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. Contact your veterinarian immediately.

Precautions for Parties

If you’re hosting a party or overnight visitors, plan ahead to keep your pets safe and make the experience less stressful for everyone.

  • Visitors can upset your pets. Some pets are shy or excitable around new people or in crowds, and Thanksgiving often means many visitors at once and higher-than-usual noise and activity levels. If you know your dog or cat is nervous when people visit your home, put him/her in another room or a crate with a favorite toy. This will reduce the emotional stress on your pet and protect your guests from possible injury. If your pet is particularly upset by houseguests, talk to your veterinarian about possible solutions to this common problem.

  • If any of your guests have compromised immune systems (due to pregnancy, some diseases, or medications or treatments that suppress the immune system), make sure they’re aware of the pets (especially exotic pets) in your home so they can take extra precautions to protect themselves.

  • If you have exotic pets, remember that some people are uncomfortable around them and that these pets may be more easily stressed by the festivities. Keep exotic pets safely away from the hubbub of the holiday.

  • Watch the exits. Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, make sure you watch them closely, especially when people are entering or leaving your home. While you’re welcoming hungry guests and collecting coats, a four-legged family member may make a break for it out the door and become lost.

  • Identification tags and microchips reunite families. Make sure your pet has proper identification with your current contact information – particularly a microchip with up-to-date, registered information. That way, if they do sneak out, they’re more likely to be returned to you. If your pet isn’t already microchipped, talk to your veterinarian about the benefits of this simple procedure.

  • Watch your pets around festive decorations. Special holiday displays or candles are attractive to pets as well as people. Never leave a pet alone in an area with a lit candle; it could result in a fire. And pine cones, needles and other decorations can cause intestinal blockages or even perforate an animal’s intestine if eaten.

Travel Concerns

Whether you take your pets with you or leave them behind, take these precautions to safeguard them when traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday or at any other time of the year.

  • Your pet needs a health certificate from your veterinarian if you’re traveling across state lines or international borders, whether by air or car. Learn the requirements for any states you will visit or pass through, and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get the needed certificate within the timeframes required by those states.

  • Never leave pets alone in vehicles, even for a short time, regardless of the weather.

  • Pets should always be safely restrained in vehicles. This means using a secure harness or a carrier, placed in a location clear of airbags. This helps protect your pets if you brake or swerve suddenly, or get in an accident; keeps them away from potentially poisonous food or other items you are transporting; prevents them from causing dangerous distractions for the driver; and can prevent small animals from getting trapped in small spaces. Never transport your pet in the bed of a truck.

  • Talk with your veterinarian if you’re traveling by air and considering bringing your pet with you. Air travel can put pets at risk, especially short-nosed dogs. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you regarding your own pet’s ability to travel.

  • Pack for your pet as well as yourself if you’re going to travel together. In addition to your pet’s food and medications, this includes bringing medical records, information to help identify your pet if it becomes lost, first aid supplies, and other items. Refer to our Traveling with Your Pet FAQ for a more complete list. 

  • Are you considering boarding your dog while you travel? Talk with your veterinarian to find out how best to protect your pet from canine flu and other contagious diseases, and to make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines.

Food Safety

Don’t forget to protect your family and loved ones from foodborne illnesses while cooking your Thanksgiving meal. Hand washing, and safe food handling and preparation, are important to make sure your holiday is a happy one. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers tips for handling, thawing and cooking turkey, as well as saving your leftovers.

Happy Holidays from Southpoint Animal Hospital!!! Stay safe!

Special thanks to AVMA for this informative article



* Scratching is a normal behavior

* Vertical scratching posts that are >3 feet high are preferred

* Scratching posts should be very stable

Scratching is a normal behavior for cats. We won’t stop them from scratching, so how do we manage our households so our feline family members get what they need and we don’t have to cover all of our furniture with tin foil or double stick tape to deter them?

Let’s start with why cats scratch things in the first place.


Cats scratch for several primary reasons – to maintain their claws, as a mode of communication and to stretch their limbs. It’s completely normal (and necessary) for cats to scratch to remove the outer covering of their claws as the claws grow. Scratching also exercises the muscles of the front limbs and along the back, keeping the wild cat in good condition for hunting. While we might not allow our indoor cats to hunt, they remain genetically wired to keep in shape for it.

