Solutions For Litter Box Problems

Few things are as frustrating as when your cat eliminates outside the litter box--peeing, pooping, or spraying in unwanted areas. Such inappropriate elimination can have multiple causes including medical issues, litter box aversion, and stress, and the root cause must be quickly addressed. The fact is, cats are creatures of habit, and the longer they eliminate out of the box, the harder it is to get them to quit.

In general, we consider urination on horizontal surfaces to be “inappropriate urination” and spraying urine on vertical surfaces to be “urine marking”. The difference can be subtle to an owner, but identifying one from the other is important when looking for cause. The best way to know if your cat is urinating inappropriately or spraying is to catch them in the act: a spraying cat will stand, lifts its tail and quiver, and then spray in several consistent locations. Too, cats don’t squat to spray as they do to urinate.

Why does my cat pee or poop outside the litter box?

The most common reasons a cat urinates outside of its box:

The most common reasons a cat defecates outside of its box:

The most common reason a cat sprays urine:

  • To establish or maintain territory
  • Because of a perceived threat such as a new cat in the home or nearby outside cats
  • Out of frustration such as insufficient playtime or restrictive diets
  • In response to the smell of new carpet or furniture
  • To advertise they are ready to mate
  • In multi-cat households, especially with 4 or more cats

How do I fix the problem?

When your cat is eliminating out of the box it's imperative that you find the root cause and address the issue as soon as possible, as the longer the behavior persists, the more likely it is to become a habit. The hunt for a cause involves ruling-out disease, litter box aversion, and stress or territorial behavior as the culprits.

Step One…Vet visit

The first step is a visit with your vet for a complete physical exam, a deep dive into the history of all stressors as well as the “what-where-when” of the occurrences, a urinalysis, sometimes a chemistry panel and, rarely, abdominal imaging.  Frequently a medical condition is diagnosed, treatment is started, and your cat goes back to using the box. Problem solved!

Step Two…Impeccable Litter Box Management

Sometimes a medical disease just isn’t found. This is when you want to be doubly sure that your litter boxes are attracting your cat and not running them off. The perfect litter box environment comes down to the right box, the right litter, and the right location.

  • Have plenty of boxes. The rule of thumb is at least one box more than the number of cats. For instance, a household with 2 cats should have 3 boxes.
  • Have plenty of room in the box. Cats like space in a litter box, especially if they have arthritis, so an ideal box is at least 1.5 times the length of your cat. An under-the-bed sweater box with the lid removed works great.
  • Clean the box. Be sure to scoop out the boxes twice a day, and use a scoop that gets to the bottom of the box to remove all of the clumps; cats have a keen sense of smell and can be turned away by offensive odors. Replenish the litter as needed in order to be sure there is always 2 to 3 inches of litter in the box. Then, once a week dump all the litter and wash the box with a mild, non-scented dish detergent, rinse, dry, and add fresh litter.
  • Replace the box. Because plastic retains smells even with the best of cleaning, replace your boxes every few months. Cats can detect smells a human can’t.
  • Make access easy. Older or arthritic cats may need a box with very low sides and easy to step into. Too, be sure you have boxes on each story of your house, at each end, and even in the middle. Cats are lazy—they don’t like to walk far to use a box.
  • Find the favored litter. The types of available litter are staggering: clumping, non-clumping, scented, non-scented, pellets, crystals, clay, corn, wheat, pine, etc. However, most cats prefer fine-grained, unscented litter. If you're not sure which to use do a “litter test” by placing a variety of litters each in their own box and see which your cat prefers, and then stick with it--cats don’t like change.
  • Location matters. Ideally boxes should be placed in peaceful, private areas away from stalking housemates (dogs, cats), noisy objects (appliances, air ducts, children, doorbells), doorways, and room deodorizers or air fresheners. No tight spaces, either, as cats need room to stand and move around. Some cats like covered boxes and some cats like a 360-degree view or multiple ways out of the box area, so be creative and provide choices. Boxes should be spread in multiple locations rather than grouped all in one location. Occasionally a cat has a preferred location to eliminate and can’t be deterred from that spot. The solution is to put a box in that exact spot and, after the box is being reliably used, move it a few inches each day to slowly relocate to another area. Alternatively, try placing food bowls and treats in previously soiled areas. Playing with your cat in that space and leaving toys there may also be helpful.
  • Clean areas of previous inappropriate elimination. Cats are creatures of habit so all areas or items that have urine or feces on them should be cleaned immediately and the odors must be neutralized. It's important to treat or replace all carpet (and associated padding), and eliminate bathmats and throw rugs where possible. Avoid ammonia and vinegar as it encourages repeat eliminations. Cover the cleaned areas with tarps or heavy grade plastic until the behavior stops. Don't forget, simply closing the door to a room that has been soiled (and cleaned) to prevent access is perfectly acceptable. 
  • Automatic litter boxes: Some cats like self-cleaning boxes and some don’t, so if you're using one, assume it could be part of the problem until proven otherwise. The key is to provide a regular box in a different location from the automatic box and check your cat's preference. 

