Dr. Prupas Brought AlignCare Service to Los Angeles


Dr. Jeremy Prupas, chief veterinarian for the Los Angeles City Department of Animal Services, helped launch a service called AlignCare in 2019, which aids needy pet owners with veterinary bills they often cannot pay.

“The goal is not just to help the animal.  It’s to help the whole family. The idea is that if someone is having problems paying for a pet’s care, there are probably other things going on in that family’s life that they need help with.  So AlignCare has [focused on] the human side of this problem.

“That’s really what got my attention at the very beginning.  This is really the One Health approach to try to get help for everybody who needs it.”

The concept originated with Dr. Michael Blackwell, a veterinarian at the University of Tennessee veterinary school.  “I became friends with him in one of the [veterinary] groups I was in,” Dr. Prupas said.  “I learned a lot about AlignCare from him.  And I said to him: ‘You know what, Michael, let’s try it.  I don’t know why we can’t make it work in LA.’”

The Los Angeles project – the first community trying to implement the program from the ground up.  It initially is focused on South Los Angeles, where Downtown Dog Rescue is a major player in pet welfare. 

“Basically, the idea is that you form a partnership with community veterinarians, and they agree that they will discount their prices.  They submit their invoices on the internet and AlignCare pays them directly.”

Participating hospitals are asked to lower their fees as much as they can, Dr. Prupas said.  “I think AlignCare asks them for a 20% cut.  But the hospitals decide what they’re going to charge.  AlignCare doesn’t interfere with the decisions of the vets or the practice owners.”

The pet owner is responsible for 20 percent of the discounted bill, he said, “so they

still have a stake in it.  But it’s a way for the pet hospital to feel that it will get paid.  And the veterinarian makes the decisions with the pet owner on what kind of care they’re going to provide.”

“The goal is that if any pet owner comes into a vet hospital or to a shelter asking for help, they’re going to be referred to AlignCare.  They would go online and fill out an application.  It’s very simple. Basically, the pet owner would just have to prove that he or she is on some form of assistance.  If you can prove that it’s almost automatic that you’re accepted into the program.  Then the pet owner is told of the hospitals that are part of the program and chooses which hospital to visit.”

He said that AlignCare includes a national team of veterinary “social workers” who will help families by referring them to whatever social services they need and helping them converse with their veterinary teams if there are any issues.  There are also “human support coordinators” who can help pet owners sign up for the program and make necessary arrangements such as appointments and arranging transportation to the hospital.

The challenge, he said, can be in where the money comes from to pay the AlignCare part of the bill.  “The idea behind it is that the community donates the money to pay the bills.  For instance, in LA we’ve been talking to several different animal welfare organizations.  

“Making it sustainable is really what keeps me up at night.  How will we be able to raise enough money to keep this going as we expand?  That’s why we decided to start slow and small.”

And, he pointed out, there are major benefits for pet families who get financial help.  Besides helping them avoid the strain on the family budget of a large expenditure, it can prevent the mental – sometimes physical – trauma of losing their pets and it can keep the family structure intact.   

The next step for Los Angeles AlignCare will be to expand beyond South Los Angeles and to get more veterinarians involved, Dr. Prupas said.  We’re looking for more veterinary hospitals that might want to join.  We’ll also need to expand in a way that doesn’t make us run out of money.”

Dr. Prupas has served as chief veterinarian for Los Angeles Animal Services for nearly 14 years.  He supervises six shelters that employ six veterinarians and 22 RVTs.  He earned his veterinary degree at the University of Pennsylvania and has practiced in Connecticut and San Diego, where he owned a feline practice. 

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome and Prevention


March 30, 2024 / General Health / By Dodds

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction and Prevention

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCD) is a gradual and common degenerative disease in dogs due to changes in the brain.

Four decades ago, we would have thought that CCD is a part of “the normal aging process” in a companion dog. It can be. However, research has revealed that CCD is analogous to dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease in humans.

Similar to other degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis, CCD is the interplay of genetics, environment, nutrition, and lifestyle that continues to be unraveled. Fortunately, research has given us diagnostic tools, signs, and treatment options to delay or lessen disease progression.

Signs of CCD

Signs of CCD can be so gradual that companion pet parents may not even notice them because they adapt to them or excuse them.

  • Disorientation
  • Behavioral changes – ex. irritability
  • Interaction – ex. nonrecognition of familiar people or pets
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • House-soiling
  • Activity level changes
  • Anxiety
  • Learning changes

Of course, the signs could be due entirely to something else. For instance, house-soiling. Did the companion dog’s environment change due to a move, urinary tract infection (UTI), weather, addition or loss of a companion, new baby or child in the home, CCD, or a combination of two or more? Fortunately, tests are available to gauge the level of CCD.


Hemopet’s CellBIO test does not directly diagnose cognitive decline. CellBIO measures cellular oxidative damage, which has been proven to be associated with cognitive decline.

Veterinarians will also need to rule in or out other potential causes of the signs such as UTIs or hypothyroidism, and have a few other tests available to diagnose CCD such as the Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Rating Scale (CCDR) or Canine Dementia Scale (CADES).

Both of these tests rely on observations, which can be subjective. So, the best method is to complete one of the tests every six months or so on any dog of any age (particularly seven years or older). You can do this at home. Doing it on a scheduled basis instead of daily or weekly gives the room needed to account for seasonal changes, or “good days” and “bad days.”

The researchers that developed CADES performed comparisons every six months to validate their test. Sadly, they found that the rate of conversion at the 6-months follow-up of normal aging to mild cognitive impairment was 42%, while conversion rate of mild to moderate cognitive impairment was 24%. At twelve months, the conversion rates almost doubled to 71.45% and 50%, respectively.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Rating Scale (CCDR)

Instructions: Circle the number that corresponds to your dog’s behavior based on frequency, transfer number to score, multiply where needed, add to calculate total.

How often does your dog pace up and down, walk in circles and/or wander with no direction or purpose?12345
How often does your dog stare blankly at the walls or floor?12345
How often does your dog get stuck behind objects and is unable to get around?12345
How often does your dog fail to recognize familiar people or pets?12345
How often does your dog walk away while, or avoid being petted?12345
QuestionsNever1-30% times31-60% times61-99% timesAlwaysScore
How often does your dog have difficulty finding food dropped on the floor?12345
QuestionsMuch LessSlightly LessThe SameSlightly MoreMuch MoreScore
Compared with 6 months ago, does your dog now pace up and down, walk in circles and/or wander with no direction or purpose?12345
Compared with 6 months ago, does your dog now stare blankly at the walls or floor?12345
Compared with 6 months ago, does your dog have difficulty finding food dropped on the floor?12345(Multiply by 2)
Compared with 6 months ago, does your dog fail to recognize familiar people or pets?12345(Multiply by 3)
Compared with 6 months ago, is the amount of time your dog spends active?12345
0-39 = Normal; 40-49 = At Risk; 50+ = CCDTotalScore

Canine Dementia Scale (CADES)

Circle the number that corresponds to your companion dog’s behavior or signs, calculate the category score, and add all the category scores.