Scratching helps cats to communicate with each other through the physical appearance of the scratch marks as well as scents deposited from scent glands near the footpads. The scratching is done along the routes within a cat’s territory rather than at the boundaries of the territory. (This becomes important when we discuss choosing a location for your cat’s scratching posts.) Some cats will increase their scratching behavior when stressed, especially in situations of inter-cat conflict. If you have a household with multiple cats, make sure there are appropriate resources (e.g., resting places, food, water, litter boxes) in multiple different locations so that the cats can each access what they need without having to interact with cats they may not get along with.

Some cats will scratch as an attention-seeking behavior. Ensure that you’re not inadvertently reinforcing unwanted scratching. If you need to stop the behavior, gently pick up your cat and move her to the appropriate scratching location. When she’s scratching the post you want her to use, you can reward the behavior with a treat.


Cat claws grow continuously. The sheath (outer covering) of the claw must be shed regularly and cats do this by scratching. As cats age, the covering is thicker and they don’t shed it as well. For some cats this is because as they develop arthritis in their front limbs it becomes uncomfortable to scratch.


Cats typically prefer the following aspects of a scratching surface:

* Vertical and >3 feet in height

* Rope

* Base width <3 feet in width

* Sturdy and stable

* Multilevel options

* If your cat is older than 10-12 years of age, she may prefer horizontal options

While this is typical, not all cats read the books! So ask your cat by offering multiple options to see what she prefers. I have a lot of feline patients (and my own cats) who prefer the scratching surfaces made of corrugated cardboard “edges”.


Cats are most likely to scratch after finishing a nap, so provide an appropriate scratching post near favored resting places. Because the purpose of scratching includes marking the paths within a cat’s territory, it’s a good plan to place scratching posts in areas where your cats are most active. Additionally, if your cat is currently scratching somewhere inappropriate, place a scratching post in front of that location to encourage scratching on an appropriate surface.


Feliscratch is a product meant to attract your cat to the appropriate scratching surface. Using it with your newly placed posts helps encourage her to investigate and try that surface. Initially the product is applied daily. Once your cat becomes used to using the post the applications are decreased and eventually discontinued. See the link in the resources section to learn more.


Trimming your cat’s claws regularly should start at an early age. This might help prevent some degree of scratching behavior, but not all. In some instances we still need to prevent a cat from being interested in the couch or dining room chairs or a particularly appealing portion of the wallpaper. Start with looking at the height and surface that they’re using and try to duplicate that as much as you’re able in what you’re providing. Place the scratching post close to the area you don’t want them to use any longer. Once the new post is being used you can slowly move it to the desired location. Move it just an inch or two a day.

While you’re working to get the new surface to be more interesting than the old one, deterrents on the inappropriate surfaces may be needed. Double stick tape can work well but it may need to be refreshed periodically as it’s the stickiness that is unpleasant to the cat. In the case of walls or trim, you’ll want to remove the scratches that are there (e.g., sanding wood trim, replacing or covering wallpaper), as the vertical appearance of the scratches attracts the cat back to the location.


Older cats may find it more difficult to scratch on their posts because of arthritis. For this group of feline family members, horizontal scratching surfaces might help. Provide multiple styles of scratching surfaces so your cat can choose what she finds easiest. Older cats that don’t shed the sheath of their claws regularly will have thicker and longer claws, which can be uncomfortable for them. Providing appropriate scratching surfaces can help prevent this, though your senior cat will still need frequent nail trims.


Inappropriate scratching decreases as more different styles of posts are provided in the home. So offer several options, make sure they meet the criteria outlined in this blog and consider Feliscratch to help encourage use of appropriate surfaces.


Feliscratch – scratching posts – living with clawed cats

There are many styles of scratching posts available, some incorporated into cat perches.

The end-on carboard scratching surface is favored by many cats.

For some cats, scratching on a horizontal “post” is preferred. This may be especially true for senior cats.

Halloween Dangers

Halloween can be a time of peril for dogs and cats, according to the the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control. Most people think of chocolate when they think of dangers for pets at this time of year, but Halloween has many other potential hazards for you dog or cat. Between the excitement of the holiday, the temptation of candy and Halloween decorations, and the stress of seeing loved ones in odd, sometimes scary costumes, dogs and cats can be in some danger. Here are some tips for ensuring their safety this season.

Chocolate, the deadly candy

Chocolate is very toxic to pets. They can’t metabolize the chemicals in chocolate like humans. Unfortunately, many dogs are tempted by chocolate. They like the smell and taste. The amount of chocolate that is toxic varies depending on the type of chocolate (dark is the most dangerous) and the size of the pet. However, it’s best never to take chances. Keep chocolate out of reach from all your pets, and work with your little ones to ensure humans are the only ones who share in the Halloween bounty.

