Category Archives: pet care

Preparing Pets for Hurricanes

Too many times we see pets abandoned during weather-related disasters and with yet another Hurricane possibly headed our way (Irma), Petplan pet insurance wants to remind responsible pet parents to be aware of these simple tips to keep their pets safe and sound.

The Basics

Before the Storm: Keep calm and prepare. Pets can sense barometric pressure changes, so ease worry by speaking in a reassuring voice and distracting pets with games, toys and natural calming remedies.

In the Thick of It: Take shelter and keep pets inside—do not let them out in your yard off-leash! Stock up on puppy pads for an indoor bathroom solution. If you evacuate, make sure your dogs have ID tags and cats are in crates.

Aftermath: Proceed with caution. Pets can become injured or ill from breathing toxic generator fumes, drinking dirty water or eating spoiled food.

Hurricane Evacuation Kit Checklist for Pets (click here for info on each item)

  • Pet carrier
  • Medication for two weeks
  • Food and water for one week
  • Two slip leashes
  • Printed and electronic copies of medical history
  • Identification and contact information
  • Take a photo of your pet before you leave your home
  • Litter, piddle pads and trash bags
  • Shampoo, brush, towels
  • Plenty of patience

No one plans on a natural disaster disrupting his or her lives. What you can prepare for is how you’ll respond when the crisis occurs. Good luck, be safe, and may we all be pet-prepared should disaster strike.

Posted in cats, dogs, hedgehogs, people helping animals, pet care | 2 Comments

Flooding aftermath poses risks to our pets

Petplan pet insurance staff veterinarian Kim Smyth shares important tips about the hazards that those in the area affected by Hurricane Harvey (and flood prone regions) should beware of when it comes to the health of their pets in the weeks to come.

“In the aftermath of a natural disaster, both physical and mental health hazards abound. Overcrowding in pet shelters or pet-approved human shelters increases stress, which in turn decreases immunity. Your pet may be exposed to infectious diseases, both in flood waters and on dry land in crowded shelter environments. Pay close attention to your pet’s health as you navigate the long journey of recovery from a natural disaster. Post traumatic phobias in pets are common following natural disasters–changes in behavior, appetite, or appearance should all be addressed by a veterinarian as soon as possible.”

Water Woes – While the flooding that follows a significant storm poses immediate risks to the safety of our pets, the standing water left behind for weeks or months is just as dangerous.

  • Floodwaters can be tainted with toxic chemicals, as well as wildlife-borne diseases like Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that is particularly problematic in wet conditions.
  • Says Smyth: “Pathogenic fungi are often displaced from their natural habitat during flooding. These fungi pose a health risk to those who may come into contact with it while wading or swimming through flood waters.”
  • Standing water also attracts mosquitoes, which can carry diseases and parasites, like heartworms, to unprotected pets. Keep pets away from floodwaters and keep a few months’ worth of heartworm preventative on hand at all times so you can stay up to date with doses no matter what.
  • Flooding can also alter landscapes and obliterate scent trails, which can confuse your pet and cause him to become disoriented. Don’t let pets roam outside off-leash, and be sure to keep contact information current on their microchips in case they get lost.

Adds Smyth: “Pets who have near-drowning accidents can succumb to fluid buildup in the lungs as much as 48 hours after the event. If your pet struggled to evacuate through flood waters, please keep a close eye on his condition for at least 48 hours, even if he seems normal.”

Dangerous Debris – Depending on the severity of the storm, debris from destroyed structures, downed trees and trash can hang around long after floodwaters recede.

  • Never let pets climb on debris or nose through trash, as they can suffer lacerations, abrasions or broken bones from falls.
  • Additionally, curious canines could find unsavory snacks that can lead to intestinal obstruction, bowel perforation or poisoning.

Stress Test – We’ve talked about how noise phobias can affect pets during storms, but plenty of stressors can make the aftermath just as upsetting for our furry friends.

  • Cats in particular are vulnerable to anxiety caused by changes to their environment, but even a usually plucky pup can find himself frazzled in unfamiliar situations – like if you are displaced, or if you foster displaced animals for friends, family or neighbors.
  • If you do take in additional animals, keep non-household members separate from each other to minimize the potential for negative interactions.
  • Take note of common canine stress signals like yawning, licking or chewing when no food is present, excessive shaking as if to dry off and freezing when touched. Cats signal stress through excessive vocalization, inappropriate elimination and even vomiting. Exercise and play can help alleviate anxiety, but it is a good idea to keep your vet’s number on hand to discuss any concerns that crop up.

Says Smyth: “Remember that you comfort your pet as much as he comforts you in stressful times. Do your best to stay together after evacuation, but if you must separate, make sure he/she is wearing up to date contact information or in a pet carrier that is clearly labeled. If your pet is microchipped, make sure the microchip company has up to date contact information for you.”

