Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats

Members of the Lilium spp. are considered to be highly toxic to cats. While the poisonous component has not yet been identified, it is clear that with even ingestions of very small amounts of the plant, severe kidney damage could result.

Ingestion of Cannabis sativa by companion animals can result in depression of the central nervous system and incoordination, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased heart rate, and even seizures and coma.

Sago Palm
All parts of Cycas Revoluta are poisonous, but the seeds or “nuts” contain the largest amount of toxin. The ingestion of just one or two seeds can result in very serious effects, which include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures and liver failure.

Tulip/Narcissus bulbs
The bulb portions of Tulipa/Narcissus spp. contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.

Members of the Rhododenron spp. contain substances known as grayantoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and depression of the central nervous system in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.

All parts of Nerium oleander are considered to be toxic, as they contain cardiac glycosides that have the potential to cause serious effects—including gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia and even death.

Castor Bean
The poisonous principle in Ricinus communis is ricin, a highly toxic protein that can produce severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness and loss of appetite. Severe cases of poisoning can result in dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma and death.

Cyclamen species contain cyclamine, but the highest concentration of this toxic component is typically located in the root portion of the plant. If consumed, Cylamen can produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.

This plant contains components that can produce gastrointestinal irritation, as well as those that are toxic to the heart, and can seriously affect cardiac rhythm and rate.

Taxus spp. contains a toxic component known as taxine, which causes central nervous system effects such as trembling, incoordination, and difficulty breathing. It can also cause significant gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.

Common garden plants popular around Easter, Amaryllis species contain toxins that can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia and tremors.

Autumn Crocus
Ingestion of Colchicum autumnale by pets can result in oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage and bone marrow suppression.

These popular blooms are part of the Compositae family, which contain pyrethrins that may produce gastrointestinal upset, including drooling, vomiting and diarrhea, if eaten. In certain cases depression and loss of coordination may also develop if enough of any part of the plant is consumed.

English Ivy
Also called branching ivy, glacier ivy, needlepoint ivy, sweetheart ivy and California ivy, Hedera helix contains triterpenoid saponins that, should pets ingest, can result in vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation and diarrhea.

Peace Lily (AKA Mauna Loa Peace Lily)
Spathiphyllum contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue in pets who ingest.

Pothos (both Scindapsus and Epipremnum) belongs to the Araceae family. If chewed or ingested, this popular household plant can cause significant mechanical irritation and swelling of the oral tissues and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

Schefflera and Brassaia actinophylla contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue in pets who ingest.



Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

Adding a Second Dog to Your Family

By Kathy Diamond Davis

With one dog in the family, why not add another one? What are the pros and cons? When is the right time? Will it change the things you love about the dog you have now?

It’s possible to re-home a dog if things don’t work out, but this can be hard on the family’s emotions and even harder on the dog. The experience can also damage your first dog. It’s worth spending plenty of time to make your best decisions.

Choosing the Dog

Leaving aside for a moment all the changes a second dog would bring to you family’s life, let’s assume you’ve been through all that and it seems right to you to add a dog at this time or some planned time in the future. Of course you need to look at all the normal things about choosing any dog. Those things include: size; grooming required; activity level; disposition for interactions with the people and animals in your environment; genetic tendencies to make noise (and your facilities for keeping noise from disturbing neighbors); matching the dog’s training needs to your training ability; and other factors.

Before settling on a breed, think about the gender of the dog. For the happiest dogs and the safest household, opposite sex dogs almost always do best together. Many same-sex combinations of dogs will fight, sometimes to the death. Those who work out a dominance order may not fare much better. The dominant of two males will become more dominant (toward other dogs, not humans) than he would have otherwise been, and the sometimes submissive one will be pushed into more submission than would have otherwise been normal for him. Because they live with humans rather than in the wild, they are stuck in this situation. It can be stressful.

Two females are more likely to fight to the death than males are. It’s as if neither is willing to admit the other girl is “better than” she is, so they cannot come to a stable pack order. The males make that decision more readily in some cases, but the one who has to be submissive can take it more to heart than the female.