Candy in general

Pets love tasty treats and will eat as much as they can if given the opportunity. Eating large amounts of high sugar or high fat foods like candy can lead to pancreatitis, a potentially fatal and very painful inflammation of the pancreas. Just like chocolate, all candy should be kept out of your pet’s reach.

Grapes & raisins are poisonous, too

Some people offer healthy snacks, like raisins, to trick-or-treaters. These are very poisonous to dogs and to cats as well. They deserve the same caution and care that Halloween candy receives. Keep them out of your pet’s reach.

Candy wrappers

Let’s face it, if pets eat the candy, they’re not going to unwrap it. Even if they don’t get sick from the candy, those wrappers can cause a life-threatening bowel obstruction. Let’s be on the safe side and throw those wrappers away where pets can’t get at them.

Glow sticks and glow jewelry

Pets, cats in particular, love to chew on these items. While not usually life-threatening, their contents can cause pain and irritation in the mouth, as well as profuse drooling and foaming at the mouth.


Keep candles out of the reach of curious noses and wagging tails. Sometimes pets don’t realize something is hot until they get burned.

Open Doors

As trick-or-treaters come to the door, your pet could be frightened by the costumes or just the people in general. To avoid any pet making a mad dash for the door, consider keeping your pet crated or contained to a room where access to the door is not available. And just in case of emergencies, make sure your pet’s tags are up-to-date and on. 

What to Do if Your Pet Has Eaten Something Dangerous

During this Halloween season, help keep your pet safe. If you think your pet has ingested something poisonous, the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline suggest that you get help sooner than later. It’s always easier, less expensive, and safer for your pet to be treated earlier, versus when he’s showing severe symptoms. Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control immediately at 1-888-426-4435.

Special Thanks to the Kentucky Humane Society for this information!!!

I Have to Give My Cat a WHAT?!

Giving a pill to a cat is just one of those things – it gives people the shivers! But it doesn’t have to be stressful for you, your cat, or your spouse. Here are a few key points to making it an easier experience for all.


* Pills ready

* Wrap each pill in a small amount of pill pocket

* Relaxed atmosphere

* Restrain properly

* Wait for the swallow/lip lick!

* Positive experience


Before you even find your cat, have the following things ready in a quiet location away from other pets:

* Take the pill out of the container and split it if required.

* Wrap a half of a feline pill pocket around the pill.

* Have a thin blanket or towel ready (if needed)

* Have a syringe of 1-2 mL of water ready (if needed)


Even if you’re really good at pilling your cat, it will go best if you’re calm and the household is quiet. Trying to do this in the midst of dinner preparations for your in-laws coming to visit is not going to be the easiest approach! So find a quiet 10-minute window.


Pilling most cats is a less-is-more proposition. Overrestraint is a common cause of pilling woes! There are two approaches that I find useful. Try each one and see what works best for you.

Kneeling on the Floor

Kneel on the floor with your cat tucked in between your legs. This has the advantage that your cat will have a hard time backing up. This is the method I generally prefer for most cats.

Cat on the Counter

Alternatively you can have your cat on a counter or table or chair. In this situation it might be easiest to have a second person gently holding her body. It’s important that the second person is as calm and relaxed as you are. In rare instances, wrapping your cat in a towel or light blanket might help keep your cat calm and relaxed. If this is the case, you want to wrap her so that all of her feet are within the towel (figure 1).


Place the pill in your dominant hand between your thumb and first finger. Place your cat so that your non-dominant hand is over the top of her head. Grasp her head so that your fingers and thumb are beneath her cheekbones and then point her nose directly up toward the ceiling (figure 2). With your dominant hand, drop her lower jaw with your ring finger pulling down just in front of her teeth (figure 3). Drop the pill into the back of her mouth just behind her tongue (figure 4). For most cats this will be a straight shot as long as the tongue isn’t moving a lot. If it is, try to time your pill drop for when the tongue is not blocking the back of the throat.


Release your cat’s lower jaw so that she can close her mouth but keep her head pointed upward with one hand gently under her jaw and the other still over the top of her head. Wait for her to swallow before releasing her head. In most cats, you’ll see the tongue come out and lick the nose as an indication of swallowing (figure 5).

If you haven’t wrapped the pill in a piece of pill pocket, give your cat a small amount (1-2 mL) of water to help her swallow.


