Northeast Animal Shelter knows that owning a pet is like being a parent. There are always questions and concerns when caring for the newest member of the family.
To help you be the best pet parent possible, we have provided you with some useful information and tips.
But please remember, nothing replaces the medical knowledge and skills of your veterinarian. If your animal has been injured, is not eating, is vomiting or has diarrhea, CALL THE VET! Locally, if you have an emergency and your veterinarian is not available, we suggest contacting In Town Veterinary Group for an emergency care facility close to you.
General Pet Tips
Spring Pet Tips
Our pets love us forever and deserve the very best care we can give them. To keep your dog or cat safe and healthy this spring, please be sure to:
- Protect your dog from traffic by always walking him or her on a leash.
- Keep your cat in the house where s/he will be safe from cars, illness and pet theft.
- Check that your houseplants and flowers aren't poisonous in case your pet should nibble on one.
- Put the Animal Poison Control 24-hour hotline phone number (1-800-548-2423) near your phone.
- Take your pet to the veterinarian for a check-up.
- Keep an identification tag on your dog or cat that includes your current phone number.
Summer Pet Tips
Scorching heat, soaring humidity and longer days mark the arrival of summer. But often our pets are overlooked when it comes to summer and the results can be deadly.
Don't let this happen to your pet -- follow these few simple tips and help make summer safe for everyone in the family:
- NEVER leave your pet in the car. Even though there can be a breeze outside, the temperature in the car can rapidly rise while you are away, making it dangerous for your pet to stay there.
- Check your pet’s water dish several times a day during the summer months. Just like you, your pet will need plenty of hydration to stay healthy in the heat.
- If you are transporting an animal, always bring enough water, so that he/she does not attempt to drink from contaminated puddles outside.
Winter Pet Tips
Oh dear! Winter is here! Help protect pets with these tips for the cold months.
- Beware of potentially dangerous chemicals such as antifreeze or road salt. When you come indoors with your dog make sure to wipe off his/her paws, legs and stomachs to avoid your pet ingesting these chemicals or causing contact skin irritations.
- Outdoor cats have been known to crawl up under the hoods of cars to seek shelter and warmth near the engine during the cold winter months. A cat may be killed or injured when the motor is started. Make sure you bang loudly on the hood of your car before starting it so a cat may escape.
- We recommend keeping your cat indoors at all times, but especially in the winter. Cats can freeze if left out and exposed to the freezing temperatures. If kept in, he will not become lost, stolen, or injured by a car or another animal. He also won't pick up fleas or other parasites (ticks, ear mites, worms), or become exposed to a number of contagious, deadly diseases like feline leukemia, infectious peritonitis and rabies.
- Leaving your pet in the car while running into a store is not recommended. Your car can act as a refrigerator holding in the cold.
- Some dogs that do not have such a hearty coat may require a coat or sweater when going out for their daily walks.
- Many dogs are hit by snowplows every year. Even though an area may look safe, your dog should be on a leash or in a fenced area. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears a collar with ID tags.
- Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.
What to do About Ear Mites
All About Fleas
Young animals should not be treated with too many chemicals. We suggest that if your puppy has fleas, bathe him in baby shampoo or “Dawn” dish washing detergent. Then comb with a flea comb daily. The more times during the day you can comb for fleas, the faster they will disappear. Adult dogs may be treated with a topical insecticide that you can purchase from your vet. Keep your pet in a separate room until the flea issue is resolved so you do not have to worry about an infestation throughout your house.
Veterinarians suggest a variety of products for flea treatments. Flea collars are often not reliable, but there are several topical products which only require a few drops applied to your dog's scruff once a month. See your veterinarian to determine which product is safest for the age and breed of your pet.
Pet Health Risks
When you adopt a pet from a shelter or kennel environment, there is a chance it may have or carry coccidia. We take several of our pets from rescue situations where there is a greater possibility that the pet you adopt may be infected.