Living with another dog of the same sex can impair a dog’s working ability, which is why many dog professionals (breeders, trainers, handlers) don’t keep their dogs together except perhaps for short periods at a time. This is probably not the lifestyle you have in mind.

A special note about keeping same sex dogs comes from terrier experts. They recommend that you not try to keep a terrier with another dog of the same sex, whether the other dog is a terrier or not. This goes for some other breeds, too, often breeds harking back to terriers in their breed origins. Some terrier mixes inherit the trait, and some do not.

This is about genetics and once it is triggered by life experience, you may find yourself with a totally different dog than you thought you had. In normal circumstances, this aggression toward other dogs would not extend to humans. It may or may not extend to dogs encountered in a dog park. Typically it is triggered by fighting experiences as the dog matures. You can decide just to stop taking the dog-aggressive dog to dog parks.

But when the problem is aggression toward another dog in the home, then what? Same-sex dogs who live together have to determine a pack order, and there will be little spats to do this.

Normally a dog will stop attacking when the other dog yields. But terriers have a quality called gameness. This instinct makes it appear they enjoy fighting. Whether that’s what the dog is actually feeling or not, it means the terrier doesn’t accept the other dog’s surrender, and the game dog keeps attacking. Terriers make fine pets. You just want to avoid keeping two terriers of the same sex together.

Be sure to check out gender differences in any breed or combination of breeds you are considering. For example, in the toy breeds, males can be difficult to housetrain, or in some cases not really possible to ever fully housetrain. In breeds with strong guarding instincts, a male may not be a suitable dog for a novice owner to manage, but a female is more feasible. In some other breeds, the opposite is true. Talk to experts in any breed you’re thinking about (including all breeds involved in a mix), before making your final choice.

If a dog of the opposite gender but same breed as your dog would pose some challenges you don’t want to deal with, keep an open mind to choosing a different breed for your second dog. A larger male with a smaller female can work particularly well. Males are inhibited against aggression toward females, and larger dogs are inhibited against aggression toward smaller ones.

You do not want a size difference so great that one dog could accidentally injure the other just by accidentally running into her or stepping on her, though.


Getting two dogs at once is a popular idea, but seldom a good one. It takes a dog more time than you would think to become fully integrated into the family. If you bring in another dog before that time, some things can be lost, including best bonding between the dogs and human beings. A safe interval from this point of view is to wait at least two years between bringing a new dog into your family.

This does not apply to professionals or serious hobbyists whose dogs do not actually live together. With strategic separations, the dogs don’t form a pack. This allows dogs to live at one location in combinations and numbers that would be too stressful if they had to slug it out for pack order.

You’ll also want to think about what it’s like to deal with two dogs who are old and terminally ill at the same time. This can easily happen if your dogs are close to the same age, and it’s a financial, energy, health, and emotional burden on the humans.

If you want to participate in a certain activity with a dog—a dog sport, regular walks or jogs, search and rescue, therapy dog visits, or something else that requires the dog to be physically sound—having dogs who are old at the same time forces you to either stop the activity until one of them goes to a heavenly reward, or add more dogs than you had in mind. That can take away from both the bonding and training to the new dog and the loving care you want to lavish on the precious old one as the end approaches.

Spacing the dog’s ages as much as you can has advantages both for you and for them. Five years is a nice age difference for a two- or three-dog home.

People often get a second dog to keep the first one company. You can provide that company yourself. Besides spending time with your dog, you can arrange play-dates with compatible other dogs who also don’t have housemate dogs. A good place to meet prospective playmates and their owners is a training class. Before getting a second dog, you need to observe your dog with other dogs, and you need to train together to the point of off-leash control. You need to know if this dog even WANTS a housemate. Some dogs emphatically do not.

Before adding a second dog, work through or figure out how to reliably manage any behavior problems your first dog has. This includes separation anxiety, inappropriate barking, aggression at windows or fences, killing cats, housetraining accidents, and other such problems. All of these behaviors easily spread from dog to dog when they live together. Two dogs doing any of these things can be more than twice as difficult to live with as one doing it.