Ensure that this experience is as positive as possible – gently pat your cat as you’re releasing her from your hands. Offer her a favorite treat or her regular meal. For cats that enjoy playing, engage in their favorite game. If your cat just wants to leave the room, that’s fine too.

This video shows the process I’ve just described:


What?? You want me to practice?

I want you to consider it. Give this a try with just a portion of a pill pocket. If your cat realizes that this isn’t going to be about getting a dry pill shoved down her throat but rather it’s about swallowing a treat, it won’t be so hard.

Thank you to “Reba” Little and “Geronimo” Gullo for participating in the photos and the video.

Cat Scratch Fever! (it’s not just a 1970’s rock anthem)

Did you know that Cat Scratch Fever is actually a disease that humans can potentially contract from their cats (in addition to being the title of an iconic Ted Nugent song)?  Although uncommon, our dogs and cats can potentially be reservoirs of infectious agents that have the potential to make humans sick, particularly the very young, very old and immunocompromised human population.   You can reduce your risk of exposure to some of these zoonotic diseases by following some simple guidelines. 

By definition, a zoonotic disease is a disease that can be passed from animals to humans. These diseases can involve viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and tick borne infections to name a few.  Don’t panic!   There are some very simple steps you can take at home to minimize the possibility of contracting these diseases but the most important factor to consider is the health of your pets. 

Routine veterinary exams are a critical component of identifying issues in your pet that could predispose you, the human caregiver, to a zoonotic disease.  Hair loss in both dogs and cats can be due to a fungus that is commonly known as ringworm.  Humans can contract ringworm through contact with those skin lesions.  Another cause of hair loss in dogs that can be transmitted to humans is Sarcoptic mange which is a mite infestation.  If your pet has an area of hair loss or is excessively itchy, your veterinarian should be consulted. 

In addition to routine physical examinations, most all pets should receive an annual examination of their stool sample to detect intestinal parasites.  Examples of intestinal parasites that can potentially infect humans include rounds worms, hookworms, Giardia, a certain type of tapeworm among others.  Regular administration of Revolution for cats and heartworm prevention for dogs can prevent some of these intestinal parasites. 

During the wellness examinations of dogs and cats, vaccinations are given based upon your pet’s risk factors.  Rabies is a viral infection that is often fatal in most mammals who are infected.  Dogs and cats can obtain Rabies through contact with infected wildlife.  Humans can contract rabies through contact with the saliva of an infected dog or cat.  Rabies vaccines are required by law for ALL dogs and cats regardless of their lifestyle due to the fatal nature of the disease and the zoonotic potential to humans.  Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that dogs can be vaccinated against.  Although it is rare in humans, it can be transmitted from a dog’s infected urine.  If your dog is not vaccinated for Leptospirosis, talk with your veterinarian regarding whether or not it is appropriate for your pet.

The lifestyles of our pets can predispose them to more infectious agents.  Although controversial, it must be mentioned that feeding dogs raw diets can predispose them to Salmonella which is shed in their feces.  Humans can contract salmonella through accidental exposure to a pet’s fecal matter from a paw for example or from an accident in the house.  Cats and dogs can contract toxoplasmosis by eating certain types of wildlife.  Humans can contract toxoplasmosis via exposure to the feces of  dogs or cats shedding toxoplasmosis cysts in gardens, sand boxes and litter boxes.  Toxoplasmosis can have severe consequences in pregnant women.   Wearing garden gloves, thoroughly washing produce and keeping children’s sand boxes covered can help to prevent human exposure.   Limiting your cat’s exposure to wildlife and the outdoors will help to minimize toxoplasmosis infections in addition to some of the intestinal parasites previously mentioned.

Lastly, it is imperative that all dogs and cats receive regular, year round protection against fleas and ticks.  If your pets are not on flea and tick preventatives (Frontline, Revolution, Nexgard, Seresto collars for example), they are more likely to bring ticks into your household.  These ticks can then infect you and your family members.  Examples of diseases that you can contract from ticks include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis among others.  Cat Scratch Fever is a bacterial infection that is transmitted to cats from fleas.  Cats can then transmit the bacteria to humans via scratches from their claws that are contaminated with flea feces.  Additionally, cat bites are another potential mode of transmission of Cat Scratch Fever to humans.    