Coccidia is a microscopic organism that infects the intestinal tract of dogs and cats. Very often the mother gives it to her young. She probably got it from another contaminated animal. It is passed through contact with feces. Most often a simple stool sample checked under a microscope will confirm the infection. The most common symptom is diarrhea with mucus or blood in it. Your pet may also show a loss of appetite.
Vets recommend that the pet receive a 10-day course of treatment, usually with a medicine called Albon. One week after finishing treatment, you should have another stool check. If coccidia shows up in that stool check, the pet would have to be treated again. If medication is given consistently, living conditions are kept clean, and the pet is given a high quality food, he should feel better within a few days. With treatment, coccidia is often gone within 10 days
It is common for the dog to have diarrhea during the first day or two of treatment. It may help to feed baby food (only the 100% meat variety) mixed with baby rice cereal until the diarrhea is gone. But be sure to check with your veterinarian if the diarrhea persists.
Canine cough is a contagious, upper respiratory infection. It is spread by an airborne virus, which cannot be prevented, even with thorough disinfecting procedures. This virus is a relatively short term illness, usually no more serious than the common cold.
Because the incubation period is roughly 3-7 days, your dog may not develop any symptoms until a few days after adoption. The main symptom is a gagging cough, sometimes accompanied by sneezing and nasal discharge, which can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Although this coughing is very annoying, it does not usually develop into anything more serious. However, as with the normal cold, it can lower the dog’s resistance to other diseases, making him susceptible to secondary infections.
As in the case of the common cold, canine cough is not cured but must run its course. Check with your veterinarian to see if he wants to prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infection, cough suppressants to reduce excessive coughing, or Vitamin C to boost the immune system.
There is a preventative vaccine, which is quite effective against most strains of canine cough. However, if a dog comes into our shelter unvaccinated, a vaccination at that time will not help since it takes a week to become effective.
When you walk your dog, if he pulls on the leash, the pressure created against his throat, may increase the coughing. Dogs who have canine cough should be kept warm and given limited exercise.
Upper Respiratory Infection
What is an Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)? Cats commonly suffer from colds just like people do. Your cat may sneeze frequently, have a runny nose (the sniffles) or runny eyes and have noisy breathing. He may lose his appetite or seem lethargic and tired. The stress of being kenneled or going to a new home can lower the immune system and make them more apt to develop colds.
How is URI treated? There is no cure for URI, just as there is no cure for the common cold. However, if your cat shows any URI symptoms, call your veterinarian. He may prescribe an antibiotic, which will prevent your cat from developing a more serious infection. If treated at the onset of the illness, he should recover quickly. If left untreated, your cat may become sick enough to require hospitalization.
How do I care for my cat while he has a URI? Keep your cat extra warm if the weather is cold. A room temperature of 70 degrees is ideal. Give him a hot water bottle to snuggle up to. Run a vaporizer to aid his breathing if necessary.
Since your cat's sense of smell is affected, he may not eat well. Tempt him with all-meat baby food or "smelly" foods, like sardines or tuna fish.
Is a URI contagious? Other cats (but not dogs or people) can catch this cold. If you have another cat, we suggest that when you bring your new cat home, you isolate him in a separate room for at least a few days. This will help with adjustment for both cats, but it will also allow you to see if he develops any URI symptoms. If your other cat does happen to get URI, of course it can also be easily treated.
Any other hints? Make sure your other pets are up to date on shots BEFORE you bring a new pet home. Feed high quality food available from a pet supply store? Call your veterinarian if you notice any symptoms of URI.
If you have any question or concerns, please call our office at 978-745-9888.
Tips for Caring for Your Cat
Introducing Your New Cat to the Family Pets
It will take some time to get your new pet used to other family pets, but how you handle this stage will help to prevent fearful and aggressive behaviors from developing. Remember, pets who live in the same house may never be best friends.
Here are a few tips to help them adjust to each other.
When you come home with your new cat, confine him to one room with his litter box, food, water, and a bed. Then feed your resident pet and the new cat near either side of the door to this room. This will help start things out properly with the cats associating something enjoyable (eating) with each other's presence.
