candyblogpic2It’s that time of year again, the beginning of the candy season. Whether you bob for apples, trick-or-treat, or simply have a few drinks, the things we have at Halloween can be quite toxic to our pets. Some of our favorite fall treats are okay in small doses, like pumpkin and apples! Pumpkin can be good for your pet’s digestive health and fur, but don’t let them get that jack-o-lantern, which can be collecting bacteria. Fresh, cooked pumpkin, or canned natural pumpkin is best. Fresh apple slices are also good for dogs, but be sure that they do not eat the seeds, which are toxic. Most of the treats we have out at Halloween, however, are incredibly dangerous to our furry friends.

One of the biggest dangers, especially at Halloween, is chocolate. This may seem obvious, but with the immense amounts of treats being exchanged and handed out, be sure to keep chocolate out of reach to your dogs. Trick-or-treaters can drop it outside, kids can stash it throughout the house, and grocery bags waiting for Halloween can be left out. Chocolate can be toxic to dogs, especially dark chocolate. Watch for signs of consumption, including vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, tremors, increased thirst, lethargy, or agitation.

Other candy items (non-chocolate) can be dangerous and unhealthy to pets too, due to high levels of sugar and fat. Symptoms of sugar consumption in pets can be decreased appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting, and lethargy, and may not show up for a few days. Even those candies that are sugar-free, like chewing gum (which can cause blockages), contain chemicals such as Xylitol that can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver problems in animals. Keep candy away from pets and teach kids to do so as well.

Many well-meaning neighbors hand out raisins or trail mix rather than candy. Raisins can be toxic to both dogs and cats, causing kidney problems even in small amounts. Macadamia nuts are very toxic to dogs as well, and as few as six macadamia can cause large problems. Other trail and snack mixes can be high in salt or sugar as well. Your pet may not have any symptoms before they are severely ill, but watch for decreased appetite, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

For some of us who are a little old to trick-or-treat, Halloween can be a bit of a party holiday, so be sure to keep the booze away from pets. Alcohol can cause the same damage to our pets that it can to us (liver and brain), but it only takes small amounts to harm them. Watch out for vomiting, trouble breathing, and lack of coordination, especially in smaller dogs.

candyblogpic1Some of our other “munchies” that are high in salt can also harm dogs and other pets. Salty snacks like chips and pretzels can lead to increased thirst and urination, and cause dehydration. Sodium ion poisoning can also occur, which includes symptoms like vomiting, depression, tremors or seizures, and a fever.

If you suspect your pet has ingested anything that it shouldn’t have, or is ill, call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435, and seek veterinary care as soon as possible. By keeping our pets away from these harmful foods and snacks this Halloween, we can ensure we all have a good holiday. If you are handing out candy in your neighborhood, consider having some dog biscuits on hand too. For those of us who are going to have excited kids come home with bags full of treats, get your dog a new toy or treats of their own to keep them busy. I really love Blue’s Boo Bars, which are a nice fall treat for dogs, made with pumpkin, carrots, cinnamon, and other safe, natural ingredients. So keep your pets healthy by keeping candy, alcohol and snacks away from them, and provide them their own safe treats. Happy Halloween everyone!

Sources: PetMD,, Humane Society of the United States, The Blue Buffalo Co.

artprizeblogpicIf you live in West Michigan, the cooler temperatures may bring pumpkin lattes and sweaters, but they also mean it’s time for another fall event: ArtPrize! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Grand Rapids attraction, ArtPrize is an open, international artistic competition, and free for the public to attend. The public and juries vote on the best entries, and downtown Grand Rapids becomes home to sculptures, murals, cars, light shows, and many other forms of art for a few weeks. So as a GR resident, I thought I’d put a little spotlight on ArtPrize, and the pets it can include! Be sure to check out these works that feature our furry friends.