In summary, taking care of your pet’s wellness is the first step in preventing zoonotic diseases in humans.  Seeking veterinary advice for any health issues can help to detect infectious agents in your pets that could be problematic for you.  Practicing common sense hygiene, regular application of flea and tick control and making smart lifestyle choices are equally important.  If you have concerns that you may have contracted something from your pet, contacting your personal physician is critical.   For more information on this topic, please visit or

Anesthesia + Your Pet

anesthesia-cat and dog.jpeg

Something that I have observed over the past several years is how uncomfortable my clients get when our topic of conversation deals with sedation or general anesthesia for their furry companions.  So in this week’s blog post, our goal is to help you will feel better educated about anesthesia in our veterinary practice, and hopefully less anxious about the entire process.

First off, I think it is perfectly natural to be apprehensive or nervous about putting our dogs and/or cats under any form of anesthesia.  Anesthesia is scary!

There I said it.

But now that we have said it out loud, let's look into why it is such a vital tool in the medical field and how it actually allows us to provide not only safer, but also better medical care to our pawed companions.  

The first question to ask ourselves is:

Why do we need sedation or general anesthesia?  

As a general rule, sedation and/or general anesthesia are used to provide a safer environment for our patients undergoing certain procedures or diagnostics, as well as minimizing any pain or discomfort that may be associated with the procedure.  I know that may sound counter intuitive, but the simple truth is anesthesia gives us greater control of our patients while reducing the stress and pain that accompanies common procedures.

It is important to discuss the benefits that a procedure will have for our dogs and cats.  I encourage all of our clients to talk with their veterinarians about recommended procedures.  Anesthetic procedures that we may recommend range from life-saving surgery, elective surgery, diagnostics and even behavioral, to reduce stress and anxiety associated with a wellness exam.  At Southpoint Animal Hospital, we all feel strongly that you as the pet owner should fully understand why we may recommend sedation or anesthesia for your individual pets. Our clients are our patient’s biggest advocates and it is crucial that you understand what to expect before, during and following an anesthetic event. 

We cannot have a conversation about anesthesia without touching upon the risks associated.  Yes, there are risks associated with any and all anesthetic procedures, however we do everything we can to minimize that risk at every step.  If you are a numbers person, the mortality rate associated with healthy pets undergoing anesthesia is 0.005%, which is the same to say 1 in 20,000.  The most common adverse effects from anesthesia we see at SPAH are mild gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Most of my owners note some dysphoria and lack of coordination the night of a procedure, both of which we expect to happen to some degree.  It is our mission to minimize these common adverse effects through modern anesthetic protocols and educating our owners on what signs and symptoms they should be on the look out for.

To achieve the best possible outcomes, it is best to break anesthetic procedures, no matter how major or minor, into 4 main stages.  

dog doctor.jpeg
  1. The time leading up to our pets’ appointment at home: this may include some form of fasting, administration of medication, or a stress reducing measure. Our staff will make sure that you are well-educated on any details that you need to know well in advance of the procedure.

  2. The pre-medication or sedation administration performed at Southpoint Animal Hospital

  3. During the anesthetic procedure at Southpoint Animal Hospital

  4. Recovery both at Southpoint Animal Hospital and the hours/days following once the pet has returned home.

All four phases are equally important in ensuring the best possible outcome, and it is extremely important that you as a pet owner feel educated and comfortable with each stage.  It is not only empowering when you know what to expect throughout each stage, but it also improves the cooperation between Southpoint Animal Hospital and home. Please do not hesitate to discuss each stage with your veterinarian (which would be specific to your procedure).  We want you to be a part of the process; it only improves the outcome for our patients which at the end of the day is our main goal.

If you have specific questions about anesthesia, your pet's procedures, or the process as a whole, please feel free to reach out to your Southpoint Animal Hospital DVM for more details!

Top 10 Veterinary Myths (that drive veterinarians crazy!)

Old wives tales, half-truths, misunderstandings and some just plain wrong – these are some of the myths (in no particular order) that we hear everyday. Most people are well-meaning in their advice, but it is best to consult with your pet's veterinarian before trusting an assumption!

Myth #1: A cold/warm/wet/dry nose tells us something.


As I always like to joke – I must have missed that day in vet school!

Myth #2: Ticks fall out of pine trees.

My mother and grandmother had me absolutely convinced that I had to wear a hat to keep the
ticks from falling into my hair when wandering through the woods. Nope. They detect their prey via sensing your breath, body heat, motion/vibration or moisture. This is done while either laying in wait where their host would rest (think: your dog's bedding) or on low, outreaching plants (like ferns that branch out into a trail). No jumping or skydiving involved! And with the appropriate preventatives for your pet, this fear can be altogether avoided!!