A. Spatial OrientationAbnormal behavior of the dog was never observedAbnormal behavior of the dog was detected at least once in the last 6 monthsAbnormal behavior appeared at least once per monthAbnormal behavior was seen 2–4 times per monthAbnormal behavior was observed several times a weekScore
Disorientation in a familiar environment (inside/outside)02345
Failure to recognize familiar people and animals inside or outside the house/apartment02345
Abnormally responds to familiar objects (a chair, a wastebasket)02345
Aimlessly wandering (motorically restless during day)12345
A reduced ability to do previously learned task12345
B. Social InteractionAbnormal behavior of the dog was never observedAbnormal behavior of the dog was detected at least once in the last 6 monthsAbnormal behavior appeared at least once per monthAbnormal behavior was seen 2–4 times per monthAbnormal behavior was observed several times a weekScore
Changes in interaction with a man/dog, dog/other dog (playing, petting, welcoming)02345
Changes in individual behavior of dog (exploration behavior, play, performance)02345
Response to commands and ability to learn new task02345
Expression of Aggression02345
C. Sleep-Wake CyclesAbnormal behavior of the dog was never observedAbnormal behavior of the dog was detected at least once in the last 6 monthsAbnormal behavior appeared at least once per monthAbnormal behavior was seen 2–4 times per monthAbnormal behavior was observed several times a weekScore
Abnormally responds in the night (wandering, vocalization, motorically restless)02345
Switches over from insomnia to hypersomnia02345
TotalScore X 2 (0-20):
D. House SoilingAbnormal behavior of the dog was never observedAbnormal behavior of the dog was detected at least once in the last 6 monthsAbnormal behavior appeared at least once per monthAbnormal behavior was seen 2–4 times per monthAbnormal behavior was observed several times a weekScore
Eliminates at home in random locations02345
Eliminates in its kennel or sleeping area02345
Changes in signalization for elimination activity02345
Eliminates indoors after a recent walk outside12345
Eliminates at uncommon locations (grass, concrete)12345
Total score (A + B + C + D)0–95:
Clinical stage:
• Normal aging (Score 0–7)
• Mild cognitive impairment (8–23)
• Moderate cognitive impairment (24–44)
• Severe cognitive impairment (45–95)

Treatment of CCD

No cure exists for CCD, but there are many tools available to slow its progression.

Prescription Medications – There are prescription medications available. Instead of resorting to those immediately, talk to your veterinarian about trying the other methods mentioned below.

Activity, Activity, Activity! – We cannot stress enough the need for physical activity such as a walk and interactive toys.

Diet –

  • Leafy greens (supply folate, vitamin B- 9) – kale, spinach, collard and mustard greens
  • Cruciferous vegetables (supply folate, carotenoids) – broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, Brussels sprouts
  • Beans/legumes (supply choline)
  • Whole grains (gluten-free = quinoa, millet, rice, soy, corn, flax, TEFF, tapioca)
  • Berries/cherries (supply anthocyanins, antioxidants, vitamins C and E). In fact, you can use them as treats.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids (are anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory) – Fish oil is an example. We prefer smaller fish such as sardines and anchovies. These fish do not have a build-up of mercury in their systems. The high DHA contains higher concentrations of vitamin E, taurine, choline, and l-carnitine, which can also play a positive role in healthy cognitive function. Whatever fish oil you choose, please ensure your companion dog does not have a food sensitivity or intolerance to it as revealed by NutriScan.
  • Yellow squash, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, beets (supply folate, vitamin A, iron)
  • Nuts (supply omega fatty acids, vitamins E and B-6, folate, magnesium); but not macadamia, walnuts, hickory nuts or black walnuts, pecans and Brazil nuts for dogs
  • Seeds (supply zinc, choline, vitamin E)
  • Spices (are anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory; eg. turmeric)
  • Herbs such as Ashwagandha, an anxiolytic to help reduce chronic stress

Supplements –

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid – Hemopet’s proprietary blend, BioBlend Super 6, contains alpha lipoic acid.
  • Medium-Chain Triglycerides – An excellent example of this is unrefined, expeller pressed coconut oil. The agreed-upon amount to start is 1/4 teaspoon for dogs less than 15 pounds and 1 tablespoon for larger dogs. You will need to balance coconut oil for weight management. If your companion dog is doing well and not exhibiting any side effects such as diarrhea and weight gain, the standard threshold is 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight per day. Coconut oil is high in fat and can cause diarrhea if too much is given.
  • Melatonin
  • S-Adenosylmethionine (SAM-e)
  • Phosphatidylserine – Is found in many cognitive support blends. Two well-known examples are Senilife and Aktivait.


Bray, Emily E et al. “Associations between physical activity and cognitive dysfunction in older companion dogs: results from the Dog Aging Project.” GeroScience vol. 45,2 (2023): 645-661. doi:10.1007/s11357-022-00655-8, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9886770/.

Dodds, Jean. Exercising Your Companion Dog and Mental Health, Hemopet, 20 Jan. 2020, https://hemopet.org/exercising-dog-mental-health/.

Madari, Aladar, et al. “Assessment of severity and progression of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome using the canine dementia scale (cades).” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 171, Oct. 2015, pp. 138–145, doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2015.08.034, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159115002373?via%3Dihub.

Salvin, Hannah E et al. “The canine cognitive dysfunction rating scale (CCDR): a data-driven and ecologically relevant assessment tool.” Veterinary journal (London, England : 1997) vol. 188,3 (2011): 331-6. doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2010.05.014, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1090023310001644?via%3Dihub.

Skoumalova, A et al. “The role of free radicals in canine counterpart of senile dementia of the Alzheimer type.” Experimental gerontology vol. 38,6 (2003): 711-9. doi:10.1016/s0531-5565(03)00071-8, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12814808/.

Yarborough, Sarah et al. “Evaluation of cognitive function in the Dog Aging Project: associations with baseline canine characteristics.” Scientific reports vol. 12,1 13316. 25 Aug. 2022, doi:10.1038/s41598-022-15837-9, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9411588/.Post navigation


What Is a Veterinary Behaviorist?


The best in health, wellness, and positive training from America’s leading dog experts

By  Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KAPublished: March 2, 2024

When neither your dog trainer nor your veterinarian have been able to solve your dog’s problem behavior – such as aggression, extreme fear, obsessive/compulsive behavior, or separation anxiety – a consultation with a board certified veterinary behaviorist is advisable.

All experts approach problems from the perspective of their education and experience. Given a dog with problematic behavior, a trainer may recommend equipment changes, behavior modification, and management steps. A veterinarian may prescribe medications that reduce anxiety and increase social behavior.

A consultation with a board certified veterinary behaviorist can help solve the most troublesome dog behaviours.

Aggression, self-mutilation, phobic or extreme fear, obsessive or compulsive behaviors, and severe separation anxiety are the behaviors that most frequently prompt a consultation with a veterinary behaviorist.

However, behavioral problems can result from neurochemical imbalances, medical conditions, past life experiences, current living conditions, and every combination of these. Veterinary behaviorists are uniquely positioned to use tools from both medicine and behavior science to most accurately diagnose and efficiently treat dogs with severely problematic behavior, such as aggression, self-mutilation, phobic or extremely fearful behavior, obsessive or compulsive behaviors, and severe separation anxiety.

One of the most valuable benefits of working with a veterinary behaviorist is their extensive knowledge of how psychotropic medications can further your dog’s behavior modification program. (By law, only veterinarians can prescribe or give you prescription medication for your dog.)

Some owners are resistant to using behavior medication for their dogs. Sometimes their resistance stems from working with a veterinarian who wasn’t experienced enough with behavior-modifying medications to tweak the dog’s prescriptions for the best results. The client’s dog may have been given medication that was too strong (“I don’t want my dog to be a zombie!”) or too weak (“It didn’t do anything!”).

This is sad, because often medication can make the most impactful contribution to improving the dog’s quality of life. In many cases, the right medication(s) can make a good training professional’s behavior-modification program much more successful, much sooner. If you are working with a skilled training professional, the addition of the right medication might make the visit with the behaviorist unnecessary!