Grand Rapids is a city that loves dogs, and many of the ArtPrize entries show it off. One of my personal favorites so far is “DogCity USA”, by Jennifer Waters. This is a collection of photographs that showcases Grand Rapids landmarks and locations with resident canines. The local pet photographer’s entry seeks to inspire the community to become a dog-friendly destination, and home to canine equality. Other artworks capture sincere emotion of the dog, like “Reflections” (Bonnie Kolarik) and “Minus 60 Celsius” (John P. Foley) which both feature huskies. Others are whimsical and have the adorable little companions that we love, like “Riley and Lizzie”, by Mary Jo Drueke, and Janet Hampton’s “Sitting Pretty Until…Squirrel!” Of course, we can’t forget the other pets we like! This year’s ArtPrize has many animals to feature, including horses in Jennifer VanderPloeg’s “Equine Personifed”, and even a rat in “Have You Seen My Cheese?” (Nikki Fatt-DeShetler). Whatever the creature you fancy, there’s sure to be an entry (or two) that showcase it.

If you’re looking to support a cause with your ArtPrize vote, there’s plenty of options for that as well! The mixed media entry of “11,000” features thousands of colored cat faces, representing the amount of offspring that one intact female feral cat and her offspring produce over 5 years. Creating by Carol’s Ferals and their “AdvoCats”, the artwork seeks to promote awareness of controlling the feral cat population by TNR (trap, neuter, return) and adoption. Michael Johnson’s “Michigan Kids & Pets” is a collection of paintings that feature area children with Down’s Syndrome surrounded by their friends and pets. Johnson looks to empower the bond between children and animals, and donates his proceeds to equine therapy, canine cancer research and more. The sculpture “Golden Boy” (Kim Maguire-Gualtieri) is a dog with the body of a pit bull, but the head and face of a golden retriever, promoting awareness of breed injustice and the prejudices that dogs and their owners face.

While there are many more animal art pieces to enjoy and causes to support, there are hundreds of other superb entries as well. With over 1,500 works, ArtPrize is not something that can be seen as a whole in one trip. For those of you thinking about bringing your dog along to enjoy the browsing, please be aware that many of the venues are not dog-friendly. While outdoor places like parks and the pedestrian bridges may not prohibitartprizeblogpic1 dogs, they can often be incredibly crowded, and sometimes home to art that has loud noises, scary lights, or strange sounds and materials. Grand Rapids requires dogs to be leashed at all times, and sometimes parking is quite far from the venues. ArtPrize is an event that many dogs would probably enjoy more from home, while you get time to observe the great works.

Whether you’re checking out horse sculptures, supporting animal therapy, or just looking at cute puppy photos, ArtPrize has lots of pets and animals to showcase. So take a weekend (or two) and come out to Grand Rapids to enjoy ArtPrize 2014!

For more information on ArtPrize, tips to attend, and to view artwork, visit

Photos by Jennifer Waters/Grumpy Pups, and Carol’s Ferals.

disaster blog1Disaster preparedness is something that every household should do, no matter what part of the country or world you live in. Planning a safe location and evacuation sites isn’t just for those near the hurricane-prone coasts, but for everyone, for problems as simple as a power outage. These preparation plans should also include our pets. Our animals are often scared during natural disasters, and cannot care for themselves, so we need to ensure that we plan for their safety and well-being in case of an emergency.

No matter what the situation, your pet should always have proper identification. This is a step that should be taken regardless of which emergency you are planning for. Make sure your pet has proper tags and is up to date on vaccinations and records (many areas require dog licensing). Microchipping your pet is a wonderful idea, as collars can come off and tags too worn to read. You should also have photos of your pet, in case they become lost. The identification stickers on doors and windows can help an emergency service professional find your pet, but they must be updated regularly. A pet disaster kit is another crucial step in preparing for any emergency. You should keep a week’s worth of their food and medication, garbage bags and cleaning wipes, litter and disposable trays, leashes/carriers, plenty of bottled water, spare dishes, blankets or coats, and a pet first-aid kit in a safe location with easy access. If you have to evacuate or move to another part of the house, you will have all the supplies you need for your pet already packed and ready. Identification and a disaster kit are a must for any emergency preparation plan, but there are also some specifics to certain disasters.


-Designate a safe location in your home. It should be windowless, and as close to the ground as possible. Consider basements or ground-floor bathrooms. Practice drills with your family and animals so they are familiar with the safe location.