If you want to pursue an activity with your first dog, get well down the road into that training and participation before adding a second dog. Otherwise, it’s highly likely your first dog’s training will suffer and the dog will never get to live up to his or her potential. The second one won’t do as well as possible either. What you learn with your first dog will profoundly benefit your work with the next one. All of you will be much better off if you wait until the right time to bring in another dog.

The Introduction

You might do okay just walking in the door with the new dog, especially if the new one is female and your first one is male. A rough beginning is so upsetting to everyone, though, that it’s better to take precautions.

If the new dog is an adult, ask about how this dog gets along with other dogs of the same gender. You need to know the same about your dog, so look for safe opportunities to check that out before you decide whether to adopt a second dog. If either dog is a puppy, find out how the other dog reacts to puppies. Puppies, adolescents, and adult dogs are all different to a dog.

A “normal” dog—hard to define, considering all the exaggerated genetic behavior human breeding has created in dogs—is inhibited against harming puppies. But some dogs are not “normal” in this way and will even kill puppies.

More commonly, an adult dog may avoid the puppy for a few days. In the wild if a puppy yelped, mama would come running. If another adult dog was with the puppy when she arrived, mama would beat that dog up and ask questions later. Adult dogs sometimes avoid a puppy until they are pretty sure no mama is going to come running. At that point, a stable adult will begin age-appropriate interaction with the puppy.

The familiar puppy smell is a huge sign to the other dog of the young one’s age. It wears off before adolescence, and the adult dog begins holding the younger one to a higher standard of dog-to-dog behavior. As the adolescent dog matures, same-sex dogs may start fighting.

Before the younger one of opposite-sex dogs is able to mate, it’s best to have both dogs altered if you plan to keep them together. Dogs tie when they mate, with potential injuries. To avoid this, they BOTH need to be altered, not just one of them. That’s only one of the behavior and health problems that spay/neuter takes care of. When intact, they have to be separated at times. When spayed/neutered, they only need their separate times with the humans and otherwise can live together.

An adult female dog having a male come into her home may feel duty bound to assert her rights as top female from the start. He has to show her that he will take “no” for an answer from her. When you take a female into a male’s house, he tends to say something in doggy language that is something like “Hey, baby, where have you been all my life?”

This is why when transporting one dog to another dog’s home for breeding, it’s much preferred to take the girl to the boy’s house. If you took him to her house, she might say “Just who do you think you are, Mister?”

So if your first dog is female and you’re bringing in a male, help the poor boy put on his best first impression for her. This also goes for introducing two dogs of the same gender.

Try to introduce them on neutral territory. Keep them separated until they show friendly body language to each other. A see-through fence is good for this, since having a dog on leash disrupts the dog’s body language and can actually cause a fight. If you must use leashes, keep them loose, not tight. Ideally you have adequately trained your first dog to be able to control him or her with your voice, off-leash in an enclosed area. Then you may only need to leash the newbie. Having a skilled dog handler help you with the introduction is IDEAL.

If for some reason you must do this indoors, one way to start would be with two crates. First you could crate both dogs where they can see but not touch each other. When they are both clearly calm, you could let one of them out. When they are calm that way, put that one back in the crate and let the other one out. This way they get to safely observe each other’s body language before they have to interact with each other.

When they’re both calm, you would let them get together, starting as calmly as you can possibly arrange, and in the largest space available that is safe. The more they can move around, the better they can use their body language to get to know each other. Try it yourself: notice how much more of your dog’s body language you can observe from 30 feet than from 5 feet.

When both dogs are healthy and vigorous, they may run together and bump each other to figure out who is faster, who is stronger, etc. A female may especially value a male who is as strong or is stronger than she is, because she’ll feel he can protect her. Don’t make a big deal out of any humping during introductions, but gently interrupt it before it becomes oppressive to the dog being humped. If the male tries to hump the female and she snarks at him, he should stop and not fight back. If he doesn’t respect her right to say “no,” they may not be compatible as family members.