Step Three...Eliminate or Treat Stress

As charmed a life as most of our cats live it seems unthinkable they can be racked with anxiety. But it's true--cats quietly live high-stressed lives. There are anti-anxiety medications available through your veterinarian which may help alleviate some of their stress, but they aren't effective without concurrent changes in your household to de-stress the environment.

  • First and foremost understand the nature of your cat--they are unlike any other pet, and they have very special behavioral requirements.
  • Neuter and spay every cat in your household to reduce the influence of hormones.
  • When possible, don't add more stress by adding more cats. Relationships are complicated, even for cats.
  • If your cat lives inside, only, consider allowing your cat to have supervised and/or protected outdoor time.
  • Establish routines and keep them: same feeding times, undisturbed sleeping times and places, and quality play time with you for 10 minutes or more twice a day. Cats don't like change.
  • Have fresh food and water available in multiple rooms throughout the house, but away from the litter boxes.
  • Encourage a more normal range of behaviors in your cat with Environmental Enrichment and toys which occupy their time and reduces boredom.
  • Increase vertical spaces in your home by adding shelves on the walls, and tall multi-storied cat condos, in the rooms the cats spend time and where altercations occur.
  • Place collars with bells on all of your cats so they hear each other coming.
  • Give your cat a room of their own in order to retreat when desired. Even a closet or large crate works. FACT is an alternative way to provide a refuge for your cat
  • Identify the outside stimuli and diffuse or remove it. For instance, motion-detecting sprinklers can deter cats from entering your yard. In addition, discourage your cat from looking outside by limiting access to windows, closing blinds, using double-sided tape on windowsills, or using scat mats where needed.
  • Place  Feliway diffusers throughout the house, use calming collars, and give Bach's Rescue Remedy a try. 
  • Finally, you may need to separate feuding cats who live in the same household, and reintroduce them slowly.
  • Consulting with a veterinary behavior specialist is often the best place to start as they are a wealth of information on behavioral modification.

Step Four...Litter Box Boot Camp - Behavioral Modification

If you've jumped through all the hoops and completed Steps One through Three, and yet your cat is still eliminating outside of the litter box, then Litter Boot Camp may be the next step. Boot Camp combines a simple routine with an attractive litter environment to encourage the use of the box. Each level of boot camp last 2 weeks but if your cat fails a level, they go back to Level One and begins again.

You start camp by creating a "studio apartment" for your cat. A large dog crate works well. These are typically made of thick wire and have a removable plastic tray in the bottom. Place in the crate a litter box with litter, a food and water bowl, and an empty plastic cat carrier (the cat's bed). This gives the cat a place to eat, drink, sleep, and eliminate. It's no-frills but it provides all your cat's basic needs.