But if neither your trainer nor your vet have answers to your dog’s challenging behavior – or when they are failing to work together to provide an all-encompassing treatment plan for your dog – a consultation with a veterinary behaviorist is well worth the cost.


Would it surprise you to learn that literally anyone can call himself or herself a behaviorist? The title means nothing. There are any number of dog trainers – qualified and unqualified, educated and uneducated – who call themselves behaviorists. However, here are a few titles that include “behaviorist” that actually do mean something:

-Veterinary behaviorist. Only licensed veterinarians who have been certified by the can use the title of veterinary behaviorist. The formal term is Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (DACVB). You can find veterinary behaviorists at dacvb.org/search/.

-There is another professional organization that has “veterinary” and “behavior” in its title – the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) – but it does not provide certification of any kind. Veterinarians and persons holding a PhD in animal behavior or a related field may join this membership organization, but it does not confer certifications or presuppose a level of expertise in animal behavior. Behavior consultants who are members of AVSAB are listed on its website (avsab.org/directory/).

-Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (ACAAB). These are scientists, educators, or other animal professionals with advanced academic backgrounds in the principles of animal behavior. Certification for these titles is provided by the Animal Behavior Society, which describes its certificants this way: “A professional applied animal behaviorist has demonstrated expertise in the principles of animal behavior, in the research methods of animal behavior, in the application of animal behavior principles to applied behavior problems, and in the dissemination of knowledge about animal behavior through teaching and research.” You can find these professionals at animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/committees-applied-behavior-directory.php.

-Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant (CABC). These certifications are bestowed by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), which offers animal credentialing examinations for several animal species and specialties. Obtaining a CDBC credential indicates a superior level of knowledge as well as skill in practical application of behavior change principles following least intrusive, minimally aversive (LIMA)-based strategies.

What to Expect From a Veterinary Behaviorist Consultation

A particularly thorough medical and behavior history is the first prerequisite for any veterinary behaviorist consultation, with the behavior history being the longest and most detailed part of the intake form. When did the problematic behavior first start, how often does it happen, and how has it changed?

The behaviorist also needs to know what interventions have been tried and how the dog responded to those treatments. The intake form will also ask the owner, “What are your goals for your dog? What outcome do you hope for?”

If the problematic behavior is unlikely to be observed in a veterinary office setting, the owner will be asked to try to capture video of the dog while he’s displaying the troubling behavior. Video can often provide the most valuable clues to the causes or significant contributors to the dog’s behavior.

After reviewing all of the above, the veterinary behaviorist will then meet with the dog and owner in order to observe the dog’s behavior first hand (or at least via a video conference).

At the end of the first visit, the client is usually given some management strategies that can be implemented right away – especially if the dog’s behavior has the potential for endangering anyone.

Afterward, the veterinary behaviorist will prepare a comprehensive treatment plan for the dog’s owner, which is typically reviewed and discussed in a subsequent appointment. The plan may include a request for medical tests (or further medical tests) in order to diagnose or rule out medical contributors to the problematic behavior. Usually, it will also include recommendations for the owner to undertake behavior modification exercises under the guidance of a training professional working with or recommended by the veterinary behaviorist.

The treatment plan may also recommend the use of supportive therapies such as supplements, nutritional therapy, and/or prescription medications (when appropriate).

Because there are few veterinary behaviorists, it’s impossible for many dog owners to book an in-person consultation with one. That’s why most of these professionals also offer phone or video consultations with their clients’ veterinarians. Instead of seeing the dog and owner, they will review the veterinarian’s report of the dog’s issues and directly communicate with the dog’s veterinarian to offer suggestions for further medical testing, medication, and behavioral interventions.


Veterinary behaviorists are veterinarians who have achieved board certification in the specialty of veterinary behavior. Certification takes a minimum of three years of study and training after a candidate has obtained a veterinary graduate degree.  The certifying board for this specialty is the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB); certificants, who are known as Diplomates, may use the initials DACVB along with DVM after their names.

To gain board certification, candidates must complete at least one year of internship or primary care practice. They must also undertake additional behavior-specific training, which includes at least three years of case supervision by an established DACVB. They must also conduct original behavior research that earns publication in a peer-reviewed journal, author three formal case reports that are approved by a review committee of Diplomates, and pass a rigorous two-day board examination administered by the ACVB.

There are only about 95 DACVBs located throughout the world (though other countries also certify veterinary behaviorists).

Some veterinary behaviorists have a solo practice, where they provide clients with support and referrals to other training or medical professionals as necessary. Others work in group practices, where other staff veterinarians can provide any diagnostic tests that the veterinary behaviorist recommends and staff trainers will work with the client and the client’s dog on behavior modification exercises.

Sample Case History

We asked a veterinary behaviorist to describe a typical case to illustrate how these professionals draw on their medical and behavioral expertise differently than their vet or trainer peers. Chris Pachel, DVM, DACVB, CABC, owner of the Animal Behavior Clinic in Portland, Oregon, accommodated us with a description of one of his veterinarian-to-veterinarian consultations.

The patient was a 3-year-old, intact male Labrador who had perpetrated a number of troubling episodes of what was described as unpredictable and unprovoked aggression in his home. His humans were highly experienced dog owners who were active in dog sports and had other dogs in the home, including additional dogs who would sometimes stay with them in a casual boarding scenario.

While the patient was usually a social butterfly with an affable temperament, the owners described a number of incidents where he had suddenly behaved aggressively. Fortunately, they had three of these incidents captured on video, thanks to their home security system.

One incident, where the patient became aggressive with his male owner, occurred in the backyard of the home when other dogs were present. In another incident, the dog aggressed toward that man’s mother when she moved a chair that was three or four feet from the dog. In the third incident captured on video, the patient aggressed toward a visiting dog.

Since the patient was perfectly social and appropriate in between these incidents – even in situations that were identical to the conditions in which he showed aggression – the owners brought the dog to their vet. About six months prior to the first aggressive incident, the dog had slipped and fallen with his front legs splayed out in an unnatural position. His owners were concerned that he might be experiencing pain that caused him to lash out at others.

On physical exam, their vet did find some pain and prescribed pain medication. The dog’s pain went away, but the troubling behavior did not. So, with the clients’ approval, the veterinarian scheduled a consultation with Dr. Pachel.

“It’s always necessary to have someone provide a thorough physical examination, but it doesn’t have to be me,” Dr. Pachel explains. In this case, he discussed the results of the primary care veterinarian’s physical exam, neurologic exam, and notes regarding the dog’s response to pain medication; he also read the behavior history and viewed the owner’s video clips.

From early on, Dr. Pachel suspected a medical cause for the aggression. “What stood out to me was the inconsistent relationship between the antecedents (things that happened around the dog prior to the aggression) and the behavior,” Dr. Pachel says.

“Seeing the variability and expression of those aggressive behaviors, and understanding that the dog has been in identical situations hundreds of times without eliciting any aggression – the most notable thing about the incidents were how inconsistent they were. That increased my level of suspicion that something internal, not external, was driving the incidents. The inconsistency also made me think about potential causes that have a waxing and waning, variable expression, such as hormonal issues or endocrine- related disorders.”

Dr. Pachel first suggested that the dog’s vet run a comprehensive thyroid profile (laboratory test). Dogs whose bodies produce too much or too little thyroid often experience changes in behavior and coping skills. However, the test results were normal.