For the first couple of weeks, the dogs are likely to play a lot as their way of getting to know one another. This will likely moderate somewhat over time, but if one dog seems to be unhappy about the play, interrupt it without punishing either dog. Dogs are different in how they play. Some can play in the house without damaging things while others cannot.

With a fenced yard and two playful dogs, much of your work of keeping your dogs exercised may be done. This exercise must have your supervision, though, and at various times they cannot be allowed to play for health reasons. When you have a dog sick, hurt, or who has just had surgery, ask your veterinarian about play activity and follow instructions. This is important for the dog’s physical healing as well as the relationship between the two dogs.

Managing Two Dogs

Several things change in how you manage your first dog when a new dog joins the family. You might get away with not taking these precautions, but it’s far wiser not to take the risk.

1. Separate your dogs for feeding. If your first dog is used to having food out all the time, that needs to change now—preferably before adding the new dog. Feed at least two meals a day. Three or four smaller meals are fine. You can make training opportunities of these times, and frequent meals can help your dogs get along better—if they are separated and never feel they have to compete over food.

2. When you give treats to one dog in front of the other one, give the other dog treats, too, but do it in such a way that they don’t compete over the food. This approach helps each dog support the other’s learning rather than resenting the attention paid to the other dog. Once in awhile, though, it can aid learning to give treats to one dog and withhold them from another. For example, let’s say your dogs are outdoors and you call them back into the house. Fuzzy comes, but Fuzzette doesn’t. If you close the door and let Fuzzette look longingly through the glass to see Fuzzy getting treats while she doesn’t get any, she will begin to get the idea that it pays to come in when called.

3. When a dog does something well, let the other dog see that. When a dog tends to misbehave in a particular situation or be scared of it, try to separate the dogs for that situation until the one who handles it well is stable enough to influence the other one to do better. Sometimes that never comes, but taking some care about this tends to pay off at least part of the time.

4. Don’t leave chews or highly desirable toys out for dogs to “share.” That’s asking for a fight, and no chew item is worth the risk. Give your dogs these things when they are separated. This means that your dog who used to be an only dog will give up being able to have free access to these items. Keep that in mind in your decision about whether or not to add a dog.

5. Use a crate for a dog who needs that support, and give the other dog whatever freedom that dog can handle. If you give each dog proper individual attention, this difference will not be a problem. Never put two dogs in the same crate, no matter how well they get along.

6. Don’t give a dog bed privileges until the dog is ready. One guideline to keep in mind is around a year of age, when temperament is fairly evident. Don’t take bed privileges away from one dog because the other one can’t handle those privileges. Dogs can deal with that difference. And it is absolutely fine to never allow your dogs on your bed if that is your preference. It is what most professionals recommend, even though most of us don’t listen!

7. Each dog needs frequent individual attention from you—daily at home, and regularly away from the house without the other dog. This is important to their emotional health as well as your relationship with each of them.

Pros and Cons of Adding a Second Dog

Adding a second dog may more than double your dog expenses and work. When one dog develops something contagious, the other may catch it, too. They can hurt each other in play or fights. Separating them for medical or behavioral situations can be quite a job. If you have to walk them to potty them due to not having your own yard, they may need separate walks.

Travel is much easier with one dog than with two. There are many places you could take one dog, but can’t take two. Boarding is more expensive for two than for one. Taking a dog along on a trip tends to benefit the dog’s future behavior. Leaving a dog home when you go on a trip can cause behavior problems, including separation anxiety, crate stress, noise fears, and housetraining breakdowns. If you travel a lot and take your dog along, giving up the ability to do that would be a sad disadvantage.

In some situations, adding a second dog will aid confidence, if one of them is confident and has enough influence over the other dog to bring up that one’s confidence level. On the other hand, a nervous dog can seriously damage the confidence of a housemate dog.

Anxieties commonly spread from one dog to the other. Aggressive behavior and predatory behavior toward other animal species tend to be picked up by the other dog in the family, too.

Observing the dogs’ body language with each other is interesting. It can help you understand your dogs better, and it can help you with their training. You could do this through play dates with other people’s dogs instead, though.