Level One: Your cat is confined in the studio apartment. He can come out only in your arms or on the end of a leash you are holding. When he has successfully used the litter box (no mistakes) for 2 weeks he graduates to,

Level Two: Confinement to the studio apartment unless he is within eyesight in the same room with you and you are awake/paying attention. With no mistakes for 2 weeks he graduates to,

Level Three: Confined to the studio apartment unless he is in the same room with you, or one room away, but still within eyesight and you are awake/paying attention. With no mistakes for 2 weeks he graduates to,

Level Four: Confined to the studio apartment unless you are at home and you are awake/paying attention. With no mistakes for 2 weeks he graduates to,

Level Five: Confined to "studio apartment" while you are at work or asleep. Loose in the house when you are home, even if you are not paying direct attention, and while you run short errands (less than a few hours). With no mistakes for 2 weeks he graduates to,

Level Six (a.k.a., "regular life"): No more confinement! Loose in the house at all times even when you are not home for more than a few hours/overnight.

Phew! You can see that when cats pee and poop out of the litter box it can be a complex problem, but it IS solvable, and most of the time in quick form. Give us a call with any additional questions, 281.351.7184, or reach out at

We love 'em like you do!

To Declaw or Not?

I’m frequently asked how much it costs to declaw a cat. I think the better question is: how much will it cost my cat to be declawed? Because declawing is not a benign procedure, and it can cause serious long-term consequences. So, let’s unwrap the declawing issue…

Why do cats scratch on stuff?

Scratching is a normal behavior of cats:

  • It conditions the claws by removing the fine sheath covering.

  • It serves as a territorial maker. When cats scratch they deposit scent from special glands in their paws on to the object. Too, scratch marks left behind are a sign of confidence.

  • It creates healthy muscles through stretching.

  • Claws are used as a defense.

In many cases a cat can be trained to scratch only on appropriate surfaces. However, some cats’ inappropriate scratching behavior can become destructive or injure people. When this happens an owner often turns to declawing in an effort to stop the damage.

What is declawing?

Declawing is a major orthopedic surgery that involves the amputation of a cat’s third toe bone and the associated claw. Generally this procedure is done on the ten toes of the two front feet. Declawing requires general anesthesia and proper pain management. It also requires an experienced veterinarian as leaving any bone fragments behind can cause chronic, debilitating pain.

What are the downsides of declawing?

  • Amputation is a painful surgery.

  • Bone pain or numbness can result.

  • In their later years cats can develop debilitating arthritis in their feet and/or chronic back pain.

  • Some cats develop bad behaviors after the procedure, including biting people, avoiding the litter box, and excessive licking or chewing of fur.

  • Declawed cats have a difficult time defending themselves and are less likely to climb trees--another defensive tactic.

What are alternatives to declawing?

  • Provide scratching surfaces such as boards, tall posts, or other enticements throughout the home. Try different surfaces, too—cloth, wood, cardboard, carpet—many cats have a preference. Especially place the scratching surface near furniture or other inappropriately scratched areas in order to redirect the behavior. Scent the scratch surface with catnip—I prefer dried flakes over liquid catnip. Too, I’m not a fan of scratch pads infused with catnip as cats will often eat the cardboard.

  • Trim nails every 1 to 2 weeks. Human nail clippers work great for this.

  • Or apply nail caps every 4 to 6 weeks.

  • Use positive reinforcement training as punishment is not effective--cats see no link between the punishment and their bad behavior.

  • Use environmental enrichment techniques to occupy your cat’s time and decrease boredom.

  • Discourage scratching of inappropriate surfaces by attaching double-sided tape or aluminum foil to the area.

  • Use a scat mat to deter your cat from returning to areas they damage.

The bottom-line is that declawing should be considered only as an absolute last resort when all other strategies are unsuccessful, and only in cases in which a cat’s scratching would necessitate euthanasia.

At Spring Creek Animal Hospital, we will declaw cats and kittens in some instances, but in all cases we ask the owner to make a careful and thoughtful choice before proceeding with this surgical procedure…because declawing is a “forever” decision.

Give us a call if you have questions about declawing!

We really do “love ‘em like you!”


Quicky FAQ's on Vet Care for Dogs

Dogs are like babies--they require care and feeding on a regular basis. Some of that "care" includes vaccinations, parasite prevention, and disease screening.  There's a lot of confusing information on vet care for dogs, so here's our super simple "who/what/when" primer we use with dogs and puppies in our hospital. It includes the basic services/medications each healthy puppy and adult dog should receive.