-Keep a pet disaster kit in the safe location, along with a carrier or crate to make your pet comfortable.

-Know their hiding spots so you are able to retrieve a scared animal and go to the safe location.

-After the tornado, keep your pet secured and monitored outside. Fallen branches and debris, downed power lines, and unsafe drinking water all pose new hazards to your pet.


-Designate a safe location in your home, similar to the one for tornados.

-Research locations that are pet-friendly so you can move if needed. Many hotels and shelters are pet-friendly, but you will be safer if you learn a few ahead of time.

-If you evacuate your home, do not leave your pet behind! Bring them and their disaster kit with you, and keep them secured at all times.

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-During a flood, move to the upper floors of the home, taking your pet and their kit with you.

-Keep your pet secure and do not go outside until waters have receded. If you must evacuate, take your pet and their kit with you.

-After the flood, do not allow your pet to drink or swim in the water. Watch out for downed power lines, hidden debris, and other hazards.

Power Outages

-Move to the warmest or coolest part of the house, depending on the season. Use the supplies in your pet’s disaster kit to sustain them if necessary.

-If you rely on power to keep your home warm or cool during the seasonal extremes, then monitor your pet for health concerns. Give them plenty of shade and water in the heat, and limit exercise. Stay in a small area during cold temperatures, with blankets and food. Many shelters and communities will offer warming and cooling centers during power outages.

-If you must leave your home, take your pet with you! Have another safe area (hotel, shelter, friend’s home) planned in advance that you can stay at until your power returns.

It is also a good idea to have a back-up caretaker. Many emergencies can be personal, rather than a natural disaster. If your car breaks down, do you have someone who can go take your dog out and feed them? Designate a trusted friend or neighbor that your pet is familiar with. Give them keys or access to your home, and be sure they know the location of your pet’s food, medication, leashes, etc. While many petsitters and dog walkers can also provide this service, do not assume that they do. Ask in advance if this is something they are willing to do, and plan accordingly.

During any kind of emergency situation, your animal will feel scared and act differently. By being prepared, practicing drills, and remaining calm, we help ensure that our pets will be safe. So get your pet proper identification, create a disaster kit, and plan locations. Stay safe everyone!

For more info on preparing a pet disaster kit:

To find dog-friendly locations, visit If you book with this website, they donate to animal charities, including Red Rover!

For info on first-aid to supplies to put in your disaster kit:

Sources: PetMD, The Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, Red Rover, DogWonderful

fireblogpic2When we think of firefighters, we often imagine a sleek Dalmatian riding on a red polished fire engine, alongside his human companions. Despite this image, our pets are not often helpful in putting out fires, but often start them. The history of the Dalmatian as a firefighter dates back to before automobiles were used, and we used horse-drawn carriages to travel. They are a beautiful breed of speed and endurance, and wealthy people often had them running next to their coaches, to prevent their horses from being harmed or spooked by other animals or travelers. When horses began to be used to pull firefighters and water wagons to fires, they found that the Dalmatian was helpful not to the fire extinguishing, but to the horses. At the sound of the alarm, the dog would rouse the horses (often their natural companion!) from sleep, then bark to clear the entrance of the firehouse. As the team raced to the fire, Dalmatians would bark to let the public know to move out of the way, and set a fast pace for the horses to follow. Once they arrived, the horses would be unhitched from the wagon and removed from the scene, to an area safe from sparks and fire. The dogs would stay with the horses to keep them calm and prevent them from getting spooked or running. After the use of the fire engine rather than horses, Dalmatians became more of a mascot and human companion, although some were helpful in catching rats in the firehouses.

In many house fires today, pets are often the cause of the blaze, by knocking over a candle or leaving something on a burner. Every year, 500-1000 preventable fires are caused by the animals in our homes, and many families and pets are injured or killed. By including our beloved fur babies in a fire escape plan and other preparations, we can reduce this number and keep each other safe.