Myth #3: Grain-free diets are best for all pets.

This is considered a half-truth as something was missed in translation. These diets came about for the right reason – to stop feeding high-carbohydrate diets to carnivores (dogs and cats); however, some of these so-called "grain-free diets" are actually quite high in carbohydrates (peas, potato, tapioca) and are not appropriate for a carnivore. The best diet for your pet can be determined by speaking with your veterinarian about your pet's specific needs.

Myth #4: All vaccines are good... OR all vaccines are bad.

Vaccines are drugs (medications). Some drugs, when used correctly, can save your life. And
some drugs, when used too frequently, or if used in the wrong manner, can kill you. We should not be giving all vaccines to all pets on an annual basis... they should be individually tailored to your pets needs, lifestyle and age.

Myth #5: A pet's mouth is clean/antiseptic.

I admit, here at SPAH most of us love when we get a sloppy kiss from a puppy or a gentle "bathing" from a cat. But we also know that 2 hours ago they were cleaning their nether-regions with their tongue. Icky, but true. A sign of affection, definitely! A miracle antiseptic? Not so much.


Myth #6: Don't feed people food to pets – it will kill them!

Uh, what do you think pet food is (should be) made from? While there are certain foods we
should avoid as they can be toxic to pets, (chocolate, most dairy, grapes/raisins, onions and garlic), they most certainly can have a piece of your sandwich or a slice of apple. Just don’t make it more than 20% of the diet (or you will need to balance it) and please don’t let them get fat from the extra calories!

Myth #7: Rub their nose in it!

When dogs misbehave (or more accurately, behave in a way that we don’t like), such as
urinating in the house or chewing up the wrong item, we often want to 'punish' them. Punishing a pet simply causes them to fear us, and often the misbehavior occurred some time prior to us catching them, which makes it impossible for the pet to understand the correlation. A much better approach is through positive reinforcement training. Please let us know if you are having any behavioral issues and we can teach you a better way.


Myth #8: Dogs/cats only eat grass if they are sick or are lacking something nutritionally.

Or, they like eating grass...

Myth #9: All dogs hate cats. All cats hate dogs.

Tell that to my previous cat, Cyrano, who would spend countless hours cleaning out my dog's
ears. Certainly you would not want to throw two unknown pets together without supervision, but most pets can learn to tolerate, and even enjoy, each others company!

Myth #10: Pets hate going to the vet!

Thank goodness, this is not true, and even is becoming quite the rarity! Here at SPAH, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to facilitate just the opposite: pheromone sprays, quiet environments, hiding places for cats, loads of special treats, and spending a bit extra time to get them used to us are just a few of the ways we try to make it a pleasant experience for them. We have quite a herd of dogs and cats who are all smiles and tail wags when they get to see us, and actually hate to leave!! If your pet has learned to fear the vet, talk to us about Cooperative Veterinary Care and how we can help make visits to the vet easier on you and your pet!

SPAH Staff.jpeg

Is there another veterinary "urban legend" you are curious about? Let us know!!

Hi! Nice to meet you! Tips and Tricks for Puppy Socialization (the right way!)

Puppies are cute, snuggly, entertaining, and they make us feel super important because they need us.  We provide food, shelter, bathroom breaks, and a ton of time teaching them what are acceptable puppy/people interactions.


People LOVE puppies... and puppies LOVE people (generally).  We often think of puppies are our extended family and want to take them everywhere with us.

Raising a puppy is fairly easy; however, raising a well-rounded, confident puppy who is a joy to be around as an adult dog is a bit more challenging. Puppies have emotional needs, in addition to their physical needs, and we must "feed" both appropriately. Do you have an outgoing Ready Freddy type of puppy, or a Wallflower Wendy? Each new puppy needs to be greeted differently and will need a different socialization strategy. But what is socialization, anyway?

“Socialization is the process of preparing your dog or cat to enjoy interactions and be comfortable with other animals, places and activities. Ideally, socialization should begin during the ‘sensitive period’ which is between 3 and 14 weeks of age for puppies, and 3 and 9 weeks of age for kittens.”

Many well-meaning people can overwhelm puppies when greeting them by quickly picking up the puppy, holding them tightly, getting immediately in their faces, and allowing the puppy no choice in coming, going, or staying with the human. Imagine going to a party where everyone is much  bigger than you, picks you up, holds you tightly, and then brings their teeth very close to you while talking loudly.... SCARY! The quality of socialization interactions is more important than quantity, and introducing your puppy in a safe environment to people of different ethnicity, wearing different clothing (hats, gloves, sunglasses, scarves) goes a long way to prepare our puppies for adulthood.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior's position statement on socialization is:

“During this time, puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, stimuli and environments as can be achieved safely and without causing over-stimulation manifested as excessive fear, withdrawal or avoidance behavior.”