  • Examination -- first visit and then every 3 weeks (i.e., with every set of vaccinations) until 16 weeks of age.
  • DHP-P (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvo) vaccination -- first given at 6 to 8 weeks of age, then boosted every 3 weeks until at least 16 weeks of age.
  • Rabies vaccination -- given at 12 weeks of age. It cannot be given earlier.
  • Leptospirosis vaccination -- first given at 12 weeks of age, then boosted 3 weeks later. It can be given as early as 8 weeks of age if necessary.
  • Bordetella vaccination (oral) -- given at 12 weeks of age to dogs who will be groomed, boarded, or go to dog parks and the like. It can be given as early as 8 weeks of age if necessary.
  • Influenza vaccination (bivalent) -- first given at 12 weeks of age, then boosted 3 weeks later, to dogs who will be groomed, boarded, or go to dog parks and the like. It can be given as early as 6 weeks of age if necessary.
  • Start monthly heartworm preventive at first visit.
  • Start monthly flea control at first visit.
  • Fecal Analysis -- tests for intestinal parasites: worms, coccidia, giardia.
  • Deworming -- at first visit and as needed.


  • Examination -- annually
  • Heartworm test -- annually
  • Fecal analysis -- annually
  • DHP-P vaccination - the vaccination is boosted within a year of the original, and then boosted every 3 years. (Dogs that are older than 20 weeks of age may not need a 3-week booster after their initial vaccination--see Puppy Schedule).
  • Leptospirosis vaccination -- annually
  • Rabies vaccination -- the vaccination is boosted within a year of the original (365 days or less), and then boosted within every 3 years.
  • Bordetella vaccination (oral) -- annually for dogs who will be groomed, boarded, or go to dog parks and the like.
  • Influenza vaccination (bivalent) -- annually for dogs who will be groomed, boarded, or go to dog parks and the like.
  • Heartworm preventive -- monthly
  • Flea control -- monthly
  • Geriatric/Senior blood profile -- starting at 7 years of age and then annually.

Note: if an adult dog presents as overdue for Leptospirosis or Influenza vaccination by more than 18 months, these will need an initial vaccination and a boosted vaccination in 2 to 4 weeks.

Hope this helps! For a more details on each disease, see A Texas Version -- Dog Vaccinations. For in-depth info on vaccination protocols see the 2017 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines.

For additional info or to schedule an appointment, call us at 281.351.7184 or online at

We love 'em like you do!


6 Tips for Dental Home Care for Dogs/Cats

Dental disease is the number one diagnosis I make day-in and day-out in our hospital. In fact, a recent nationwide study revealed that 93% of dogs and 88% of cats older than 3 years of age have periodontal disease. Unchecked, dental disease destroys gums, teeth, and bone, and can lead to bacterial infection in the blood stream and vital organs.

Before your pet’s plaque (that slimy bio-film on their teeth) has progressed to periodontal disease, here are 6 proven-effective things you can do to improve their dental health:      

Tooth brushing: Yes, I’m sorry to say, brushing your pet’s teeth daily or every other day is the gold-standard to preventing the build-up of plaque. Nothing else comes close. The mechanical action of the brushing coupled with the dissolving action of the toothpaste is key. Sadly, studies show brushing once a week or less had no effect at all on dental health. Be sure to use toothpaste, such as C.E.T., specifically formulated for companion animal use, and stay away from human toothpaste. 

Dental wipes: Infused wipes (such as DentAcetic Dental Wipes) are used to mechanically remove the plaque and apply plaque control agents to the teeth. These work well, but be careful as you're putting your fingers in harm's way of teeth that bite.    

Cotton-tipped applicators: Think of these as mini-wipes without the plaque control agent. Cats, especially, are more receptive to this type of cleaning, especially if the applicator is dipped in tuna juice.