One major reason to add a second dog is if losing your only dog would be too damaging to you. It is possible to lose both at the same time, but more usual to lose one first. Having another beloved dog in the home at this time can make a critical difference to emotionally vulnerable people.

Big Decision

Adding any dog is potentially a life-changing decision for the human and any dogs already in the home. Be sure to take your time. Don’t do it on impulse because a desirable dog has become available.

Carefully chosen and spaced dogs can enable you to do things that are enjoyable and healthy for you. It does make for a lot of work, though, often at extremely inconvenient times. The expenses can be quite daunting, too. Life in a good home with the right other dog can be nice for both dogs. But your dog can be happy as an only dog, and some dogs will not be happy sharing you.

Consider all the angles and gather all the information before deciding whether or not to add a second dog. It is a big change in daily life between having one dog and having two. With the resources of time, energy, finances and physical facilities; two dogs in the family can be a rewarding lifestyle. It does mean the dogs having to share you and lots of other resources, it does reduce the extreme closeness you can have with just one dog, and it may not fit with other things you want from life. Only you can decide.


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

How to Maintain Your Dog’s Skin pH

The dog needs a bath, it’s after 6 p.m. on a weekday, and you don’t have any dog shampoo on hand. Let’s concede that human shampoo will clean your dog, but the question is, is it good for your dog? This may seem like a quibbling question, but it can actually have far-reaching consequences.

We’ll start with the how’s of people skin and dog skin. A highly important component of skin is what is called the acid mantle. This is a lightly acidic layer that covers the skin, serving as a barrier to protect the porous topmost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, from environmental contaminants such as bacteria and viruses. The stratum corneum is responsible for keeping the outer body well hydrated, by absorbing water and not allowing excessive evaporation to occur. When we bathe, using soaps and shampoos, we wash away this layer of acidic oil. This is why most human shampoos and soaps are formulated with moisturizers to replace the protective layer that has been scrubbed away, at least until the skin is able to replenish itself around 12 hours later. If the stratum corneum is left stripped and unprotected, it is open to a host of microorganisms, which may present as dry, flaky skin, irritated, peeling skin, or as a rash of itchy bumps.

The acid mantle can also be defined as the relative pH balance of the skin. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with levels less than 6.4 considered high acidity, and levels more than 6.4 considered high alkalinity. The normal range of skin pH levels for humans is 5.2 to 6.2, which means it tends to be on the acidic side, and shampoos and skin products are formulated specifically to maintain this balance.

Now consider the relative pH balance for dogs. Depending on breed, gender, climate, and the anatomical size on the dog, the pH levels range from 5.5 to 7.5, tending toward a more alkaline concentration. Therefore, if a shampoo that is formulated for human skin is used on a dog, the dog’s acid mantle will be disrupted, creating an environment where bacteria, parasites, and viruses can run rampant. Unknowingly, many pet owners will repeat washings of their dogs because of the smell caused by a proliferation of bacteria, making the problem worse as the skin’s acid mantle/pH level becomes more imbalanced. Additionally, if the shampoo makes the skin feel dry, your dog will scratch at its skin, creating abrasions for bacteria to invade. It quickly becomes a vicious cycle.



Just as you would look for a shampoo that helps maintain the pH balance of your own scalp, you should also concentrate on finding a shampoo with a pH balance that is specifically balanced for a dog’s skin. Dog shampoos should be in the neutral range, around 7. Many shampoo manufacturers will include the pH level on the label, but at the very least, they will clearly state that the shampoo is pH-balanced for dogs.

Do read the labels, making sure that there are no artificial fragrances or colors added to the shampoo. Your dog may be a big strong guy and still have sensitive skin. Look for natural skin moisturizers like vitamin E, aloe vera, honey, and tea tree oil. Fragrances to look for should be natural; chamomile, lavender, eucalyptus, and citrus are some examples of clean, pleasant fragrances, some of which also do double duty as insect repellents. If you can find organic or natural dog shampoos, even better, but don’t rely on the front label alone. Again, read the ingredients list.