The introduction of safe situations at the puppy's own pace is the goal. If you think about it, we as people prefer this for ourselves also!

How is best to socialize your pup? 

1)    Choose safe locations (you are your puppy’s advocate).  A safe location is rarely Pet’sMart or PetCo unless it is near closing or opening time.  You want a high ratio of staff & a low ratio of dogs parading around on (or off) leash.

2)    Give the new person a cookie or two – let your puppy walk up to the new person where they earn a treat for approaching (1 cookie) and then sitting (another cookie).  Thank the person & move to a new adult.  If your puppy jumps up – then your new person’s hands need to be lower.  Give the cookie when the puppy has 4 feet on the floor.  DO NOT say OFF, DOWN,  scream, or otherwise scare the puppy if for some reason the visit does not go as you planned.  Remember that this meet & greet is to learn that people are friendly, fun, and not scary.  It is always ok to politely remove your puppy.

3)    If you have a small puppy – hand your puppy to the new person where they give a tiny cookie or two.  Thank the person & move on.   It is very important not to overwhelm your puppy.

4)    Invite people over to your house or go to visit a dog-friendly family you know (without their dog loose).  Wine & cheese parties can be fun – but keep them short because puppies have short attention spans.

5)    Within what you can manage, have your puppy meet all looks/kinds of people, but safety for your puppy is first!  Generally, puppies should not meet children under 10 in the first few weeks out and about because both puppy and young children can behave unpredictably.

6)    Remember:  fun – short – safe VISITS will help your puppy become a well socialized and happy adult!

7)   Dog parks should generally be avoided for puppies since they often contain unsupervised adult dogs where very negative associations can occur.



When you take it “on the road”:

·      Take a variety of pea-sized tasty treats

·      Bring puppy’s favorite toy

·      Bring a hungry puppy

·      Bring water bowl, proper fitting buckle collar/harness and a 6 foot leash

·      Be aware of your puppy’s body language (listen & watch)

·      Be your puppy’s advocate (all humans and dogs can be scary)

·      Allow your puppy to explore at their own pace; the puppy should approach the kneeling person, not the other way around.

·      Be sure situations are controllable.  Be prepared to remove your puppy from the situation

·      HAVE FUN!!


Do you have questions? Want more information? Set up a behavioral consult with Professional Dog Trainer Lynn Rives or join one of our Puppy Classes, held on an ongoing basis at Southpoint Animal Hospital.


American Veterinary Medical Association. (2018). Socialization of Dogs and Cats. Retrieved from

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. (2018). Puppy Socialization Position Statement. Retrieved from


Inappropriate Urination: Why is My Cat Peeing ALL OVER My House?!

Peeing cat.jpeg


Feline inappropriate elimination is a common behavioral problem reported to veterinarians, accounting for approximately 50% of all behavioral referrals.  At least 10% of all cats will develop elimination problems in their lifetime. Unfortunately, it is also a leading reason for relinquishment of cats.  Elimination problems can develop as a result of conflict between multiple cats in a home, a dislike for the litter-box type or the litter itself, as a result of a past or present medical condition, or a more complex issue of perceived inefficiencies within their environment. In this post, we will review some of the most common causes for inappropriate urination, and some steps to help correct the problem.  We can often categorize the underlying causes in to four main groups including Medical, Litter Box Aversion, Territorial, and Attraction to Another Location.

Medical Problems

When you notice that your kitty is urinating outside of the litter box, the first step is to rule out medical issues with a Urinalysis and bladder radiographs (x-rays). The most common medical cause is “idiopathic stress-induced cystitis,” which accounts for approximately 75% of cases. This means that there is inflammation (and therefore pain and sense of urgency) within the bladder, but there is no identifiable cause.  We do know that stress can precipitate these symptoms. Cats who are affected may have recurrent episodes with varying frequency throughout their lives if the underlying stressor is not identified and controlled (see below).  The next most common cause is bladder stones, accounting for approximately 15% of medical cases, followed by urinary tract infections, which account for less than 5% of medical case.  Less commonly, urinary crystals and bladder tumors are seen.  If a medical problem is identified, your kitty will be treated in a way to resolve the underlying medical cause, and increase comfort.

