Spring officially arrives on Wednesday, March 20, and I am sure almost everyone is ready for warmer temperatures, sunshine, and bountiful color!
This is the time of year when many of us dream of vibrant flowers in shades of red, yellow, purple, and blue, livening up the lawns that have been white or brown for so long. We envision working in our yards and gardens, preparing the soil (if it’s not still frozen), and we muse over seed catalogs and/or visit home and garden centers pondering ideas for making our residences sparkle with rainbow colors. We may even visit Home and Garden Shows, like the one coming to my town this weekend, seeing the outdoor trends and thinking how we might implement those plants, ornaments, and water features into our outdoor spaces.
In addition to spring’s arrival, the month of March is Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month. Did you know many types of plants and flowers are poisonous to pets and that some garden products and insecticides are toxic to our furry friends as well? As you think about spring preparation and planting, and if you have pets, keep in mind some plants and preparation products are hazardous to animals.
For example, tulips, azaleas, and lilies are toxic to dogs and cats. If you plant these flowers, you may need to erect a decorative fence around them – and keep your dog on a leash when in the area of planting and keep your cat indoors.
Many yard and lawn products are also toxic to our pets, including Roundup, which is highly used on lawns, gardens, and fields. In fact, lawn and garden products, such herbicide and fertilizer, insecticides, rodenticides, and plants are among the top 10 pet poison calls received by the (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in 2017.
Don’t let your beloved furry friend become one of those statistics; plan well with safety in mind for your spring and summer planting!
If you believe your pet has ingested a potential poison, contact your vet immediately as well as the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline; the number is (888) 426-4435
Three great references you should view and read as you plan your spring planting include:
ASPCA.com – Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List:
YourDogAdvisor.com – Garden Safety: Toxic Plants and Other Hazards in Your Own Backyard:
PetPoisonHelpline.com – Things in Your Yard That Are Poisonous to Pets:
Today, March 13, is America’s National K9 Veterans Day. Military working dogs are vital to America’s military. Sentry duty, explosive detection, and casualty location are just a few of the jobs these special animals are trained to do.
The different branches of the military use dogs as does the Coast Guard, which is under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security. Many of these animals go on patrol with their handlers, a great number are used to sniff out bombs and drugs, and some even learn to leap from helicopters for search and rescue and other missions.
Whether conducting searches, sniffing for explosives or drugs, or going on patrol, the military’s faithful canines serve their handlers, their units, and our country.
Dogs and other animals have served in war for centuries. Whereas they may have been “disposable” before, today’s military K9s are important members of their service’s units. A memorial for war dogs was dedicated in 2006.
There is also a strong movement in our nation that, upon retirement, a military working dog goes to live with its handler or its handler’s family. For decades, these brave canines were classified as “equipment” and often left overseas. The American Humane Association has worked with Congress to change this and to reunite retired military working dogs with their handlers as well as provide service and therapy dogs for human veterans in need.
Military heroes are both two-legged and four-legged, and oftentimes, they work together to serve our country. Let’s remember and honor those who keep us safe!
Learn more about K9s in the military and this special day to honor them here: https://www.military.com/veterans-day/k9-veterans-day.html
When feeding time comes around, does what your pet ingests really matter? The answer is a resounding YES!
Pet food recalls happen frequently. Salmonella, Listeria, Vitamin D, even poisons and meds like phenobarbital have made it into commercial dog and cat food. Whether the pet food is dry, canned, or raw, recalls take place frequently, and it seems to not matter if the brand is considered quality, recommended by veterinarians (ie, Hill’s Science Diet), or poorly manufactured – pet foods are susceptible to manufacturing problems and recalls.
Since my springer mix, Mary, was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, I’ve been more conscious about what food I feed her. I alternate between giving her “people food,” such as chicken, turkey, and lean burger, a quality grain-free kibble (grains contain starches, and carbohydrates, such as potatoes and rice can cause cancer cells to grow), and grain-free FreshPet, a semi-cooked pet food that is refrigerated. FreshPet has never experienced a recall, and upon reading the ingredients found in the grain-free turkey roll, I discovered many of those ingredients (such as blueberries and spinach) are recommended in a cancer diet for pets. I’m fortunate that a pet supply store in my community carries this brand and this type of food in particular (FreshPet is found in many stores, but not necessarily the grain-free turkey food). If you look online, some people believe the product contributed to their pet’s death while others highly praise the product. Mary has been eating it off and on for the past few months, and she is doing fine.
Like any pet food product, one can find positive reviews and negative ones. Choosing a pet food is not necessarily easy.
Therefore, I highly encourage pet owners to conduct research; don’t just buy a food product because “that’s what we’ve always fed our animals.” Talk with other pet owners. Talk with your veterinarian. Do online research. Sites such as DogFoodAdvisor.com, Petful.com, and ConsumerSearch.com can help you find good food for your pets. Many sites also list pet food recalls, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Even if you feed your pet “human food,” such as chicken, beef, and turkey, spinach, blueberries, and kale, you should keep an eye open and an ear to the ground regarding recalls and alerts (remember the recent Romaine Lettuce problem?) These foods can also become contaminated with E. coli, Salmonella, and other bad things. I thoroughly wash vegetables and fruits and cook meats before feeding such things to my dog just as I do before eating these products myself.
Whether you feed your pet kibble, canned pet food, raw, or partially cooked human food, do your homework – research, investigate, discuss, and then choose what you think is best for your furry friend. Even if you pay more to feed your pet, a trip to the veterinarian and the potential (or actual) loss of your companion are much higher costs than providing the best healthy diet possible.
For more information as well as guides on buying pet food and discovering which foods have recalls, visit the following sites:
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.