Your dog doesn’t need to be washed with shampoo on a regular basis. A good cleaning every few months is all your dog needs (you can give water baths in between), so you can splurge a little on a shampoo with quality ingredients when you weigh the overall time you will be using it. One bottle can last a year, even if you only shampoo your dog once a month. So go for the good stuff, and you won’t mind when your dog places his paws on your lap for a friendly hug.


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

10 Most Common Illnesses for Cats

Cats may have nine lives, but you want to make sure kitty hangs on to all of them for as long as she can. No matter how much love and care you give your furry companion, things happen. But by knowing how to recognize the most common conditions affecting cats, you may just be able to save your pet’s life.

10. Hyperthyroidism. The most likely cause of hyperthyroidism is a benign tumor on the thyroid gland, which will cause the gland to secrete too much of the hormone. Take your cat to the vet if it starts drinking and peeing a lot, shows aggressive and jittery behavior, suddenly seems hyperactive, vomits and/or loses weight while eating more than usual.

Treatment depends on other medical conditions but can range from using drugs to regulate the overactive gland, surgical removal of the gland, and even radioactive treatment to destroy the tumor and diseased thyroid tissue.


9. Upper Respiratory Virus. If your kitty is sneezing, sniffling, coughing, has runny eyes or nose, seems congested and has mouth and nose ulcers, chances are it has an upper respiratory virus. The two main forms of the virus are the feline herpesvirus and calicivirus. Once at the vet’s office, the cat may receive nose drops, eye ointments and antibacterial medication, especially if it has a secondary infection.


8. Ear Infection. Ear infections in cats have many causes. These might include mites, bacteria, fungi, diabetes, allergies and reactions to medication; some breeds are also more susceptible to ear infections than others. So it’s definitely a good idea to have your kitty checked if it’s showing symptoms such as ear discharge, head shaking, swollen ear flaps, stinky ears and ultra sensitivity to ears being touched. Treatment, of course, depends on the cause, but will include eardrops, ear cleaning, ear and oral medications and in severe cases, surgery.


7. Colitis/Constipation. Colitis is a fancy word for inflammation of the large intestine. While the most obvious sign of colitis is diarrhea, sometimes it will hurt the cat to poop. Thus, in trying to hold it in, the cat may develop constipation.

There are many causes of colitis, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, allergies and parasites, among other diseases. Signs include straining to poop, lack of appetite, dehydration and vomiting. Your vet will test for the underlying cause and treat it accordingly. This may include a more fiber-rich diet, de-worming, antibiotics, laxatives and/or fluids.


6. Diabetes. Like humans, cats suffer from diabetes, too, though this is usually seen in older, overweight cats. Symptoms include increased thirst and peeing, peeing outside the litter box, lethargy and depression.

While causes of feline diabetes are not really known, there is a link with diabetes and being overweight. Treatment, therefore, includes daily health monitoring, diet changes, exercise, and depending on the cat’s needs, either daily oral medications or injections.


5. Skin Allergies. Kitties, like you, are known to suffer from allergies, although their allergies show on the skin. If your cat scratches, or chews on its skin a lot, has a rash or loses hair in patches, a trip to the vet is a good idea.

Causes of skin allergies vary from reactions to food, fleas, pollens, mites, and even mold and mildew. Treatments may include allergy shots, diet changes, medication and antihistamines.


4. Intestinal Inflammation/Diarrhea. Diarrhea is a sure sign of an intestinal inflammation. It affects either the cat’s small or large intestine and may due to a variety of factors, including diet changes, eating contraband foodstuffs, allergies, bacteria overgrowth, worms and even kidney disease.

Symptoms include diarrhea, lack of appetite and vomiting. A visit to your vet will sort out the cause, and treatment may include hydration therapy, a bland diet, dietary changes and anti-diarrhea medications.


3. Renal Failure. This is a serious condition, which is common in older cats. While the underlying causes are not yet understood, recent research suggests a link with distemper vaccinations and long-term dry food diets. Make sure you request blood tests on your regular wellness checkups, since symptoms often don’t show up until 75 percent of the kidney tissue is damaged.