 Radiograph of a cat with a distended bladder

Radiograph of a cat with a distended bladder

Litter Box Aversion

tidybreeze-open top litter box.jpeg

It’s no secret that many cats can be very particular about almost everything in their environment, so it’s no surprise that they may have strong opinions regarding the litter box; however, preference is not the only factor in litter box aversion. Cats who have had a previously negative experience in the litter box, particularly past episodes of pain (urinary obstruction, constipation), may also develop aversion.  One common indication of litter box aversion is when episodes of inappropriate elimination occur near (but not in) the litter box, however this is not always the case.  Cats typically prefer their litter box in a quiet, low-traffic, and easily accessible location.  They often prefer an uncovered box for multiple reasons. First, cats have a sense of smell that is 60-100 times more sensitive than our own, and being cooped up within a box with excrement can be unpleasant…think Porta-Potty.  Additionally, since cats are prey animals (as well as predators), they are instinctively more vulnerable during elimination. Being able to see potential threats is important for emotional security, even for indoor cats whose greatest threat may only be the vacuum cleaner.  Most cats also prefer non-scented litter that is at least 2 inches deep for digging and burying.


 There isn't anything more adorable than a box of kittens, but these little cuties like to spread out and have their own privacy for litter box time!

There isn't anything more adorable than a box of kittens, but these little cuties like to spread out and have their own privacy for litter box time!

One of the most important aspects of feline comfort is being able to distinguish, and have control over, their territory. It is essential to remember that cats may be threatened with any change in their environment, with some common examples including new pets, children (especially small ones that crawl and grab), house guests, conflicts with pre-existing pets, outdoor cats in the neighborhood, anything that alters the smell in the house…the list is endless!  When cats do not have the appropriate materials to help them cope with these potential stressors, urinary and fecal marking may occur, as increasing their scent helps them feel more secure.  To combat territorial marking, we must consider normal cat behavior. Cats use their scent glands on the face, paws, and tail base to mark things within their territory. This is what is happening when your kitty rubs her face and hind end, or scratches, on all aspects of your furniture, and then smells it immediately after. These pheromones let her know that she is safe and that these items belong to her. Helping to increase that sensation decreases the chance of your kitty marking in other ways.  To help increase pheromone levels, we recommend using a synthetic pheromone called Feliway, which is available in diffusers and spray. Additionally, when threatened, cats prefer seeking a positional higher than the threat, since that is where they have the most chance of safety. This can be accomplished by adding vertical space, including cat trees and shelving. They also may seek places to hide, so providing covered hiding places for them is also important.  In multi-cat households, we also recommend “spreading out the resources” so that your cats do not have to toilet, eat, drink, or play in the same area without it being their choice – nobody wants to be forced near their siblings 24-7!

Attraction to Another Location

As mentioned previously, cats like to toilet in places that are easily accessible, quiet, and have specific odors, and if the litter box is not meeting their needs, they often will find somewhere else that is more preferable. Additionally, when a cat has marked an area, it is essential to do a deep cleaning of that spot as soon as possible, as cat urine can soak through to the padding of the carpet, making it almost impossible to fully eliminate, and will continue to attract them to use this location.  Using enzymatic cleaners such as “Nature’s Miracle” helps to naturally break down the components of urine to eliminate the smell. You should always avoid harsh chemicals or those with intense scents, as this may cause your kitty to want to mark over it.


 Dr. Elise and one of our happy feline friends

Dr. Elise and one of our happy feline friends

Cat behavior is extremely complex, and the problems and solutions presented above only scratch the surface of the explanations and modifications for feline inappropriate elimination. The most important aspect is to first eliminate medical problems. After this is done, and you cannot immediately correct your kitty’s inappropriate elimination, please consult with your veterinarian at Southpoint Animal Hospital for further guidance. Behavioral marking is often due your cat’s perceived deficit of some aspect of their environment in which their emotional needs may not be being met.  SPAH does offer an In-home Environmental and Behavioral Assessment, with Dr. Elise Hattingh, to evaluate your cat’s environment and relationships in order to maximize feelings of security, and therefore, eliminate marking. In an hour long visit, Dr. Elise will review the environment, watch the interactions between family members and other cats, and make suggestions based on your kitty’s behavior.  This service has been extremely successful for many cats and owners to find peace in their homes.

For more information, consider attending Dr. Elise's Feline Behavior Workshop on Saturday, April 21. Details here!