Diet. Unfortunately, hard food alone does not prevent plaque or tartar accumulation, even with prescription dental diets (such as Purina DH). Yes, the teeth are mechanically cleaned as food is chewed, but only a small number of teeth are involved in the process, and those that aren’t touched don’t benefit.

Soluble dental chews: Some of these (such as C.E.T. Chews) will mechanically remove plaque with chewing, but the same problem exists as with hard food—not all of the teeth are touched. Too, some dental chews have been implicated in choking injuries. 

Water additives: These have been developed to be added to a cat or dog’s water. Healthy Mouth seems to be the water additive of choice of veterinary dentists.

There are thousands of dental home care products on the market, but only a small number of these are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) as they have been proven to remove the accumulation of plaque and/or calculus by at least 20%. Click here for accepted dog products and here for accepted cat products.

Ultimately, a complete dental examination and dental cleaning is the only way to combat periodontal disease once it’s taken root. Give us a call at 281.351.7184 for more info. You can also schedule an appointment at

We love ‘em like you do!”

Top 5 Puppy Behavior Tips

It's that happy time of year at our office when we get covered up with brand-new, cute and cuddly Christmas puppies. Come springtime, however, many of these puppies will have morphed into fiendish little devils, and their owners will be quite surprised.

If you're getting a puppy this Holiday Season, it's critical that you understand "good-dogs" don't "just happen", and behavioral problems are the main reason dogs are relinquished to a shelter. A well-behaved dog is the result of early training by a great owner!

Here are the 5 most important tips for training your new puppy:

1. Puppy training should begin IMMEDIATELY and cannot wait until after the puppy is fully vaccinated. Between 4 and 14 weeks of age, puppies are the most prepared to accept new people and animals than at any other time. This is prime-time for socialization--introduce your puppy to anything they may encounter as an adult during these formative weeks such as:

--a variety of people (old, young, male, and female);

--healthy, fully-vaccinated, and friendly dogs owned by trustworthy friends;

--other species such as cats, livestock, birds, ferrets, etc;

--being held, touched, groomed, and tooth brushing;

--a variety of sights, smells, and sounds (use your smartphone, especially for thunderstorm sounds).

Be smart about these encounters, however. Until a puppy has completed his vaccination series (at 16 weeks of age), he is at risk of contracting an infectious life-threatening disease. So, stay away from dog parks and don't take him shopping at pet stores where he could interact with a questionable dog.

2. You must understand "normal" puppy behavior, as puppies that are fearful, aggressive, or unwilling to explore or interact need IMMEDIATE help. This behavior can often be changed if the training is started before 14 weeks of age. 

Normal, healthy puppies explore calmly or playfully, exhibit friendly behavior, are responsive when invited to interact, and can tolerate an examination. Some subtle signs of stress include yawning, lip licking, looking sleepy, and/or refusing treats when being handled.

3. You must train for desired behaviors, and train to prevent frustrating behaviors.

Densensitize the collar

  • Keep a bowl of his kibble (dry food) on the counter in the kitchen to use as training treats.
  • Whenever you enter the kitchen, pick up a kibble, reach down and lightly tug on your puppy's collar, and then quickly reward him with praise and give him the kibble with your hand that is not holding his collar. Do this with your left and then right hand. Repeat many times throughout the day.
  • This is a critical first training step as it gets your puppy used to the collar, he learns to settle down quickly, and it teaches the beginning of "sit" and "recall" (or "come") when called.

Prevent jumping

  • Teach your puppy to sit, and ask him to sit before anyone pets him. Initially, holding toys or treats can keep a puppy's attention until he sits.
  • For overzealous puppies, 1 person can hold a leash just taut enough so sitting is more comfortable than jumping up.