It's also a good idea to exchange blankets between the pets or put the scented blankets underneath the food dishes so they have a chance to become accustomed to one an other's scent. When the new cat has spent some time in his confined area, and is using the litter box and eating regularly, give him some free time in the house while the other pets are confined in the same room the new cat was in. This will allow each pet to get used to the other pet's scent without a face-to-face meeting. It also allows the newcomer to explore and become comfortable with his new surroundings without being frightened by other animals.
This kind of gradual introduction helps to discourage fearful or aggressive behaviors. It is perfectly normal to see some level of these behaviors when they first have direct contact, but don't give them an opportunity to intensify. If either animal becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them and try again later. You should expect hissing, spitting, and growling from cats that are getting to know each other.
Do not directly interfere if a fight breaks out. The safe way to handle an animal fight is to throw a blanket or towel over each pet. Separate them until they calm down. Until they are accustomed to each other, keep them separate when you are not home or overnight and only have supervised visits.
Don't forget that this is a process and you will need to be patient.
Making Your Home Safe for Your Cat
There are many poisonous items in your home -- Lysol™, aspirin, antifreeze and many other cleaning products. Make sure to put these out of reach of your pet...but remember cats are very good at opening cabinets. If your cabinets are within your cats reach, consider child-proofing them.
And don't forget that reclining chairs, string, yarn, garage doors, and electrical cords can also present dangers for your cat.
Many household plants are also poisonous, such as poinsettia and philodendron. If your cat gets into your plants, hang the plants up high. For plants that cannot be hung, wrap the base in tinfoil or stick toothpicks into the dirt to keep your cat from digging. Or you might try spraying the plant with water and sprinkling its leaves with powdered ginger.
The ASPCA has a comprehensive list of toxic plants, which can be found by visiting their website.
Outdoor Cat Facts
The average life span of a cat that goes outdoors is less than two years, while an indoor cat often lives to be sixteen years old.
We recommend keeping your cat indoors at all times. If you do, you increase his chances of living to a ripe old age. He will not become lost, stolen, or injured by a car or another animal. He also won't pick up fleas or other parasites (ticks, ear mites, worms), or become exposed to a number of contagious, deadly diseases like feline leukemia, infectious peritonitis and rabies.
If you absolutely feel that your cat must go out and that your neighborhood is safe, make sure that you have him spayed or neutered first and buy an expandable collar with an I.D. tag in case he gets lost.
Most cats are very happy indoors if they get enough attention and exercise.
Indoor cats, and kittens especially, are active and need lots of toys and stimulation. We recommend climbing toys, scratching posts, and sturdy toys like ping-pong balls and empty spools.
Litter Box Problems
The number one behavioral problem in cats is litter box avoidance. When a cat isn't using his litter box, he is not being spiteful. He may be under stress, have a medical condition, or be following natural instincts. It is your job as the owner to determine what is troubling him by discovering the root of stress. It could be a move, a new baby, or a new addition to the household. Punishing him will get you nowhere and harsh treatment only contributes more to a cat's stress and may worsen the problem.
Cats require clean litter boxes. If you have an old litter box, there may be lingering odors in it. Replace it with a new one. Cats may require two boxes and there should be at least one on each floor of your house. Each litter box should be scooped daily.
Often accidents indicate stress about the litter box placement. Cats are unique. Some like covered or open boxes, clay or clumping litter, plastic liners or newspapers, scented or unscented. Most cats like a quiet, private area. You will need to experiment to determine what your cat prefers.
If you have multiple cats, allow for differences in preferences and provide a separate litter box for each cat. Remember to not put a litter box near the cat's food dishes. We wouldn't want to eat near our bathroom either. Conversely, if your cat is having litter box problems put his food dishes in the area of the accident to deter it.
Keep in mind that kittens must have litter boxes nearby until they have better control and know where things are. If your cat has a litter box problem and it starts as a urinary tract infection, it may become a habit.