Next, he considered endocrine conditions that could have an intermittent influence, impacting the dog’s ability to respond to mild provocations and stress. He suggested testing the dog for Addison’s disease – which may have appeared to the dog’s primary care vet as a stretch. “The dog had never had an Addisonian crisis (collapse, lethargy, dehydration), his electrolytes were normal – there were none of the hints in his bloodwork that would make you want to run an ACTH stim test (a test that demonstrates the capacity of the dog’s adrenal glands to produce cortisol),” describes Dr. Pachel. “It was the waxing and waning nature of the aberrant behavior and lack of response to other treatments that led me in that direction.”

While he may have thought the test was a shot in the dark, when the results came back, the dog’s primary care vet was happy to report that the picture was now clear: The dog had Addison’s disease, a deficiency of the hormones that regulate electrolytes, blood pressure, hydration, metabolism, and … stress responses! Addison’s patients require lifelong supplementation of those hormones, but thankfully, with treatment, the dog’s troubling behaviors stopped.

Is it just marketing?

It bears repeating: Anyone can call themselves a behaviorist. The term doesn’t guarantee that they are educated or experienced with complex behavior problems. When hiring a dog trainer, we recommend you choose a behavior professional who is certified by and/or a member of one of the organizations we list here: whole-dog-journal.com/training/find-the-best-trainer-for-you-and-your-dog.

Any ethical behavior professional will explore your dog’s behavior with you, help with behavior modification if they can, and refer you to a veterinary behaviorist if they realize your dog’s issues are beyond their experience and capabilities, or if their efforts to help are not successful.

Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn “Pat Miller Certified Trainer” certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.

Angel Fund Helps Cheeto, a Tabby, with Blocked Bladder

One day a few weeks ago, Ashley Bettencourt came home from her job as a pre-school teacher and found her tabby cat Cheeto in distress.

“He wasn’t himself,” she said. “He wasn’t eating.  He was lethargic and was lying on the tile in the hallway.  He wasn’t moving.  Nothing worked that I knew would make him excited. 

“I thought maybe he was constipated but I pressed on his belly and it was really hard.  It made me nervous.  So I called the Cat Care Clinic where my in-laws take their cats.  After taking him in for an examination, I was told that he had a blocked bladder – he wasn’t able to urinate.”

That was on a Friday.  Dr. Maggie Mills treated Cheeto.  “They didn’t have to do surgery but they kept him in the hospital the whole weekend so they could keep an eye on him,” Ashley said.  “They put in a catheter.  But they said he took it out himself.  So they put the tubes back in and he didn’t fight them again. 

“When I took him in to the clinic, I wasn’t expecting what was coming,” she said. “I thought he was constipated and they would fix it and I would take him home.   So when it came time to pay I was like, ‘I can’t do this.’

But the staff at Cat Care was understanding and helpful.   April, the assistant practice manager, “was so sweet and nice,” Ashley said.   “She printed me out a list of foundations that could help and she pointed out who to call and told me what to do.   Angel Fund was the first to say, ‘We’ll help you.’  I had never done something like that before.  It was overwhelming in a good way.

“I went home and I cried that night.  I thought what happened was amazing.  I couldn’t believe it.”  She said that she found another charitable group that helped pay her bill.  And the Cat Care Clinic found some money from another fund and they used that to help as well, she said.

“They said (at Cat Care) that, if we couldn’t do this, they would have had to euthanize Cheeto.  He always had been such a healthy cat that is horrible to even think about.  I love that Angel Fund and the veterinary association are letting people know about this.   I wouldn’t have known if it wasn’t for Dr. Mills and April.”

Cheeto recovered quickly.  “Now, he is good, he’s happy,” Ashley said.  “He’s lost a lot of weight.  But he’s eating well. He’s drinking a lot of water.   And he’s fine, he’s active and he’s playing with our other cats.”

Cheeto is the father of the other cats, Roxy, Khola Man and Sprinkles – all named by Ashley’s daughters.  There is also a dog in the family, Benny a miniature Doberman, with whom Cheeto is a best buddy.  “We are a house that loves our fur babies,” Ashley said.

Cheeto became a member of the family after Ashley’s husband found him hiding among tires at the warehouse where he worked.  He was a three-week-old kitten at the time and had to be bottle fed.

Ashley is a single parent to three daughters: Bella, 13; Skylar, 11 and Audrina, 7.  She loves her job as a pre-school teacher.  “It’s challenging but I love it.  my students are four and five.  They talk fast but they’re willing to learn and they love it.”

Angel Fund Helps Rescue Beba and Alvarado Family

A few months ago, Laura Alvarado said, her family noticed a beautiful gray cat spending time in their backyard in Long Beach. 

“The cat looked scared and it was hanging around in our yard.  So we decided to rescue it.  It was very friendly and it came to us,” Laura said.  “My mom took the cat in the house and took care of her.  We had never had cats, just dogs before. We got her the shots she needed and had her spayed.”

But not long after taking in the cat they named Beba, a beautiful short-haired gray domestic, the Alvarado family got some shocking news. Beba was pregnant – and she needed to have a cesarean section.  Leticia, Laura’s mother, had taken Beba to Los Coyotes Pet Hospital, where she was examined by Dr. Sonah Jo.

In early April, the surgery was performed.  None of the kittens survived.  “Dr. Jo told us to give Beba a lot of love because cats mourn the death of their kittens,” Laura said.  “We have been giving her as much love as we can and she’s doing great.”

The Alvarado family gets by on a limited income.  Leticia had to quit her job to provide care for a son, Gustavo Jr., who is disabled.  Gustavo, the father, can no longer work and gets a disability check.  Laura works as a probation officer in Riverside.  She spends half her days there and the other half at her parents’ home.

Dr. Jo told Leticia about Angel Fund.  “We couldn’t have paid for the surgery without it,” Laura said. “When Angel Fund was brought to our attention, it was just a sigh of relief.  We didn’t think when we rescued Beba, that we’d have to be so involved financially.

“Angel Fund was really great.  What they did for us was amazing.”  The grant was for $232.49, an amount matched by the hospital.   “We were devastated by what happened,” Laura said.  “We didn’t know what to do.”   Angel Fund helped provide the Alvarado family with the answer.  

Service Dogs Lead to Fewer Seizures in Resistant Epilepsy

Thursday, March 14, 2024 Medscape Medical News by Eve Bender  March 12, 2024

Working with medically trained service dogs is associated with a 31% reduction in seizures compared with usual care in treatment-resistant epilepsy, a new study showed.

Investigators speculate that the dogs may ease participants’ stress, leading to a decrease in seizure frequency, although they note this relationship warrants more study.

“Despite the development of numerous antiseizure medications over the past 15 years, up to 30% of people with epilepsy experience persistent seizures,” study author Valérie van Hezik-Wester, MSc, of Erasmus University Rotterdam in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, said in a press release.

The unpredictable nature of seizures is one of the most disabling aspects of epilepsy, Hezik-Wester added. Seizure dogs are trained to recognize seizures and respond when they occur.

“The tasks that these dogs perform along with their companionship may reduce seizure-related anxiety, also potentially reducing seizures caused by stress, the most common trigger for seizures,” she said.

The findings were published online on February 28 in Neurology.

Improve Quality of Life

The study included 25 individuals with medically refractory epilepsy who had an average of two or more seizures per week, with seizure characteristics associated with a high risk for injuries or dysfunction. They also had to be able to care for a service dog.

All were observed under usual care, which included antiseizure medications, neurostimulation devices, and other supportive therapies. Participants could then choose to work with a service dog that had completed socialization and obedience training or be assigned a puppy they would train at home.