The main symptom is excessive thirst and peeing, but the cat may also show signs of drooling, jaw-clicking, and ammonia-scented breath. While it’s not curable, renal failure (when not severe) can be managed through diet, drugs and hydration therapy. Kidney transplants and dialysis can also be used.


2. Stomach Upsets (Gastritis). An inflammation of the cat’s stomach lining is simply referred to as gastritis. This condition may be mild or severe, but regardless of its type, make sure you bring your cat to visit the vet if it doesn’t show improvement in a day or two, or if the symptoms are severe.

Gastritis has many causes, from eating spoiled food to eating too fast to allergies or bacterial infections. If your cat is vomiting, belching, has a lack of appetite or bloodstained poop or diarrhea, a visit to the vet will help straighten things out. Treatments depend on the cause, but generally include medication, fluid therapy and even antibiotics.


1. Lower Urinary Tract Disease. Coming in at No. 1, lower urinary tract disease can turn very quickly into a life-threatening illness for your cat, especially if there’s a blockage caused by crystals, stones or plugs. When total blockage occurs, death can occur within 72 hours if left untreated.

Therefore, whisk your cat off to the vet or emergency center ASAP if you see any of the following signs: peeing outside of the litter box, straining, blood in urine, crying out while attempting to pee, not being able to pee, excessive licking of genitals, not eating or drinking, yowling while moving and lethargy. These signs will generally occur regardless if the urinary tract disease is due to stones, infection or urethral plugs. Treatment includes catheterizing to drain the bladder, medication to dissolve stones or blockages, and in recurring cases, surgery.


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

Tips for How to Stop Dogs and Puppies from Chewing

We’ve all been there — you go into your closet, pull out your favorite pair of shoes and suddenly you notice that they’ve been torn to pieces. Who’s to blame? The dog, of course.

Here are some guidelines on how to get a puppy or dog to stop chewing things he shouldn’t:


1. Be attentive. Much like you would with a human baby, always keep an eye on your puppy to protect him from his own curiosity and lack of experience.

2. Contain the situation. If you have to leave your dog alone, whether for a long portion of the day or for only a little while (like a trip to the grocery store), make sure that he is confined in a secure place, such as in a dog crate or in an area of your house that has been set aside just for him – with child or pet proof gates to secure the area. Puppies usually begin chewing on things when they are alone and bored, often getting into trouble or suffering injury when allowed free rein to roam around an unsupervised house. The area where you confine your puppy must be free of objects that he can chew on, except for those chew toys that have been specifically chosen for their age appropriateness.

3. Leave your scent behind. If you are leaving your dog for a longer duration, rolling your dog’s favorite toy or nylon bone between your hands will give him something to remember you by. Avoid making an emotional farewell so that your puppy does not respond with anxiety (i.e., separation anxiety), which can lead to whining, barking and other destructive behaviors. Many puppy owners have also found that leaving the radio on (with calm, soothing music playing in the background) will help to calm an anxious puppy.

4. Prevention is key. You must put away all of the things your dog can get into his mouth. Even things that appear to be out of reach may be reached by a diligent dog. This includes shoes, children’s toys (especially small toys that your puppy can choke on), articles of clothing (particularly socks and undergarments) plastic bags, containers of medicine, wallets and purses; just about everything. Do not ever allow a dog to go into the bathroom unsupervised, since there are a lot of objects there that you do not want to have chewed and scattered through the house. This includes items commonly found in the wastebasket, but also rolls of toilet paper. You must also take care to store valuable objects such as jewelry in a safe place that a dog cannot reach; a closed closet, dresser drawer or cabinet is best.

5. Choose toys wisely. Many plush animals have pieces that can fall off or be chewed off, becoming a choking hazard. Only buy plush toys that have been designed with a dog’s safety in mind.

6. Discipline when appropriate. Puppies need to be taught early on that they can only chew on those things that have been given to them, but before they are mentally and emotionally mature enough to understand and remember these lessons, you will need to keep everything else out of his reach.