Be sure to check with your veterinarian first about any litter box problems your cat may be having, to eliminate medical concerns such as a bladder infection or worms. Clean any soiled areas with vinegar and water or soda water. Do not use ammonia-based products, which smell like urine to a cat and will only attract more accidents.
Last resort is confinement in a room that has not been soiled in the past. After a period of time your cat should be using the box consistently, then you can expand its territory, gradually adding one room at a time. If you are trying to make an outdoor cat use a litter box indoors, try mixing a couple spoonfuls of dirt in with the litter.
Tips for Caring for Your Dog
Introducing Your New Dog to Your Other Pets
The way you introduce your new dog to your resident pet(s) is very important. It takes time for everyone to accept one another.
The best way to introduce two dogs is to take them for a walk together in a “neutral” area, making sure they walk parallel to each other. You should walk them together for at least 45 minutes as soon as you arrive home from the shelter. You will have to proceed very slowly and understand that this may be a long process. To ease the transition, put his crate, food and toys in a designated area behind a baby gate. Giving a new dog free access to your whole house can be overwhelming to him. It gives him too many things to get used to at one time and may cause him to act out inappropriately. Also, keeping him confined allows your resident pet(s) time to adjust to having a new friend in the house without having to meet in a confrontational situation. Keep meetings brief and be sure to pick up any toys or bones that may be lying around the house because these are common things for two dogs to fight over.
When introducing a dog to a cat, make sure the resident cat has a place to hide where the new dog cannot go. You can expect barking, growling, hissing, and spitting. If a meeting becomes too intense, separate everyone and try again later. With understanding and patience you will usually see a friendship—or at least tolerance— develop between your animals.
Establishing a Relationship with Your Dog
From day one, talk to your puppy or dog. It will make your pet alert and responsive to you. Offer treats for rewards, but don’t let him snatch it out of your hand. Handle your dog a lot. For example, gently massage his ears, run your hand down each leg, pick up each paw and softly touch his toenails as you give him a treat, all the while talking happily to him.
Monitor your puppy’s activities in the house and the yard. Unwatched puppies can get into LOTS of trouble. Also remember to provide lots of exercise. A tired puppy is a good puppy. Be sure not to scold or punish, as this will only make him more afraid and more likely to turn this into a contest of wills. Puppies are like young children and need to know who’s in charge, what their limits are, and what’s expected of them.
Socialize your dog or puppy. This is the most important thing you can do to help him to have a great life. If you don’t do this, he can develop behavior problems like aggression or shyness. As long as your pup has had all his shots (at 4 months of age or older) you can take him to the park, the store, and to visit your friends. Get him out and about and he’ll feel like part of the family.
If he doesn’t like the car, start by just sitting in the car with him. Once he's comfortable being in the car, start taking him on short trips and work your way up to longer ones. If he gets carsick don’t feed him before going in the car.
When you introduce him to a new place or person, if he’s afraid at first, let him take his time to get used to things. Don’t force or rush him. Use treats to reward him for approaching new people or situations. Even when he gets older, don’t ever stop socializing your dog. It will make him happier and more confident.
Remember, things you don’t want to happen in 6 months shouldn’t be allowed to happen now (like getting on the furniture or jumping up on people). It is easier to make habits than to break them.
Tips for Housetraining
Do not paper train your puppy/dog!!! It will only confuse him and prolong the housetraining period. Instead, teach your puppy/dog to go outside from the moment you bring him home. Your pup won’t ask to go out, so you need to remember to take him out often. Puppies under the age of 12 weeks should be taken out every 2 hours, and adult dogs may have to go out every 4 hours. At the very least, take out your adult dog first thing in the morning, after each meal, after a nap or playtime and last thing at night. More frequent outside visits will help him to understand the system even better.