Prevent house soiling

  • Supervision is critical; it's important to create an elimination schedule for puppies.
  • Active puppies need to urinate as often as every 15 minutes. Puppies typically eliminate immediately after they wake up and within 10-15 minutes of eating or drinking.
  • When supervision is not possible, puppies should be confined to a safe area or crate.
  • If puppies need to be left alone for extended periods, provide a safe opportunity for relief. Confinement areas should include a sleeping place and a designated substrate for toileting. For example, a crate with bedding may be placed inside a larger enclosure such as a play-yard that contains a pad for elimination. Puppies should be left for no more than 1 hour for every 1 month in age, plus 1 additional hour.
  • If a “mistake” occurs despite these preventive strategies, puppies should not be scolded—they are still learning. Reprimands and raised voices create confusion and fear.
  • Clean up accidents thoroughly with enzyme-based cleaners. If possible, place paper towels used for clean-up outside in areas designated for your puppy's elimination.

Prevent mouthing

  • Puppies often mouth when they become excited during petting or play. Always keep a toy handy. It is easy to teach puppies to hold a toy instead of a hand.  
  • Games such as fetch can keep puppies focused on toys instead of hands; do not encourage your puppy to play with your hand.

Prevent destructive behavior

  • Puppies explore the world with their mouths and benefit from having an assortment of toys that are regularly rotated to retain novelty. Make sure these toys are non-destructible, as some puppies will swallow foreign objects which may cause intestinal blockage.
  • When supervision is not available, puppies should be confined in a safe area or crated with a safe chew toy or long-lasting treat.
  • Food-dispensing toys keep puppies busy—at least 1 meal a day can be fed in a food-dispensing toy.

4. All puppies benefit from structured, reward-based puppy training classes. Pick a class that has a calm atmosphere, is respectful to owners and puppies, and is reward-based. It's best to avoid classes that use confrontational training methods as studies show they are associated with fear and aggression in dogs.

5. Let your veterinarian know if your puppy exhibits any undesirable behaviors such as jumping up, growling, excessive barking, mouthing, destructive behavior, or housebreaking problems. You may be able to tolerate these for the short term, but most puppies will not "outgrow" these behaviors and, in fact, they often get worse with age. I can't stress enough that eliminating bad behavior by training a puppy after 16 weeks of age is infinitely more difficult than training in those earlier weeks.

We're happy to help you with your new puppy! If you have questions about vaccinations, training, deworming, heartworm or flea control, microchipping your puppy, or puppy diseases give us a call at 281.351.7184 or contact us at

We love 'em like you do!

Top 5 Halloween Pet Safety Tips

Halloween is right around the corner. To help you prepare for the big night ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center put together a list of the 5 most commonly noted Halloween-related problems.

1) Lock candy safely away. Kids love to stash candy in their rooms, but a dog's keen sense of smell will lead him to even the most cleverly hidden treasure. Contact a veterinary professional right away if your pet does get into Halloween candy, especially if it contains chocolate or is sugar-free and contains xylitol.

2) Don't leave glow sticks lying around. Glow sticks are used to help keep kids safe while they are out in the dark. Pets (especially cats) find these glow sticks to be a lot of fun as well, and we commonly get calls about pets puncturing the sticks. While most of them are labeled as non-toxic, they do have an extremely bitter taste and we will often see pets who bite into them drooling and racing around the house. A little treat or sip of milk will usually stop the taste reaction.

3) Keep your pet identified and visible. There are a lot of extra people on the streets at Halloween, and that combined with strange costumes can spook pets and cause them to bolt. If you take your pet out after dark, make sure he or she wears a reflective collar and is securely leashed. And make sure your pet has proper identification on the collar and a microchip.

4) Calm your pet. Even pets who are kept indoors may experience intense anxiety over the large number of strangely dressed visitors. Keeping your pet away from trick-or-treaters may do the trick, but if you think more will be needed be sure and speak with your vet well in advance about options to help calm your pet.

5) Check those costumes. Costumes can be fun for the whole family. If you are planning on dressing up your best bud, ensure that the costume fits well and isn't going to slip and tangle the pet or cause a choking hazard if chewed on. Never leave a costumed pet unattended.

As always, we're here to serve--give us a call with any of your dog or cat health-related needs, or 281.351.7184.

We love 'em like you do!


Emergency Evac-Pack for Pets

Harvey, in whatever form, is just about upon us in the Gulf Coast region. Now's the time to have a pet emergency plan and supplies.

Consider creating an Evac-Pack for your pets. Make sure that everyone in the family knows where it is. This kit should be clearly labeled and easy to carry.

Items to consider keeping in or near your pack include:

  • Water: at least 7 days worth of bottled water for each person and pet.

  • Food: enough for at least a week if not longer. Store the food in water tight containers. Remember, changing diets leads to diarrhea and dehydration, so try your best to prevent food change.

  • Pet feeding dishes.

  • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant.

  • Proper transport: a crate, sturdy carrier, or traveling bag, preferably one for each pet. Be sure the carrier is large enough for your pet to stand, turn around, and lie down. Protective underpads should be considered to line the carrier in case of accidents. 

  • Pet First-Aid Kit.

  • Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans work great).

  •  Litter (scoopable is best), paper towels, and plastic bags for waste clean-up.

  • Extra harness or collar with I.D. tags, and leash. For dogs include a long leash and yard stake.

  • Photocopies of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires. 

  • Flashlight.

  • Blanket (for scooping up a fearful pet).

  • Recent photos of your pets in case you are separated and need to make "Lost" posters.

  • Make sure your pets are microchipped and up to date on vaccinations

  • Identify shelters and pet-friendly hotels in advance.

Finally, be sure to take care of your family and have a human emergency kit. Include batteries, duct tape, flashlight, radio, multi-tool, tarp, rope, permanent marker, spray paint, baby wipes, protective clothing and footwear, extra cash, rescue whistle, important phone numbers (including emergency contact numbers outside your immediate area), extra medication, and copies of medical and insurance information. Too, keep a NOAA Weather Radio tuned to your local emergency station.

For additional information:

Helping Pets - FEMA

Pets and Animals - .gov

Disaster Preparedness - ASPCA

Disaster Preparedness - CDC

Stay safe out there and let us know how we can help you! 281.351.7184 or

We love 'em like you do!

Code Red: Distemper Outbreak in Harris County

Be sure your dog's Distemper vaccination is up-to-date as Harris County is having an outbreak of this disease.

HCPH Veterinary Public Health has issued an urgent alert regarding the rise of distemper in the Harris County pet population. The Harris County Animal Shelter has enacted Code Red Protocols which include strict isolation and quarantine of sick and exposed animals and enhanced bio-security for visitors and staff. What makes this disease difficult to identify in shelters is the long incubation period: dogs who have contracted Canine Distemper can shed the virus for weeks to months.

Here is HCPH - VPH's news release, June 25, 2017:

The Harris County Animal Shelter has recently seen an increase in the Canine Distemper virus in our shelter dogs.

The shelter is aware of 10 cases of Canine Distemper. The dogs in question were in the shelter during the period of June 15 – July 14. Our on-going investigation is tracing any possible exposures to these dogs while they were in the shelter and contacting adopters, rescues, and fosters who now have these dogs. The dogs that may have been exposed, either in the shelter or in foster care are being tested for the virus. We are taking additional steps to identify infected dogs upon intake and implement proper quarantine and isolation procedures.

“Although we vaccinate all animals as they enter our shelter, we have no information about their health history. They may be shedding the infectious Canine Distemper virus without showing any signs of disease until days later. At that point, they may have already exposed other dogs to the disease.” said Dr. Michael White, director of the Harris County Animal Shelter.

Canine Distemper is a highly contagious, potentially deadly disease caused by a virus which attacks the respiratory (eye, nose, throat), nervous system (brain and nerves) and/or the gastrointestinal system (stomach and intestines). It can also lead to life-long damage in some recovered animals. Young puppies and dogs that have not been vaccinated or which have a weak immune system are most at risk. However, any dog can become infected and sick with the disease.

Canine Distemper virus is spread from animal to animal or in the air. Since our shelter was built in 1986, it consistently holds many more animals than it was designed for due to lack of adequate space. These conditions may cause diseases to spread more easily

Symptoms include: 

  • Runny eyes and nose (respiratory signs)
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Depression
  • Muscle twitching or seizures
  • The skin on the paws and nose can also harden

These symptoms usually develop in 1-2 weeks after exposure, but it can be as long as 4-5 weeks or even more. There is no cure for distemper and the only medical option is to treat the symptoms as they occur. Many sick dogs require extensive treatment and care in a veterinary hospital. Once nervous system signs appear (seizures & muscle twitching), the dog may never recover or may have life-long damage.

Currently vaccinated dogs can still become infected by the Canine Distemper virus, but they only show mild or no signs of the disease. It is important that you follow up on the complete series of vaccinations to help prevent this disease in your new dog or puppy. We highly recommend that you make sure any pets you have in your home are currently vaccinated against this serious disease before bringing home a new pet.

The shelter is taking every precaution possible to end this outbreak of Canine Distemper, including additional disinfecting procedures and revised animal handling procedures. Fortunately, the virus is killed by most disinfectants.

If you adopted a dog from our shelter from June 15 through July 24, 2017, and it is showing any of the described symptoms, please contact the shelter at: 281.999.3191. We can provide consultation, examination, medication(s) and testing as deemed necessary by our veterinary staff at no cost to you.

The Harris County Animal Shelter is part of Veterinary Public Health (VPH), a Division of Harris County Public Health. The Harris County Animal Shelter takes in about 20,000 stray dogs and cats from unincorporated Harris County each year. It also provides shelter, care and adoptions for homeless pets, animal control in neighborhoods, zoonotic disease surveillance, and education on responsible pet ownership.

For additional information on Canine Distemper or dog vaccination protocols, or to update your dog's vaccinations, give us a call at 281.351.7184 or contact us at

We love 'em like you do!

Fighting Fireworks Fears

Fireworks are wonderful fun for us, but many dogs are terrified by the explosions even to the point of panic, injury, or running away. Common signs of firework fear include panting, pacing, drooling, hiding, and barking. 

Here are some pointers to fight firework fears:

  • Provide a safe place: It's best to stay home with your pet if you know he has fireworks phobia. If that's not possible, be sure he is safely confined inside and well-identified with a collar/tags and a microchip. Place your dog in the basement, a center room in the house, or any room with lots of insulation in the walls, and play gentle music or white noise to drown out some of the scary sounds. Too, nervous dogs often drink lots of water, so have plenty available.
  • Provide a distraction: Use a fillable Kong-type toy to create a yummy challenge for your dog to play with during the fireworks. Fill the toy with dog food, treats, or fresh veggies and then add peanut butter (without xylitol), yogurt, or applesauce to fill the gaps. Place the toy in the freezer a few hours before the fireworks, then give it to him when the noises begin.
  • Provide comfort and love: Receiving love and comfort from trusted humans can help during panic situations. Support your dog by speaking to him in a soothing voice and offering snuggles. Your dog may also benefit from playful interactions with you, such as fetching a ball or playing with a toy.
  • Try anti-anxiety pet products: 
  1. Synthetic pheromones such as Comfort Zone Adaptil Spray or DAP.
  2. Herbal relaxants such as Composure or Rescue Remedy.
  3. Pressure wraps such as Thundershirts or Anxiety Wraps.
  4. Calming Caps or Ear Muffs.
  • Consider prescription medications: Talk to your veterinarian about the various types of short term sedatives or anti-anxiety medications that are available. It is much easier to prevent panic in your dog than stop it, so these medications are best given before the fireworks begin. Frequently used medications include trazodone, Valium, alprazolam, clomipramine, and fluoxetine. It is important to know that, although some medications may start working within hours, a few take several weeks to build up to an effective level. Too, the effect of a medication may vary so you should test it with your dog before the fireworks season starts.
  • Consider a veterinary specialist: By planning ahead, another way of getting fireworks fear under control is to schedule an appointment with a veterinary behaviorist who can work with you and your pet on true behavior modification. 

Bottom line: The most important thing you can do is begin to address your dog's firework phobia and not ignore it, as this type of fear and panic usually gets worse with time.

Give us a call if you need help this fireworks season at 281.351.7184. Or find us at

We love 'em like you do!