Spores of Trouble – Although toxic black mold poisoning has not been widely documented in pets, two cats who survived Superstorm Sandy succumbed to the toxin.

  • Because mold spores in the lungs can cause long-term respiratory damage and other health issues not just to your furry friends, but to your entire family, it is absolutely critical to have your house checked if you’ve sustained flood damage. If you notice your pets scratching themselves or chewing on their extremities or at their skin, or your pet exhibits extreme lethargy, wheezing, coughing, struggling to aspirate, bleeding from the nose or disruption in regular eating habits, your pet may be suffering the long-term effects of black mold exposure.

Says Smyth: “Waiting until a natural disaster strikes to think about evacuation plans puts your entire family at risk, especially your four legged family members,” says Smyth. “Have a disaster preparedness plan that includes pets in place, so if the worst happens, you know where you’re going and what you need to take with you. Areas that have been damaged by natural disasters may not be accessible for weeks–never evacuate without your pets.”

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A Microchip Miracle: The Gift of Reunion

Like so many of us who share our lives with a beloved dog, we had our dog Teddy microchipped when he became a permanent family member after a short foster period. And although life is fickle, and nothing we do can guarantee that a lost dog will be reunited with its hopeful humans, anything that can make it possible is definitely worth the effort.

The American Humane Association estimates that over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year. According to the Petfinder adoption site, one in three pets will become lost at some point during their life. And while only approximately 22 percent of lost dogs that enter animal shelters are reunited with their families, the return-to-owner rate for micro chipped dogs is over 52 percent, a staggering 238 percent increase!

While these statistics are eye-opening, there’s nothing like a true-life story to bring home the message that a tiny microchip can make a huge difference in an outcome. When I posted on the National Dog Week Facebook Page asking for someone to share their personal microchip reunion story, Bebe Faryewicz sent me her family’s touching story about their German Shorthaired Pointer, Kris.

Bebe relayed that when her dog-loving daughter Valerie was only nine, she’d saved her money for a German Shepherd dog. She took great care of this dog – feeding, training, providing lots of play time that even included “dressing up” the big dog. At 13, Valerie remained a responsible young person; a good student who’d garnered recognition for many achievements. Bebe, and her husband Jim, thought their daughter deserved another dog.

According to Bebe, “We often visited family friends on their ranch where they had German Shorthaired Pointers. Valerie came to really liked the breed.” At that time, the Farywicz family was living in Plano, Texas, but usually traveled to spend time with family in Arkansas during the holiday season. During one of those visits, Bebe and Jim located a German Shorthaired Pointer breeder in Arkansas.That Christmas, Valerie’s surprise present was a puppy she named Kris, in the spirit of the holiday.

Bebe says Kris was very sweet, affectionate and smart even as a pup. He was a working dog, however, always chasing birds, butterflies, dragon flies, squirrels, and rabbits. His instinct for pointing birds found him running hard on the family’s 500 acre ranch, often until he dropped. Unfortunately, due to these breed traits, Kris eventually became lost in March 2013. “We lived in a house with a fenced in back yard. There was a partially broken picket, and Kris managed to break through the picket, probably chasing after an animal. By the time I realized he was gone, it was too, late,” Bebe sadly recalls.

The Farywiczs searched for Kris long and hard, doing everything possible to find him; visiting at least 50 shelters, calling vets, and putting up signs. But three months later, when the family relocated to Arkansas, the local ground search ended with their move. For several months, however, Bebe continued to search online.

As you can imagine the unresolved loss of their beloved dog was devastating. “Our hearts were broken. I had terrible thoughts of him getting injured, being out in the cold (which he did not like), or crying during storms,” Bebe says. The family held out hope that someone had found Kris and had taken care of him, but remained distressed about his unresolved disappearance.

Then, in June 2017, Bebe received a call from a veterinarian in Texas – Kris had been found by a rescue group in the town of Garland. With the information contained on his microchip he’d been traced to them. “I couldn’t believe my ears,” Bebe says. The rescuers who’d taken Kris in loved him and were so excited about finding his family that they drove that night all the way from Texas to Arkansas; at least a six hour drive, to reunite him with the Faryewiczs.

When Kris was found he was weak, dehydrated, skinny, had hookworms and suffered from lung inflammation. When the rescue group brought him to the vet, it had been determined that Kris hadn’t been on his own that long because he was relatively healthy; he had no liver or kidney problems. At age twelve, however, he’d become blind and deaf. According to Bebe, “We suspect someone took care of him for quite a while, and they either ignored the chip information, or never mentioned he was micro chipped to a vet. And we’re guessing, despite his advanced age, he’d escaped somehow, like he had done with us. I’m sure his new owners loved him like we did. At least, that’s our hope.”

Kris may have begun his life with the Faryewicz family as a Christmas gift, but his lasting gift was that of reunion defined as the act of getting people, and their pets, together again after they have been apart. Bebe, Jim, their son Jimmy and of course Valerie, remain grateful for all those who were involved in their dog’s rescue and return.