You should put your puppy or dog on a leash when you go out with him. Plan to spend no more than 5 minutes outside and don’t play with him. Puppies are easily distracted, so if they think they are going outside to play they won’t bother going to the bathroom. Playing should be done indoors or in a completely separate area from his “bathroom” so he understands why he is going outside. During housetraining, always take him to his designated outdoor spot to relieve himself. Consistently use a key phrase, such as “hurry up” or “do it,” so that your dog learns to associate the command with the action you expect. Be sure to praise him when he goes!
Inside, confine him to a small area at night and whenever you cannot watch him. A training crate is an excellent tool because dogs don’t like to soil the place where they sleep. If you can’t use a crate, confine your dog to a hall or bathroom with a baby gate. He’ll be happiest if he can hear, smell, and/or see you. He shouldn’t be isolated or banished to the cellar or garage.
A dog or puppy with a housebreaking problem needs close supervision. During the day, confine him to an area where you can keep an eye on him. Take him out often. If he doesn’t eliminate when you’re sure he needs to, return him to his crate and walk him again in 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this process until he eliminates outdoors. Praise him in a “happy voice” and give him a treat. He will begin to put two and two together.
At bedtime or when you leave the house your dog should be in his crate. If you do catch him in the act of messing in the house, scold him sternly but briefly. Say “NO,” and take him right outside. Do NOT hit the puppy with your hand or a newspaper or rub his nose in his stools. None of these techniques works and it destroys the bond you are trying to establish with your dog. This is important: Do NOT scold him if you didn’t see him have an accident—he won’t remember what he did wrong. There is no benefit to yelling if the act was done 5 minutes or 5 hours ago. If an accident occurs, because you weren’t there to keep an eye on him, quietly clean and deodorize it with a product for this purpose. Don’t use an ammonia-based product—it smells like urine to a dog, and he might return to the “scene of the crime.”
If your dog keeps having accidents, have your dog’s stool checked by a veterinarian. A dog with intestinal worms may have accidents he can’t control. Worms are common and easy to cure. Most dogs are 90% housebroken by 4 months of age, but they cannot be expected to always let you know when they have to “go”. It is still your responsibility to anticipate his needs.
Tips for Crate Training
A crate is one of the kindest things you can do for your dog or puppy. It is a training tool that provides a safety zone and an undisturbed place for the dog to have his own space. If you use a crate, you can leave your dog at home alone for a few hours with complete peace of mind knowing that nothing in the house can be soiled or destroyed. Your dog will be comfortable and secure in his crate, without an opportunity to develop behavior problems.
New crates can be purchased at pet supply stores. Used crates may be found at yard sales and in bargain hunter ads. A good wire or plastic crate costs $75-$100, but this is a bargain compared to the costs of replacing a sofa, woodwork, or carpeting. A crate should be large enough to permit the dog to stretch out flat on one side, with legs extended, and to sit up without hitting his head. If you have a puppy, buy a crate that will be large enough for him as an adult. You can block off one end of it with a box until he grows larger. This will prevent him from having enough room to go to the bathroom in one end and sleep in the other.
The object is to help your puppy develop a clear understanding that the bathroom is outside in a designated area, and the house and training crate are off limits for “doing his business.” If the pup is under 10 weeks, he isn’t capable of “holding it” more than 3-4 hours so if you must leave him longer than that, or at night, it is wise to allow him access to a small area outside the crate so he won’t have to soil the crate. You might want to put the crate in the bathroom and leave the crate door open so he can relieve himself outside the crate if he needs to go. Puppies usually accept the crate within a day. An adult dog needs a gradual introduction with pleasant and positive associations.
Encourage the dog to enter the crate with tidbits of food. Let him walk in and out of the crate at will for a day. Coax him to lie down and relax. Shut the door briefly while you sit with him. Praise him enthusiastically. His bedding and a chew toy should be placed in the crate. Even if things don’t go smoothly in the beginning, don’t weaken. He will adjust. When you leave your dog in the crate, always remove his collar so he won’t get entangled in the crate.