7. Correct then divert. When you do find your dog chewing on an inappropriate object, correct him with a stern “no” and then divert his attention to the object that you have chosen as appropriate for him to chew. This object can be a nylon bone that is meat-scented, or a heavy-duty rubber toy that cannot be shredded. Nylon bones are superior in that they are durable, safe and non-damaging to the teeth. Squeaky toys, rubber toys and raw-hide bones are also favorites for dogs, but they are not as durable, and the squeaker can be chewed out and swallowed, or the rubber shredded and swallowed, both of which can be choking or intestinal hazards. If he obeys and chews on the appropriate object, praise him.

8. Do not give your dog an old shoe or old socks to chew on. You are unintentionally teaching him that it is acceptable to chew on shoes and socks, and there will come a day when one of your very favorite or very expensive shoes ends up as dog fodder. Your dog, for that matter — cannot be expected to distinguish which shoes are the good ones and which ones are for him.

9. Create “real life” scenarios. As your puppy matures, tempt him by scattering a few different objects on the floor, including his nylon bone. The purpose of this is to teach him to ignore the objects that are forbidden to him. While we still advise not leaving objects lying around, it is bound to happen eventually, and training your puppy — as he reaches the mature age to remember and obey his lessons — will ensure his safety (and the safety of your possessions). Let your puppy lie down and pretend that you are busy doing something when all the while you are keeping an eye on him. When you see him begin to take a forbidden object into his mouth, reprimand him with a firm (not loud) “No!” and give him the nylon bone. Repeating this type of exercise will teach him not to chew on other objects except the bone when you are with him. As it becomes clear that he is learning the lesson, you can try leaving the room for a short while (less than 30 seconds). Immediately return so that you can catch him if he takes a forbidden object into his mouth and immediately reprimand him, again giving him his nylon bone to replace the object. Repeating this exercise will teach him to chew only on his nylon bone even when you are not around. Again, the best prevention is to not leave anything to chance. Pick everything up except what your dog is allowed to chew.

10. Exercise daily. Age and breed appropriate exercise every day makes it so your dog does not get bored. It also helps to keep his energy levels balanced and his metabolism at normal levels. Boredom and high energy levels are some of the most common reasons for destructive behavior.


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

How to Add Years to Your Pet’s Life

By Lorie Huston, DVM

Anyone who has ever had a dog or cat wishes just one thing — that he or she has a healthy and long life. Here are five tips that can help your pet do just that.



Pets fed a high quality diet have a shiny hair coat, healthy skin, and bright eyes. A good diet can help strengthen your pet’s immune system, help maintain his or her intestinal health, help increase his or her mental acuity, help keep joints and muscles healthy, and much more.


Pets that are overweight are at risk for a myriad of health issues. Obesity is the number one nutritional disease seen in pets currently and studies have shown that being overweight or obese can shorten a dog or cat’s life span by as much as two years. Why? Being overweight or obese puts your pet at risk for joint disease, heart disease and diabetes, among other things.


All pets, including both dogs and cats, require regular veterinary care. However, veterinary care goes far beyond routine vaccinations, even though those are important. A routine examination by your veterinarian can uncover health issues of which you are unaware. In many cases, an early diagnosis improves the chances of successful treatment. Early diagnosis is also likely to be less costly for you than waiting until your pet’s illness has become advanced and serious before attempting treatment.


A common problem among dogs and cats, dental disease and oral health issues can cause your pet pain, making it difficult for him or her to eat. If left untreated, oral health issues may even lead to heart and kidney disease. In addition to regular dental checkups, the most effective means of caring for your pet’s mouth at home is to brush his or her teeth at home. If your pet isn’t a big fan of toothbrushes there are other alternatives as well, including dental diets, treats, and toys. Ask your veterinarian for some recommendations.


Allowing your dog or cat to roam free may seem like you’re doing your pet a favor. However, pets that roam are susceptible to a number of dangers, including automobile accidents, predation, exposure to contagious diseases, exposure to poisons, and more. Additionally, allowing your pet to roam unsupervised may alienate your neighbors should your pet ever “relieve” him- or herself in their lawn or dig up their garden.


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital