5 Poisonous & Potentially Deadly Items In Your Handbag

How often have you (or your wife / girlfriend) arrived home, plonked down an open handbag on the floor or couch (within reach of any fur-kids). It’s a perfectly normal and innocent thing to do, however there could be seemingly innocuous items in the handbag that could prove deadly to your pets.


Here are 5 items that may be enticing, but harmful to your pets:

1. Sugarless Chewing Gum

If you have sugar free chewing gum, sugar free mints or nicotine gum in your handbag, chances are it contains xylitol. Ingestion of even the smallest amount of xylitol (1 or 2 pieces of gum) can send a dog into hypoglycemic shock, which is life threatening, or worse liver failure. Symptoms include loss of coordination, depression, collapse and seizures in as little as 30 minutes.

2. Hand Sanitizer

These have become fashionable products in most handbags and are used to quickly sanitise hands when soap and a tap are not easily accessible. The alcohol level in hand sanitizers is dangerously high. Whilst that’s good for killing germs, it’s dangerous if ingested by your pet as it could cause hypoglycemic shock (a dangerous drop in your pet’s blood sugar level) which could lead to coma and death.

3. Cigarettes & Nicotine Products

We all know that smoking and nicotine is bad for us; however few people know that a small dog can die from ingesting just 3 cigarettes. This makes nicotine gum extremely dangerous as it not only contains nicotine, but also xylitol.

4. Headache Tablets & Anti-Inflammatories

Most pills come in plastic bottles / containers which when tossed around make an intriguing noise to most inquisitive dogs or cats. Once chewed open the pills inside are sometimes candy coated which makes them palatable and seemingly tasty treats. Tablets containing Ibuprofen are EXTREMELY toxic and emergency medical attention will be required. Symptoms include vomiting, loss of co-ordination and balance, stomach ulcers and liver failure.

5. Asthma Inhalers

If your dog bites into an asthma inhaler it will result in life threatening poisoning. When the inhaler is punctured it dispenses a large dose of albuterol into the dog’s mouth and nose. This massive dose causes toxicity by quickly elevating the heart rate to life-threatening levels, drops potassium levels dangerously low and leads to extreme weakness, lack of coordination. If not treated urgently by a veterinarian, death could result.

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Weighty Issues : How Much Should I Be Feeding My Pet?

The label on the bag of pet food provides a guideline on the amount of food recommended for your pet. However that is just a start, as you also need to take into account your pet’s age and activity level. For example pets that are highly active, pregnant or nursing young have higher requirements than the average couch-potato.

Puppies and kittens require food at more frequent intervals than their adult counterparts. They therefore need to be fed three or four times per day, depending on their age. Keep in mind that in winter the energy expenditure of your pets is likely to drop, especially with indoor pets, as they’re less active. This means that you would need to feed slightly less than you would during the summer months to maintain your pet’s current body weight. An outdoor pet however would be burning off more energy just to stay warm, thus requiring a slight increase in food portions.

In the PetPickings.com household we typically feed one-third of the daily ration in the morning, and the remaining two-thirds in the evening. Since pets have a tendency to sleep after meals, this technique works especially well for us as our pets sleep with us, so they are less likely to become restless during the night.

Dividing daily rations into 2 or 3 meals is especially important in dogs, more specifically large dogs (although not exclusively), as it lessens the chances of your dog developing ‘bloat’ / gastric torsion, which is a potentially fatal medical emergency.

Some people can get away with letting the dog decide when and how much she eats by constantly keeping a supply of dry pellets available (free-feeding). In our household however this would never work as Kira (our Jack Russel) would simply eat herself into a diabetic coma. Free feeding also rarely works in a multiple dog household, as it often creates competition and food issues.

Another reason not to free feed is that it becomes difficult to pick up when your pet’s eating pattern changes or appetite drops, which could be an early warning sign of illness.

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Our Foster Pet Blog

My husband and I have been fostering rescued pets on an ongoing basis for over a year now. I had fostered some years ago, but wasn’t able to continue due to my work travel commitments as I worked for a global IT company at the time. Having left the IT industry it made sense to get back into foster mode.

Fostering is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience, that allows us to provide a safe home to abandoned, abused and unloved animals, some of whom have never felt the loving touch of a hand. We offer them a place where their rehabilitation can begin and trust re-established before they move onto their adoptive homes.

Whilst fostering is rewarding it can also be fraught with it’s challenges at times, but there’s always those special moments that makes it all worth while. We thought we’d start sharing our foster stories to shed some light on what it takes to be a foster parent and what exactly happens behind the scenes – the good, the bad and the sometimes challenging!

To read stories / updates on our foster fur-kids, hover your cursor / pointer over on the “Our Foster Pet Blog” tab on the menu bar at the top of the page and select the story you want to read. Enjoy!


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The PetPickings.com “No Kill Revolution” Starts With YOU!

Animal overpopulation is everyone’s problem. Nothing happens without leadership. Achieving no kill success in your community depends on individuals like yourself willing to take responsibility. This does not mean looking for “someone to do something”.

That “someone” is you!


Stop thinking that there’s nothing you can do to assist the thousands of homeless animals. We all live busy lives, but we can all do something. Here are some things you can do:

  • Set the example first. Spay and neuter your all of your pets!
  • Chose to adopt a pet from a shelter instead of buying one from a breeder, back yard breeder, pet shop, puppy farm.
  • Strongly discourage friends and family from allowing their pets to breed. Where are all those puppies and kittens going to find homes? If they are all homed, that’s fewer homes available for the shelter pets that face euthanasia.
  • On your birthday, instead of gifts, ask for bags of dog or cat food and donate these to the local shelter.
  • Donate some bedding or money to purchase much needed items for a rescue organisation near you.
  • Share the pictures you see on the internet and Facebook of homeless animals that so desperately need a home. You’d be amazed how many rescued pets have found loving homes this way.
  • Spend just one morning a month volunteering at your local shelter. They are always in need of help to spend one-on-one time with the animals. Take the dogs for a walk around the grounds, play with them, bath them, play with the kitties etc …
  • See what repairs or maintenance needs to be done at your local registered rescue organisation and share your handyman talents.
  • Some animals don’t fare well in kennels, which does not bode well for them. Ask about becoming a foster parent. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. Some organisations that don’t have kennelling facilities rely solely on their network of fosters to be able to rescue animals from dire circumstances.
  • If you see an act of cruelty report it to the authorities – don’t turn a blind eye. Follow up with them to make sure it has been dealt with.
  • We can all say we love animals, but how often do we contribute to the wellbeing of animals? Stand up for what you believe in. Be their voice.
  • Educate people about what it means to be a responsible pet owner.

If we each individually take responsibility, we can win the “No Kill Revolution”.  Your effort could mean the difference between life or death for an unwanted pet, whose only “crime” was to be born.


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PetPickings.com “No Kill” Revolution Starts Today!

Nothing happens without leadership. Current media reports indicate that over 10,000 dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters across South Africa each week due to the lack of homes available for them. This equates to 40,000 per month and close on half a million every year. Simply because there aren’t enough homes to adopt them.

The difference between them being dead ... or sleeping ... is YOU!

So what can be done about it? We all need to quit sitting on the fence and thinking that there is nothing we can do to assist homeless dogs and cats, as there is ALWAYS something you can do. Achieving “No Kill” success in our communities depends on individuals willing to take responsibility. This does not mean looking for “someone to do something.” That “someone” is you. You need to make the decision to take the lead and recruit your family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Through this blog and our PetPickings.com Facebook Page, we’ll show you how to become a warrior and most importantly a hero in our revolution.

“Individually we are one drop, but collectively we are an ocean.” ~ Ryunosuke Satoro ~

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” ~ Mother Teresa ~

Due to the lack of available accurate and up to date collated statistics in South Africa, PetPickings.com is currently undertaking a study / research project to consolidate up to date information on the animals across shelters in South Africa. Once the study is complete, this information will be published in this blog.

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PetPickings.com Laws To Responsible Pet Ownership

Many people sadly underestimate what is involved in taking proper care of a pet. Being a  responsible pet owner is so much more than just providing adequate water, food and shelter for your pet. In this blog entry we are going to share what we consider to be the 20 “laws” when it comes to being a responsible pet parent.

  1. Owning a pet is a lifetime commitment. If you can’t make the commitment, don’t get the pet. Its really that simple and there are no excuses.
  2. As the saying goes, “Don’t buy a puppy if you don’t want a dog”. Puppies are for life. All puppies grow up and eventually become old, requiring special care in their golden years. The same rule applies to cats and all other pets.
  3. Choose a pet that fits your lifestyle. Don’t get a highly energetic dog, if you don’t have the time to exercise him. He’ll only end up channelling his energy toward ‘creative’ things that you will interpret as destructive and annoying behaviour! eg: digging up the garden, chewing the garden furniture, incessant barking etc …
  4. If you can’t afford regular grooming or can’t do the grooming yourself, pick a low maintenance dog or cat with a short and easy coat to maintain.
  5. Don’t make your pet a “backyard pet” – otherwise why have one? Pets, especially dogs, thrive on companionship and need to be with their human pack. Make them part of your family! It’ll be so rewarding :-)
  6. Spay or neuter your pets. There are thousands of homeless animals who die each year in shelters across the country. You don’t want to add to the problem. Despite the added health benefits of sterilising your pet, believe us when we tell you that your garden wall is no barrier for Fido when discovers his inner Olympic medal athelete in search of his Petunia!
  7. Be aware of weather conditions. NEVER leave your pet in the car as just 6 minutes is all that separates him from life and death. Also, leaving pets in the yard on a hot day without adequate shelter and water is risking their life. The same applies on a very cold day.
  8. Make sure your home is “pet” safe. Pesticides, medications, household cleaners, electrical cables and some houseplants can be deadly to your pet. Keep them all well out of reach. General rule of thumb – if your home is safe for young children, it should be safe for pets – keeping in mind that cats can jump!
  9. Put an identification tag on your pet… it is your pets only ticket back home. Both dogs and cats need identification!! Microchipping is excellent insurance, but an external tag is also essential as it could mean your neighbor returning your pet to you immediately instead of turning him into the pound. A simple collar tag with your personal mobile number is all it takes.
  10. Socialise your puppy at an early age – the sooner the better! Contact your local training school as they will normally have puppy socialisation classes that are safe for your puppy to attend as the first innoculation is always mandatory.
  11. Never let your pets run loose. Dogs should be walked leashes at all times. For the safety of your pet, any outdoor off leash access should be in a secure and preferably fenced area and not before your dog has mastered the recall perfectly.
  12. Unless you live in an incredibly quiet street (with little to no SLOW moving traffic or other threats), keep your cat indoors. An outdoor cat’s average lifespan is only 3 years, yet an indoor cat’s average lifespan is 14 years. In either case always bring them indoors at night time.
  13. Provide your pet with a proper diet with the right nutrition. Obesity can be as deadly as malnutrition. Be aware that some human foods can be deadly, such as chocolate, raisins whilst fatty foods can cause pancreatitis.
  14. Make sure your pets get the proper amount of exercise for their age, breed and personality. It’s a great way for you to spend quality time with them and get active yourself in the process!
  15. Keep your pets safe and out of harms way. Never leave a puppy or dog unattended in a garden where the public can see and gain access to them. Dog napping is on the increase and many dogs have been stolen whilst left alone in back yards.
  16. Always provide veterinary care for your pet when you pet is unwell. Keep their vaccinations up to date and make sure they have at least one annual check-up.
  17. Take extra precautions when you anticipate fireworks or loud thunderstorms. Fireworks and thunderstorms can be the scariest time for pets, so make sure your pets are secure indoors with some distraction like a television or radio.
  18. Be kind to your pet and show him with love how much he means to you … remember you are his whole world.
  19. Take special care of your pet during his senior years. Be kind, attentive and patient.
  20. Be the person your pet thinks you are!

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Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 4 – Visitors

This is a challenge not everyone faces as some pets love visitors and behave very well when visitors are around. If this is the case, then you’re in the fortunate position of only having to worry about your visitors behaviour and not your pets! Other pets however may be fearful, aggressive or be so full of holiday cheer that they become over-exuberant and just about obliterate your guests. You know your dogs best, so plan accordingly.

If your dog is a rescue with a background of abuse, it may be best to prepare a quiet room, away from the commotion with his blanket, favourite toys, water and food available. This should make him feel safe and less fearful of the onslaught of guests.

If you have exuberant dogs, on the other hand, you may want to do a refresher course on obedience before the holidays which will help keep them calm, more in control and less excitable. It’s always a good idea to take them for a walk before the guests arrive so that they expend most of their energy on the walk and not in flattening your guests. Its important however to let your visitors know of any household rules regarding your pets, like not leaving gates open, being aware of them sneaking out, not allowing them to jump on the couch and not feeding them from the table, not feeding them at all. We have a rather interesting one at our house – not leaving the toilet seat cover up. Our Bruno has a disgusting habit of drinking from the toilet … delightful! Defining the house rules with guests is particularly important if they are going to be staying at your home for a few days.

If you’re planing to spring clean the house in preparation for the guests arriving, be aware that certain cleaning products and disinfectants may be toxic for your pets. Be particularly aware of what you use to clean the floor in the kitchen and dining areas, as accidental spills will be temping for your dogs and cats to lick up.

With all of the festivities, guests and general chaos that surrounds the holiday season don’t forget to relax and spend some quality time with your pets. They will think that is the best gift of all!

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Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 3 – The Gifts

Gifts Under The Tree

Gifts left under the tree can be extremely tempting, especially if they are made up of rawhide or other edible items, such as home made biscuits from Aunt Betty or the box of chocolates from Granny Liz. Most often they also have pretty ribbon as part of the wrapping which could be hazzardous. It is best to place gifts under the tree only once you are able to supervise pets and children around the tree which is normally just before they are opened.

If you have decided to include your pet in the Christmas festivities (as we do) and have bought your pet a gift, make sure you remove ribbons or ties before you present gifts to them. If played with and swallowed, yarn, ribbon or string on gifts can cause intestinal obstruction, requiring emergency surgery.

Perfumes and after-shaves most often contain ethanol (alcohol) and perfumes also contain essential oils to give them their scent, which can be very toxic to pets if ingested.

Toys and gifts which contain batteries can be hazzardous in that the batteries are extremely toxic and can also cause intestinal obstruction if swallowed. Keep batteries separately in a safe place until they are ready to be inserted in the gift.

Pet Gifts and Treats

When choosing a holiday gift for your special friend, be sure it is safe – no small pieces that could come off and be swallowed. Choose healthy holiday treats for your pets and give them in moderation. If you’re unsure of what toys and treats are safe for your pets, visit a pet product store or better yet, purchase them online from a reputable online pet product store like PetPickings.com and have the products shipped to you.

Pets As Gifts

Giving a pet (puppy / kitten etc) as a gift is never a good idea, as it is a very personal choice and ultimately it is the pet that suffers for it. If someone is thinking about getting a new pet, rather give them a variety of toys, food, or books on pet care. You may also wish to give a gift certificate to purchase needed supplies once they have selected and brought home their new family member.

Similarly, if thinking about getting a new pet for yourself, remember pets are a responsibility and need routine, a time to bond with you, and are for life! Keeping this in mind, unless you are prepared to tone down the holiday spirit, it may be best to introduce a new ‘furkid’ to your family after the holidays once everything has calmed down.

You can also make the holidays more enjoyable for homeless pets, by contacting your local animal shelter or SPCA to see if you can donate food, kitty litter, toys or time. In addition, if you are able to limit the holiday disruption in your home, you may even consider fostering a pet over the holiday season and in doing so save a life. Sadly the number of unwanted pets soars in the all the shelters around the country during holiday which means an increase in the euthanasia numbers as the facilities reach full capacity. Fostering a pet, frees up that space at the shelter. There are a number of rescue organisations that have no kennels and are only able to rescue animals when they have a foster home available to take them in. Two that we work closely with are African Tails and Aniwell.

With all the holiday excitement, remember to relax and spend some quality time with your family, including your pets this holiday season. Your pets will think that is the best gift of all!

“Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 4 – Visitors” follows on Monday!

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Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 2 – The Christmas Tree

A week into December and the beginning of the holiday season means Christmas trees. With all the excitement, all too often the last thing that is on anyone’s mind is the safety of their pets.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how careful we must be. Christmas trees and their decorations can be extremely hazardous for pets. We have provided some pointers on how to enjoy your Christmas tree whilst keeping your pets (and toddlers!) safe over the festive season. We don’t want any emergency vet visits over the holidays!

  • Place your Christmas tree in a broad, stable stand and attach the tree from the trunk securely to a burglar bar, hook in the wall or anything secure with something like fishing nylon that isn’t too visible. Some people even choose to place the tree inside a child’s play pen, but that’s a personal choice and not everyone has a child’s play pen around. Even though precautions may have been taken, always make sure that your pets are supervised when in a room with a tree.
  • Not many people know that pine tree needles can be toxic, contain traces of insecticides and cause mouth and stomach irritation. Even the needles and the wire of the artificial trees could pose a problem. Be sure your pet isn’t chewing on any branches or eating fallen needles.
  • Shiny and glittery tinsel is eye catching and very attractive to a curious pet. When eaten / swallowed, it can cause blockages which sometimes require emergency surgery to remove. Rather be safe and leave it off the tree altogether.
  • Angel hair and artificial snow are mildly toxic. If consumed in larger amounts, they too can cause a blockage of the intestine which is life threatening and often requires surgical intervention. We live in Africa where there is no snow in December, so our suggestion is to rather leave it off altogether.
  • Make sure that any electrical cords for the Christmas lights are tucked away behind furniture and out of reach. Chewing on electrical cords is common, especially with puppies / kittens and can cause major problems ranging from burned mouths, to electric shock and even death by electrocution. If you have larger lights on your tree, these can become very hot and also cause burns. It is best to unplug decorative lights when you are not in the room and encase exposed extension cords in PVC piping.
  • Those glass glitter balls on the tree may be beautiful, but they also look almost exactly like Fido’s favourite ball outside – well to him anyway. Dogs are often rushed into the emergency vet with serious mouth lacerations or worse – ingestion of glass, after playing with glass ornaments. Sharp ornament hooks can also become imbedded in your pet’s mouth, throat or stomach. Any ornaments that are shiny or could be swallowed or broken should be placed high up on your tree – well out of reach. Larger, less intriguing ornaments can go near the bottom.
  • Those chocolate decorations – snowmen, balls etc … gingerbread men, or any food decoration may be fun, but is asking for problems. Candy canes and gingerbread men can be as enticing to your dog as they are to children. This means that they can get amazingly creative in order to reach those delectable treats on the tree and you could run into, at best, tummy issues from candy / biscuits or worse poisoning from any chocolate, raisins etc … If your pet is a diabetic it could be fatal. Food is best left off the tree altogether.

With all of the festivities, do not forget to relax and spend some quality time with your family, which includes your pets. Your pets will think that is the best gift of all and will reward you with lots of love in return. We would like to wish everyone a peaceful and happy time over the festive season.

“Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 3 -  Gifts” follows tomorrow.

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Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 1 – Decorations & Wrappings

December marks the beginning of the holiday season which everybody welcomes after a busy year and, for those of us who are staying home, also means a time of parties, rich foods, streams of visitors, relatives from out of town, Christmas decorations, pointsettias, shopping trips, present wrapping and general festivities. With all the excitement, all too often the last thing that is on anyone’s mind is the safety of their pets.

We want the holidays to be a happy time for you and your pets, not a time for an emergency visit to your veterinarian. The food and decorations that make the festive season so much fun for us can be extremely dangerous for your pet. Whilst we don’t want to ruin the holiday spirit, we do want you to be aware of the potential dangers and plan carefully to avoid these potential hazards. This is the first of a 4 part series. Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday!

Decorations and Wrappings

  1. All that glitters is not gold. Whilst it is pretty to look at, for a quizzy dog or cat, especially puppies and kittens glittery decorations attract their attention and could potentially be dangerous for your pet. Tinsel, glitter balls (often made of glass) etc … should all be placed well out of reach.
  2. If you use ribbons, yarn and string when wrapping gifts, keep in mind that it can cause intestinal obstruction if swallowed and can sometimes require surgery or be fatal. Ribbons around your dog or cat’s neck may be cute, but are never a good idea as they too can be dangerous, especially if the ribbon gets caught on something or your pet decides to chew on the loose ends.
  3. Adhesives and glues are often toxic and can be attractive to pets, so please don’t leave them lying around.
  4. Potpourri contains oils that can be toxic to dogs if eaten. Whilst we may enjoy the smell and not think of eating it, a quizzy pet may think differently and decide to sample it.
  5. Candles can cause burns and fires. Never leave lit candles unattended or within nose reach or tail reach of your pet. Our Pit Bull Bruno has an overactive “happy” tail, so we’re always careful of not to leave glasses and candles on the edge of coffee tables that can get easily ‘swished’ off by a wagging tail. We also have 3 hyperactive kittens in the house that sometimes skid onto tables.
  6. Few things are more tempting to a playful dog (or cat) than a game of tug-of-war. The dangling ends of a table cloth may look very tempting to your pooch. Try to keep items such as tablecloths and table runners from hanging too low to the floor as the temptation may be too great for a happy dog to grab, or for an excitable kitty to claw.
  7. We all like making our homes more festive and decorative for the holidays. We enjoy the green foliage and colorful flowers of plants, however many of the plants we have in our homes during the holidays can be poisonous to pets. Poisonous plants, such as  holly (leaves and berries), if ingested will cause stomach upset and can be potentially fatal to both dogs and cats. Mistletoe causes stomach upsets and can cause heart collapse, while hibiscus may cause diarrhea. Poinsettias have an irritating sap that can cause blistering in the mouth and stomach upset. Place these plants well out of your dog or cat’s reach or alternatively use the various and often very pretty imitation holiday plants.

With all of the festivities, do not forget to relax and spend some quality time with your pet. Your dog will think that is the best gift of all. We would like to wish everyone a peaceful and happy time over the festive season.

“Pet Safety At Home Over The Holiday Period Part 2 -  The Christmas Tree” follows tomorrow.

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