The median follow-up was 19 months with usual care and 12 months with the intervention. Participants recorded seizure activity in diaries and completed surveys on seizure severity, quality of life, and well-being every 3 months. Daily seizure counts were converted to obtain cumulative seizure frequencies over 28-day periods.

Of the 25 original participants, six discontinued trial participation before the end of follow-up, four of whom left the study due to difficulty with dog care and training.

Participants receiving usual care reported an average of 115 seizures per 28-day period, while those with trained service dogs recorded 73 seizures in the same period, or a 37% difference between groups.

Researchers found that participants had an average of 31% fewer seizures during the past 3 months when they had seizure dogs, with seven participants achieving a 50%-100% reduction in seizures.

The number of seizure-free days increased from an average of 11 days per 28-day period before receiving a service dog to 15 days after working with a dog.

Scores on the EQ-5D-5L, which measures perceived health problems, decreased on average by 2.5% per consecutive 28-day period with the intervention, reflecting an increase in generic health-related quality of life (0.975; 95% CI, 0.954-0.997).

“These findings show that seizure dogs can help people with epilepsy,” said van Hezik-Wester. “However, we also found that this partnership with seizure dogs might not be the right fit for everyone, as some people discontinued their participation in this program. More research is needed to better understand which people can benefit from working with seizure dogs.”

Enhanced Quality of Life

In an accompanying editorial, Amir Mbonde, MB, and Amy Crepeau, MD, of Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, noted the findings add to a growing body of work on the effectiveness of service dogs in reducing seizure frequency.

“In addition to improved seizure control, the EPISODE study demonstrated the benefit of seizure dogs in enhancing the quality of life for patients, a crucial component of comprehensive epilepsy care,” they wrote.

In prior studies, seizure dogs have identified an odor that a person emits before a seizure in up to 97% of people, they noted, adding that this ability “offers immense clinical benefits to people with epilepsy, enhancing their independence, social engagement, employment opportunities, self-confidence, and thus quality of life.”

Study limitations include its small sample size and high attrition rate.

The study was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development and Innovatiefonds Zorgverzekeraars. Smith and Jones reported no relevant financial relationships. The authors reported no disclosures.

Lead image: Audrey Butterfuss/Dreamstime

Medscape Medical News © 2024 WebMD, LLC

Send comments and news tips to news@medscape.net.

Novel cancer vaccine offers new hope for dogs — and those who love them

A Yale researcher developed a vaccine that can slow or halt certain cancers in dogs. And it could be used to treat humans in the future.

By Mallory Locklear march 5, 2024

During a sunny morning on Florida’s Gulf Coast last month, an 11-year-old golden retriever named Hunter bounded through a pine grove. Snatching his favorite toy, a well-chewed tennis ball attached to a short rope, he rolled through the tall grass, with an energy that seemed inexhaustible. A passerby might not have even noticed that this playful golden has only three legs.

For Deana Hudgins, the dog’s owner, it seems almost unthinkable that two years ago Hunter was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer that kills upwards of 65% of the dogs it afflicts within 12 months, in his left front leg.

For many years Hunter worked alongside his owner as a search-and-rescue dog, helping find victims of building collapses and other disasters. He no longer performs those duties, but does still help Hudgins train other dogs. The energetic golden can also run, fetch, and catch as well as ever.

And two years since his initial diagnosis, Hunter has no signs of cancer. The dog’s life-saving treatment incorporated typical approaches, including amputation of the left leg and chemotherapy. But Hunter also received a novel therapy — a cancer vaccine developed by Yale’s Mark Mamula.

If we can provide some benefit, some relief — a pain-free life — that is the best outcome that we could ever have.”

The treatment, a form of immunotherapy that is currently under review by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which regulates animal treatments, has been subject to multiple clinical trials over the past eight years. And the results are promising; for hundreds of dogs, including Hunter, the vaccine has proved effective.

Mamula, a professor of medicine (rheumatology) at Yale School of Medicine, believes the vaccine offers a badly needed weapon in the fight against canine cancer.

“Dogs, just like humans, get cancer spontaneously; they grow and metastasize and mutate, just like human cancers do,” said Mamula. “My own dog died of an inoperable cancer about 11 years ago. Dogs just like humans suffer greatly from their cancers.

“If we can provide some benefit, some relief — a pain-free life — that is the best outcome that we could ever have.”

Even as recently as a decade ago, Mamula didn’t anticipate that he would one day develop a cancer vaccine for dogs. A rheumatology researcher, he studies autoimmune diseases like lupus and Type 1 diabetes and how the body gives rise to them.

But that work eventually led him to cancer research as well.

Autoimmune diseases, Mamula says, are characterized by the immune system attacking the body’s own tissues; in the case of Type 1 diabetes, the immune system targets cells in the pancreas.

Then several years ago, using what they knew about autoimmunity, Mamula and his research team developed a potential cancer treatment that they say initiates a targeted immune response against tumors.

“In many ways tumors are like the targets of autoimmune diseases,” he said. “Cancer cells are your own tissue and are attacked by the immune system. The difference is we want the immune system to attack a tumor.”

It was a chance meeting with a veterinary oncologist soon thereafter that made Mamula think that this novel treatment might work well in dogs.

Targeting tumors

About 10,000 dogs are diagnosed each year with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. With typical treatment, only 30% of dogs with this type of cancer live longer than 12 months. (Courtesy of Deana Hudgins)

There are about 90 million dogs, living in 65 million households, in the United States alone. Around one in four dogs will get cancer. Among dogs 10 years or older, that ratio jumps to around one in two.

Yet the therapies used to treat these cancers remain fairly antiquated, Mamula says.

“There have been very few new canine cancer treatments developed in decades — it’s a field that is begging for improvement,” he said.

In 2015, Mamula met a veterinary oncologist named Gerry Post. During his 35-year career Post has treated cancer in snakes, turtles, and zoo animals. But most of his patients are dogs and cats.

Through conversations with Post, Mamula realized that it wouldn’t be difficult to make the leap from human to dog cancers. Together they would launch an early-phase study into Mamula’s dog cancer vaccine.

“Dog and human cancers are quite similar in a number of ways,” said Post, chief medical officer of One Health Company, a canine cancer treatment group, and an adjunct professor of comparative medicine at Yale School of Medicine. “Whether it’s how the cancers appear under the microscope, how the cancers behave, respond to chemotherapy, develop resistance, and metastasize.”

After talking with a veterinary oncologist, Mamula realized that it wouldn’t be difficult to make the leap from addressing human cancers to dog cancers.

Even the types of cancers that afflict dogs and humans are similar. Like humans, dogs can get melanoma, breast cancer, colon cancer, and osteosarcoma, among others.

When it comes to curing these diseases, these similarities bring an important benefit: understanding cancer in one species will help scientists understand cancer in the other. And treatments that work well for one may actually work well for both.

Several types of cancers in both humans and dogs have been found to overexpress proteins known as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). These include colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and osteosarcoma. One type of treatment currently given to human patients with these cancers involves monoclonal antibodies, proteins that can bind to and affect the function of EGFR and/or HER2. However, patients can develop a resistance to them and their effects wane over time.

For their treatment, Mamula and his team wanted to take a different approach.

Monoclonal antibody treatments are produced from one immune cell and bind to one part of the EGFR/HER2 molecules, but Mamula and his team wanted to induce a polyclonal response.

Doing so, he says, would create antibodies from multiple immune cells, rather than just one, which could bind to multiple parts of the EGFR/HER2 molecules instead of a single area. This would, in theory, reduce the likelihood of developing resistance.