Put the crate in a “people” area. The bedroom or the kitchen is ideal. REMEMBER: The crate is not a substitute for human companionship. It is a training tool. Your dog still needs plenty of attention and exercise. Use of the crate should be limited to a few hours at a time (adult dogs no more than 6 hours, puppies no more than 4 hours, pups younger than 11 weeks no longer than 2 hours).
When your dog is housebroken and accustomed to being in the crate on a regular basis, and appears calm and happy, you eventually want to start weaning him off the crate by leaving the crate door open. Give him his freedom slowly, so you’re sure he’s reliable. Let him have run of the house for short periods of time. If he has an accident or begins to chew again, return to your original schedule. How long you will need to use the crate will vary with each individual dog. Some dogs may need a crate for only a few weeks; others need one well into adulthood.
If your dog is housebroken and is not being destructive, let him sleep in the bedroom with a family member. This won’t spoil him. Dogs are pack animals and do not like to be alone. If you can’t trust him, consider having a second crate upstairs in your bedroom for nighttime. This also gives him two places to call his own.
Training, Exercise and Behavior Problems
All dogs should know "come," “sit," "down," "heel" and "stay". Even a very young puppy can start to learn these commands. As early as possible, take your dog to obedience school—there is even puppy kindergarten. The shelter strongly recommends that every adopter take his dog/pup to a professional training class even if you’ve been before with previous pets. It’s very important that your dog/pup learns how to relate well to other dogs and people. Enrolling him in a class with others will ensure that he becomes a happy, well- adjusted dog. It will also prove to be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your new “best friend".
While there are many excellent books on dog training, such as those written by Cesar Milan, it is still crucial that you get hands-on experience with a knowledgeable trainer in order to really teach your pet how to behave. The shelter would be glad to give you a list of trainers in the area.
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of exercise for the physical, mental, and emotional well being of your dog. Playtime lets off steam, frustration, and energy as well as teaching important lessons about how to interact with people and other dogs. Puppies need lots of exercise but usually fall down exhausted after about 20 minutes. Young puppies should be allowed to exercise until they are tired. Older pups probably need 3 sessions of about 30 minutes each day. A walk around the neighborhood is great for socializing but won’t put a dent in your dog’s exercise requirement. Running after a ball or another dog is the exhausting kind of interaction he needs. Lack of enough exercise is the number one cause of behavior problems in dogs. Most dogs simply don’t get enough. If you have a puppy that is very nippy, and always into trouble, chewing your belongings, chasing the cat or your children—he’s bored—give him more exercise. Remember—a tired dog is a good dog!
Puppy nipping is common. If your pup is nipping, give him a chew toy. Praise him immediately when he stops nipping.
- Never encourage tug of war games because this only teaches aggression. If he becomes unruly, consult a trainer before he gets out of control.
- To prevent destructive behavior, puppies and dogs should be provided with no more than 2-3 toys that are safe. If he chews something inappropriate, say, “leave it” and substitute it with one of his toys.Then praise him for taking the correct item.
- If your dog is destructive or not housebroken, he needs to earn his freedom step by step. Don’t leave him loose in a room before he can handle such freedom. Instead, he should stay in his crate whenever he must be left alone. A chew toy (nylabone, cressite bone, or hollow marrow bone) in the crate will keep him busy.
- You shouldn’t leave your dog unattended in the yard for long periods of time. Don’t tie him outside all day as this can lead to boredom, nuisance barking, and aggression. He wants to be with you. You are his family. If you have to leave him for a long time, hire a dog sitter.
If your dog has serious behavior problems that won’t go away, don’t give up on him—find an experienced trainer or behaviorist. With commitment and hard work on your part, your dog’s behavior will improve. There is no magic age when your dog will suddenly become a well-behaved dog. There are many issues that can affect his development, including age, breed, and experiences in life. If you pass your problem dog on to other people, he will just repeat his behavior in his new home. Working with him will help increase your bond to each other and the rewards can be wonderful. If you need help finding a trainer, feel free to call us for suggestions.