Every home should be prepared for a fire. This includes escape routes, up-to-date smoke detectors and extinguishers (for small fires only), shelter, and fire prevention. First off, make sure your pet has proper identification. Keep a collar with tags on them, and consider getting them microchipped. If you and your pet should become separated or they flee in fear, this will make finding them easier. Plan a fire route with at least two possible escapes (front door, back door, windows, etc). It is a good idea to keep a leash near each escape, or near the area where the animal sleeps (for example, in a certain bedroom). A human/pet first aid or emergency kit near each entrance is ideal as well. Practice all fire escape routes with your family, including children and pets. Set off the alarm, leash your pet, and move quickly to the exit. Small animals can be carried out in cages or a box. Once outside, always go to a safe, specified area away from the house, before stopping and rewarding your pet. The sound of a fire alarm is high-pitched, loud, and can scare an animal in addition to fire and smoke. By training them that this sound means to leave quickly, they are more likely to do it in the future (even if it is every time you try to make pancakes). If your pets sleep in a crate at night or while you are out of the house, be sure it is near an entrance so firefighters or neighbors can release them easier. Consider monitored smoke alarms too. If you are not home, you cannot help your pet escape or call 911. Monitored systems alert a call center or an emergency system so that firefighters will respond even if you are unavailable. Place window clings at each door or entrance letting responders know how many pets of each kind are inside. Keep this updated and include the year in plain sight (we all see those old houses with 20 year old stickers on the door). The ASPCA offers these window clings in a free safety pack, but it does take 4-6 weeks for delivery. They are usually available at pet stores as well. Have a pet-friendly place for your animal to go when you are unable to return to your home. Research and plan what hotels and family will allow you to stay while your home is repaired. fireblogpic1

You should also take steps to prevent fires from occurring. An open flame should never be left unattended, even if your pet is secure. Consider using flameless candles or warmers rather than fire, as it is easy for a curious pet to knock over. Removing the knobs from the stove is also a good idea, as a cat or dog can accidently turn on a burner while investigating a counter. Secure cords and wires to prevent electrical fires, and unplug devices when not in use. Keep flammable chemicals such as gasoline, cleaning agents, and hairspray away from pets and in secure areas away from heat and flame. Do not use glass bowls for outdoor food/water, especially on wooden decks. The glass and water can often magnify the sun’s rays and cause the wood or other surface to heat and burn (like the evil child burning ants with a magnifying glass). Keep young or extra-curious animals in a crate or gated area to prevent them from causing fires or other damage. Use fire-safety rated Christmas lights in the winter, and turn them off when unattended. By taking these steps, you can prevent some fires before they occur.

If you do have to suffer the trauma of a house fire (and I hope you never do!), follow your escape plan. Try to keep your pet with you as you exit, and alert firefighters to any that you do not have with you. Sometimes pets run out and away before we do, others are hiding in small spaces. If your animal is still in the house, let a firefighter know any small areas they might hide, their name and coloring. Many responders will be able to enter the home safely and retrieve the animal. Once safely out of the home, you and your animals will need medical attention. Smoke inhalation, emotional shock, dehydration and burns are all common after suffering a fire and need treatment. Oxygen is usually given immediately to anyone who was in the home, even animals. There are special oxygen masks that are shaped for animals, useful for CPR rescue breathing, or administering oxygen gas. You may want to consider getting these donated to your local fire department, and keeping your own in an emergency kit. Even if your pet seems fine, get them checked thoroughly by a veterinarian. After a fire, your animal may have a change in behavior, including loss of appetite, defecating indoors, excessive chewing, and other anxieties. Be patient and comforting with them. Never bring your pet back to the burned home until all smoke and fire damage is repaired. This can be very stressful, as well as unsafe for them to be in.

While we hope we never suffer the disaster of a fire, we still need to plan as if we would. By securing your home from possible fire causes, planning an appropriate escape, and knowing what to do, your family and pets can be safer. While your dog’s name may be Smokey, we don’t want them to ever have to endure it!

For a free pet safety pack, visit

Sources: The American Red Cross, ASPCA, The American Kennel Club (AKC),, America Comes Alive, National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), Dallas Fire and Rescue Department.