The research team, led by Hester Doyle and Renelle Gee, who are both members of Mamula’s Yale lab, with assistance from the New Haven-based biotechnology company L2 Diagnostics, LLC, tested many different candidates in order to find just the right compound. They eventually found one.

After first testing it in mice, and finding promising results, they initiated their first clinical trial in dogs in 2016.

Hester Doyle, Mark Mamula, Renelle Gee.
In Mamula’s lab, from left, Hester Doyle, Mark Mamula, and Renelle Gee. (Photo by Allie Barton)

‘I was willing to try whatever I could’

Deana Hudgins knew there was something special about Hunter before she brought him home as an 8-week-old puppy, back in 2012, and began training him to be her next search-and-rescue partner.

The smallest of 18 puppies from two litters, Hunter wasn’t the obvious choice when she began looking for a partner.

“He was the runt,” said Hudgins, who has been training search-and-rescue dogs since 2001 and now runs her own company, the Center for Forensic Training and Education, which provides canine training in Ohio and Florida. “But in his case, it made him a little scrappy. He was small but very confident and very brave.

“When all of the other puppies were sleeping at the end of the day, he was still running around, climbing all of the toys, retrieving things. We need confident puppies, and that’s what he possessed.”

Hunter searching debris after Hurricane Michael made landfall in 2018.
Hunter searches debris after Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida in 2018. (Courtesy of Deana Hudgins)

By the time he was a year old, Hunter began aiding searches at sites across the United States, working with local law enforcement and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), following natural disasters. His first search, in 2014, was at the site of a mudslide in Oso, Washington that killed 43 people. In his final FEMA search, he helped search for victims of the devastating condominium collapse in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida, in June 2021. Hunter was involved in hundreds of searches in the years between.

In 2022, Hunter was still very active — and had just earned another service certification — when Hudgins noticed that he seemed uncharacteristically sore following a five-day training class.

“I’ve always been very proactive with my dogs because I spend every day with them, and so I notice very little things,” she said. “And he’s not a dog to limp.”

A veterinarian assumed that Hunter had strained something, suggesting anti-inflammatories, but Hudgins insisted on an x-ray. The test revealed the osteosarcoma in Hunter’s leg.

After doing a lot of research, and consulting with different veterinary groups about what steps to take, Hudgins decided that amputation offered the best chance for Hunter’s survival, along with chemotherapy.

Hudgins and her dog (and former sergeant rescue partner) Hunter
Hudgins with Hunter, her dog (and former search-and-rescue partner). (Courtesy of Deana Hudgins)

But during that research, Hudgins had also come across Mamula’s vaccine trial. So she reached out to a colleague, James Hatch, a former Navy SEAL who trained dogs in the military and whose nonprofit supports service dogs. Hudgins knew that Hatch also happened to be at Yale, where he is a student in the Eli Whitney Students Program.

“I was willing to try whatever I could to keep [Hunter] around as long as possible,” said Hudgins. “We ask a lot of our working dogs. They work in environments that are very dangerous and often deadly. And my promise to all of them is I will do whatever I have to do to give them the best, healthiest, longest life possible. Dogs don’t survive this disease so there was no downside to me for trying the vaccine.”

Hatch connected her with Mamula, and soon Hunter was part of the clinical trial. He received his first vaccine dose ahead of his amputation surgery, his second before initiating chemotherapy, and a booster last summer.

Twenty-two months since his cancer diagnosis, Hunter is now considered a long-term osteosarcoma survivor and Hudgins says he’s thriving.

“He adjusted very well to his front limb amputation,” she said. “He continues to run around the yard. He swims in the pool. He comes with me to training and chases the other dogs around the yard.”

Hunter, with three legs, on a boat
After consulting with doctors at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center, Hudgins decided to have Hunter’s front left leg amputated. Hudgins credits that surgery, along with the Yale-developed vaccine, for the osteosarcoma remission. (Courtesy of Deana Hudgins)

During a recent morning in Florida, Hunter drifted toward a nearby pond while playing outside. Hudgins, knowing the potential risks of straying too close to a pond in Florida (“There are alligators everywhere.”), quickly called him back. Hunter immediately returned to her.

“From a very young age, Hunter wanted to learn the rules of the game,” she said. “He was eager to go to work every day. I am very, very lucky to have been able to be his partner for 10 years. Hunter is one of those once-in-a-lifetime dogs.”

‘A whole new toolbox’

Hunter’s positive response to the treatment is one many other dogs have experienced as well.

To date, more than 300 dogs have been treated with the vaccine during a series of clinical trials, which are still ongoing at 10 sites in the U.S. and Canada. The findings, which have been published in a peer-reviewed study, have shown that the treatment creates antibodies that are able to home in on and bind to tumors, and then interfere with the signaling pathways responsible for tumor growth.

According to the research team, the vaccine increases the 12-month survival rates of dogs with certain cancers from about 35% to 60%. For many of the dogs, the treatment also shrinks tumors.

While future studies will determine if the vaccine can reduce the incidence of cancer in healthy dogs, the treatment for now remains a therapeutic treatment option after a cancer diagnosis has been made.

Witnessing the happiness that successful therapies provide to families with dogs is incredibly rewarding.

But even this represents something more than just “a new tool” in the fight against canine cancer, Post says. It’s a whole new toolbox.

“And in veterinary oncology, our toolbox is much smaller than that of human oncology,” he said. “This vaccine is truly revolutionary. I couldn’t be more excited to be a veterinary oncologist.”

Mamula has created a company, called TheraJan, which aims to eventually produce the vaccine. Last year, the company (whose name is inspired, in part, by the late Yale immunologist Charles Janeway, who was Mamula’s mentor) won a Faculty Innovation Award from Yale Ventures, a university initiative that supports innovation and entrepreneurship on campus and beyond.

While launching clinical tests of the vaccine’s effectiveness in humans may be a logical future step, for now Mamula is focused on getting USDA approval of the vaccine for dogs and distributed for wider use.

No matter where it goes, it’s a project close to his heart.

Mamula on a beach in Madison, CT with his golden retrievers Tripp and Sherman.
Mamula on a beach in Madison, Connecticut, with his golden retrievers, Tripp, left, and Sherman. (Photo by Allie Barton)

“I get many emails from grateful dog owners who had been told that their pets had weeks or months to live but who are now two or three years past their cancer diagnosis,” he said. “It’s a program that’s not only valuable to me as a dog lover. Witnessing the happiness that successful therapies provide to families with dogs is incredibly rewarding.”

And once the vaccine becomes available for public use, he says, for working dogs like Hunter it will always be free of charge.

 media contact Fred Mamoun: fred.mamoun@yale.edu, 203-436-2643

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Give Them Time!

Shelter and rescued dogs need safe space and enough time to decompress before you should make any serious judgments about them.


By Nancy KernsPublished:February 29, 2024

When you bring home a dog from a rescue or shelter they need time.
We won’t really know what kind of dog he is for weeks or months; we need to give him time and space to learn all about him. But I suspect that Chief is going to make the right family very happy.

Today I am dog-sitting Chief, a 1-year-old German Shepherd-mix from my local shelter – just for the day. He’s actually being fostered by my favorite person at the shelter, my friend Lynee.

Chief was brought to the shelter over a year ago as a young pup. As yet ANOTHER uneducated, no-manners, anxious, all-black dog in a shelter full of them, he has lingered and lingered. He got adopted once but was brought back because the family’s old dog didn’t like him. (Few old dogs like wild young dogs with no social skills, especially within days of having the wild youngster arrive in their homes.)