Microchipping is an inexpensive, simple, permanent, and painless procedure that can be safely administered by your dog’s veterinarian. Remember to register the microchip so that it’s included in a national database, and keep your contact information updated when you move. To ensure your dog’s chip is operational and critical information is up-to-date, ask your vet to scan your dog during an annual veterinarian checkup.

Hopefully, you’ll never experience the angst and uncertainty experienced when a pet goes missing, or is stolen. But knowing that you’ve had your dog microchipped can offer a sense of hope and ultimately, the gift of reunion. Just ask the Farywicz family.

About the Author:
According to Chinese star-gazers, Lisa Begin-Kruysman was born during the Hours and the Year of the Dog. It’s no surprise then that she’s made canines the focus of her award-winning works of Fiction and Non-Fiction, and social media platform. She is the recipient of the DWAA’s Maxwell Medallion and the North Shore Animal League America Award and the author of Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher (McFarland & Co.) and other titles. Her writing is inspired by the licks and love of her adorable foster-to-forever dog, Teddy. For more information please visit:

Posted in guest post, pet care, pet stories | 3 Comments

Keeping Guinea Pigs cool in the summer – your top 12 guide

The recent warm weather has been perfect for us, but some Guinea Pig’s have suffered. Guinea Pigs can quickly overheat during the summer leading to heatstroke, which in severe cases can be fatal.

guinea pig

Unlike humans, Guinea Pigs cannot sweat – so this handy way of cooling down in humans, isn’t available for them. And if the temperature is very warm with a high humidity level (over 70%) the chances of heatstroke are even higher.

To keep your Guinea Pig cool this summer ExoticDirect have compiled this handy guide:

1. Guinea Pigs like temperatures of around 18 – 23 degrees Celsius. If the temperature goes above 26 degrees Celsius your Guinea Pig could be at risk of heatstroke. Anything below 15 degrees can lead to chills.

2. If your Guinea Pig is outside the hutch and run should not be in direct sunlight, a shady part of the garden is best.

3. North or east facing gardens are best for Guinea Pigs as these don’t get the sun all day. We’re not suggesting you move house because of your Guinea Pig, just if you have the option to move your piggy’s house, then do.

4. Ensure plenty of cold water is available. You can place a couple of ice cubes in it to cool it down further. Don’t overdo it though, as the shock of the ice also isn’t good for your Guinea Pig.

5. Wrap ice packs or frozen bottles of water in a cloth or a towel for your Guinea Pig to sit next to in his hutch.

6. Place a pan filled with ice cubes near your Guinea Pig – he or she will lie next to it to cool down. Make sure the pan is covered, to avoid your nosey Guinea Pig from taking a look and falling in!

7. Provide an old tile for your Guinea Pig to lie on. You can put this in the freezer beforehand to cool it down.

8. Give your Guinea Pig vegetables that are high in water content such as cucumber or berries. You should still make sure that your piggy’s diet is varied, with plenty of grass and hay and other vegetables. You should also still make sure that you provide your piggy with a source of Vitamin C.

9. Brush your Guinea Pig’s fur regularly to remove excess fur. If you’ve got a long haired guinea pig you could trim his coat so that it’s not so heavy, trapping heat. Imagine how you would feel wearing a heavy winter coat in the hot weather.

10. If your Guinea Pig is indoors, close the curtains – this keeps the bright sunlight out, and helps to reduce the room temperature. You’ll find this helpful for yourself too!

11. Use a fan or air conditioning making sure the draught is pointed away from your Guinea Pig. If your piggy is in a draught it could make him ill.

12. Don’t keep your Guinea Pig in sheds, garages or “Pigloo’s”. These don’t allow for air circulation or adequate ventilation, so warm air gets trapped. They can get really hot and humid.

Signs of heatstroke in a Guinea Pig

If your Guinea Pig is suffering from heatstroke, then he may well be:




Reluctant to move

Begin to have convulsions

If your Guinea Pig is showing signs of heatstroke you should cool him down by wetting his fur, ears and feet. Don’t go overboard with trying to cool him down, as if his body temperature drops too quickly, or too low, this can cause other health problems.

You should take him to the vet immediately who’ll monitor his condition and check for other complications that heat stroke can cause. It’s important you get him checked over, as heat stroke can be fatal.

ExoticDirect pet insurance can insure your Guinea Pig against unexpected vet fees, meaning that you can focus on your Guinea Pig when he’s poorly, not the cost of treatment. This can offer you real peace of mind, when you’re trying to decide the best course of action for your Guinea Pig.

And finally..

As long as you keep an eye on your Guinea Pig in the hot weather, and follow these measures, the threat of heatstroke should be minimal. Just like any other family member, your Guinea Pig just needs you to look out for him when the weather gets a bit too hot.

Guest post courtesy of Tamara Labelle of ExoticDirect pet insurance

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