Recently, Chief got adopted again – but he was so overwhelmed in the new family’s home that he hid behind the couch and wouldn’t come out. When the family tried to insist, reaching behind the couch with a leash, he growled at them. Since the family brought him home on a Saturday, and this happened on a Sunday, when they called the shelter in an apparent panic that the dog was vicious, the message on the shelter’s answering machine said, “In an animal-related emergency, call the (local) police department…” So they did!

Fortunately, the police contacted the animal control officer who was on call, and he went to the family’s house to pick up Chief. (Literally. He picked up the 60-pound dog and carried him to the animal control truck. He reported that Chief was petrified.)

Worried that two bad experiences in homes reduced the odds that he would get a third chance at a family, Lynee took Chief home last weekend. She reported that he had to be pulled out of her car, but he followed her into and then around the inside of her home like he was glued to her side. At first, he was too afraid to go outside to go to the bathroom, but she encouraged him, and, partly lifting him by his harness to get him out the door, pulled him outdoors. Once there, he went potty, and then rushed back into the house.

Lynee stayed home with Chief for three days. She said that every day he made progress. After that first time being lifted/pushed outdoors, he went outside to potty with just encouragement. He wouldn’t eat food or treats the first day, ate only canned food the second day, but ate kibble with just a little canned food mixed in on day three. He wouldn’t interact with her other dogs on day one, but by day three was playing chase games outside.

On day four, Lynee and her husband lifted Chief into their car and took him and their oldest dog for a short field trip to our local wildlife area. They let him explore on a long line and he waded into the river and enjoyed sniffing all the interesting smells. He got into the car on his own power for the trip home.

Both of the families who adopted Chief before were told that he had been brought into the shelter as a puppy, and didn’t know anything else. That he was undersocialized and essentially didn’t know anything about the world outside nor any dogs other than dogs he was kenneled with in the shelter. And yet neither family gave him the time and space to acclimate and learn about the world outside a shelter.

Lynee had to go to work today, and she didn’t want to leave Chief home alone all day; nor did she want to bring him back to the shelter. So she asked if I could do a little daycare duty. Of course! This will give Chief even more experience in yet another environment – but a safe, non-demanding space, where no one will have any expectations of him and he can observe everything in the environment without pressure.

I met Chief a month or so ago at the shelter, when Lynee had him in an exercise yard. My impression of him then was of a hyper but nice young dog – just what you would expect of a dog who had grown up in a loud, busy shelter. So far, walking around my property and laying in my office as I write this, he’s calm and quietly observing everything. He’s taking treats from me, and hasn’t been too afraid to enter and exit the outbuilding where I work. And this transformation is after just three days in Lynee’s home.

When you bring a dog home from a rescue or shelter – or anywhere, actually! – give them space and time! Be friendly and encouraging, but don’t loom or fuss over them. Try not to make demands on them at first, but reinforce every behavior you like to see. Set up the environment (with pens or gates) so they can’t get into places or getting into things you don’t want them near, so you don’t have to scare them by rushing them out of those spaces. Keep in mind that they might not know anything about human cars, homes, or other animals, and they may react with fear, and yes, even growling. Remember, a growl means, “I need some space!” It’s meant as a distance-creating message. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you or plan to attack you!

There has been a “3-3-3” meme going around the shelter and rescue community for a while that says something like, “The first three days with your newly adopted dog should be used to adjust, the next three weeks for training and bonding, and the next three months for continued training and socialization.” Our contributing editor Pat Miller hates this meme and wrote an article with her preferred version of the good intentions behind the meme: Give your new dog all the space and time they need to decompress and get to know you. Sometimes this happens quickly – even immediately. But take it from Chief: Sometimes you just need a little more time.

Nancy Kerns Nancy Kerns has edited horse and dog magazines since graduating the San Francisco State University Journalism program in 1990. The founding editor of Whole Dog Journal in 1998, Nancy regularly attends cutting-edge dog-training conferences including those for the International Association of Animal Behavior ConsultantsPet Professional GuildAssociation of Professional Dog Trainers, and Clicker Expo. To stay on top of industry developments, she also attends pet industry trade shows such as Global Pet and SuperZoo, educational conferences of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and Pet Food Industry’s Pet Food Forum. As a regular volunteer for her local animal shelter, the Northwest SPCA in Oroville, CA, she fosters large litters of puppies and helps train wayward adolescent dogs in order to increase their chances of adoption. Nancy shares her life with her husband and two canine alumni of the NWSPCA, mixed-breed Otto (whose adorably fuzzy visage was incorporated into WDJ’s masthead some years ago) and Pit/Lab-mix Woody. 

Angel Fund Helps Puppy Stricken by Parvovirus

Victoria Romero, a young graphic design student, had wanted a dog since she was eight or nine years old.  When she turned 16 a couple of years ago, she suggested to her mother that she give her a dog instead of a Sweet Sixteen party.

Her mother said no.  “So I had never had another opportunity [to have her own dog] until now,” she said.  A friend of her Mom, who had a female Maltese-Poddle mix puppy, wanted to find someone who could take the dog off her hands.

Victoria took charge of Kona in mid-November.  The dog was lethargic and she knew that the animal would need shots.  “So I called the [Aliso Animal] hospital and made an appointment for the next day,” she said.

Dr. David Bahou examined the dog and told Victoria that her new pet had parvovirus.  “This is my first dog and I really wanted to be careful with her,” she said.  “I was crying the whole time in the hospital because I thought maybe I had done something wrong.”  At the time, she had been Kona’s owner only a couple of days.

Dr. Bahou assured her that she was not at fault.  “He said that Kona’s symptoms would have started five to seven days after exposure so she had gotten the virus when she was with the previous owner,” Victoria said.   

But there was another issue: paying for Kona’s treatment.

“I was very sad because I did not have the money I needed,” Victoria said, “and the only option was putting her down. I did not want to do that.  I was already so attached to her.  I loved her so much that I couldn’t do that.  I called my family and friends to invite them to give me a little bit each.

“Dr. Bahou and the hospital staff really wanted to help me,” she said.  “When they told me about Angel Fund, I said let’s do that.  I just didn’t want to see Kona get worse because she already was so lethargic.

“I’m really grateful for Angel Fund and what they did. It really helped me out.  I hope other people can find out about Angel Fund.”

Victoria, a student at Laguna College of Art and Design, works as a baby sitter for her mother and in a child day care role at a local school district.  She expects to graduate from her program in the spring of 2025. 

She heads to one of the schools in the district each work-day morning to help young students who participate in a pre-school program, she said.  “I work about an hour and a half,” she said, “getting their minds awake for school.”  Then she returns home to supervise her two younger siblings while her mother works.

Her mother does house cleaning and some gardening work and manages a group of workers. 

Kona who is now about five months old and weighs about three pounds, is doing well.  “She’s now about 100 percent,” Victoria said.  “She has been running around the house trying to steal our shoes.”

Plants safe for dogs and cats

Learn about pet-friendly plants and flowers to help brighten up your home, yard, and garden with these beautiful blooms.

Written by Shannon Perry & Alex Hunt 

— Medically reviewed by Dr. Erica Irish 

Updated October 13, 2023 From: Betterpet.com at https://betterpet.com/plants-safe-for-dogs/

Table of Contents

The essentials

  • Many common plants are toxic to pets — Most will only have mild effects if ingested, but a few, including daylilies and sago palms, can result in death.
  • You can have a green thumb AND be a pet parent — The list of non-toxic plants safe for dogs and cats is long, too! Keep our lists — and the ASPCA’s database — handy when shopping at the nursery.
  • Obsessive plant eating is cause for concern — Call your veterinarian if you notice your dog is eating grass more frequently than normal or has signs of stomach discomfort.

Pets love to sniff — and sometimes taste — what’s around them. The good news is that having dogs and cats doesn’t mean giving up a beautiful home and garden. If it’s time to spruce up your house or apartment, garden, balcony, or raised beds, this list of pet-safe plants, shrubs, and garden greenery will add pops of color and freshness while keeping your furry friends safe.

When shopping at the nursery or if you use a landscaper for your garden, make sure to mention the fact that you have pets. Most garden centers will make recommendations and help you find different varieties of pet-safe greenery and flowers for your home and yard.

Ultimate list of plants that are safe for dogs and cats

While the ASPCA warns that any ingested plant material may cause gastrointestinal upset for dogs or cats, it considers the below plants to be non-toxic. These are also among the most popular indoor plants, as defined by home-improvement giant Home Depot and #PlantTok and #plantfluencer life.

african violet

areca palm

boston fern (sword fern)



canna lilies

cast iron plant

chinese money plant

crepe myrtle




common lilac

magnolia bushes

nasturtium (indian cress)

nerve plant


parlor palms



polka dot plant

ponytail palm

rosemary (anthos)


spider plant

star jasmine


sweetheart hoya



wax plants (hoyas)

white ginger

Looking for more pet-safe plant options? Here are some other, non-toxic houseplants you can try. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to search the ASPCA database  to find the right plant for you and your pets to enjoy safely. WATCH VIDEO

Precautions about pets and plants

While all of the parts of the plants above are regarded as non-toxic if accidentally ingested, individual pets might have specific allergies or sensitivities, so it’s important to observe any changes in your pet’s behavior or health when introducing new plants to your household. Additionally, be cautious of fertilizers and plant food, as they can absolutely be harmful to pets if ingested.

Indoor and outdoor plants that are unsafe for dogs

While there are many pet-friendly plants for green thumbs, the list of poisonous plants is long. Consequences of ingesting one range from mildly irritating symptoms to potential fatality. The list includes trendy plants like Chinese evergreen  , sansevieria (also known as mother-in-law’s tongue or snake plant  ), golden pothos (also known as devils ivy  ), and common yard plants such as azaleas, hydrangeas, and hostas.

Here’s a list of some of the most common plants in and outside your home that pose a risk to your pup:

Most toxic plants for dogs

Aloe veraWhile a useful houseplant, it may induce vomitingdiarrhea, and tremors in dogs and cats.
Azaleas and rhododendronsThis family of plants is commonly used in landscaping, but the entire genus of these large flowering shrubs is considered poisonous for dogs. Toxins affect the intestines, cardiovascular, and central nervous system. Eating this shrub can result in vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and heart problems.
BoxwoodBoxwood is often found in wreaths or arches, or as greenery, but ingestion can lead to dehydration, drooling, digestive problems, vomiting, and diarrhea.
ChrysanthemumThough chrysanthemums, nicknamed mums, won’t kill your pet, this plant is a natural insecticide that may result in vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, rashes, and a loss of coordination.
Daffodil and jonquilDaffodils contain tyrosine, a chemical that triggers vomiting. Eating a daffodil can lead to cardiac issues, convulsions, vomiting, diarrhea, heart arrhythmia, and low blood pressure.
DahliaDahlias are toxic, though the reason why is unknown. Ingestion can lead to mild gastrointestinal problems and mild dermatitis.
DaisyDaisies are part of the chrysanthemum species so they are also toxic. Ingestion can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, incoordination, and dermatitis.
FoxgloveAll parts of the plant are extremely poisonous. Foxgloves contain naturally occurring toxic cardiac glycosides that affect the heart. Ingestion can lead to cardiac arrest and death.
HollyAll holly varieties including the popular Christmas holly, Japanese holly, English holly, and American holly, are toxic. Eating holly leaves can result in vomiting, diarrhea, lip smacking, drooling, and gastrointestinal injury.
HostaPopular because they thrive even with indirect light, hostas can cause stomach upset.
HydrangeaHydrangeas are poisonous to people and pets in large quantities as there are toxic substances in both the leaves and flowers. Eating this plant can lead to diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, and more.
IrisThese spring blooms add a pop of yellow or blue to your garden, but they add a level of danger for your dog. Eating irises can result in mild to moderate vomiting, skin irritation, drooling, lethargy, and diarrhea.
LantanaThis popular, quick-growing ground cover adds a pop of bright yellow, pink, orange, purple, or red to your yard, but in rare cases can cause liver failure in cats and dogs.
LiliesMany lilies, including daylilies and peace lilies, are toxic to dogs and cats. While dogs may experience gastrointestinal upset, the risk is greatest for cats — they’re at risk of acute kidney injury or even death.
PeonyThis early spring blooming shrub has pink, red, or white flowers, but peonies contain a toxin called paenol that can lead to vomiting, excessive drooling, and diarrhea.
Sago palmAll parts of sago palms are poisonous. They contain cycasin, a toxin that causes severe liver damage in dogs. The Pet Poison Hotline reports that severe liver damage can be seen within two to three days of ingestion and the survival rate is 50%.
TulipThe bulbs are the most toxic part of this plant, but every part of these popular spring flowers can hurt your dog. Ingestion can lead to convulsions, cardiac problems, difficulty breathing, gastrointestinal discomfort, and drooling.
WisteriaWhile beautiful, all parts of wisteria are poisonous — but especially the seeds. The seeds contain both lectin and wisterin glycoside and while ingesting one may not be fatal, as few as five seeds can be fatal to dogs and cats, and even cause illness in children.
YewAll varieties of the yew, a common evergreen, contain toxins that are poisonous to dogs. Every part of the plant is dangerous, as they have taxines, a bitter poison in the leaves and seeds. When ingested by your pooch, it can lead to vomiting, difficulty breathing, seizures, dilated pupils, coma, and even death.

What to do if your dog has ingested a potentially deadly plant, shrub, or flower

If you think your furry friend has ingested a poisonous plant, call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Delaying a phone call in a potential emergency can cause injury or even death. If you catch your pup munching on one of our aforementioned toxic plants, keep an eye out for symptoms of poisoning.

Dog owners may also call the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Hotline 24 hours at (888) 426-4435 or the Poison Pet Helpline at 855-764-7661 if they suspect plant poisoning.

👉 Check out our comprehensive list of all the foods that are unsafe for your dog to eat, plus pet-safe human foods.

Symptoms of plant poisoning in pets

Symptoms can vary as they are specific to each type of plant eaten. These are the most common symptoms you can watch out for:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing

Plant poison prevention

The best cure for poisoning is prevention. Take note of any plants and shrubs in your yard or your house and identify any plants that may be dangerous. Then either remove these plants and shrubs or restrict your dog’s access to them. We’ve also rounded up a list of pet-safe pesticides and pest-control options for your yard and home.

Choosing pet-friendly plants can ensure the well-being of your furry friends while allowing you to enjoy the benefits and beauty of indoor and outdoor flora. Whether it’s the purifying Bamboo Palm or the colorful Snapdragons, incorporating non-toxic plants creates a harmonious environment for everyone in the household. Always research before purchasing a new plant, and monitor your pets for any adverse reactions, ensuring a safe and happy coexistence between pets and plants.

Frequently asked questions

What plants are OK to have around pets?

While many plants might not be an option, you can still have beautiful, colorful plants like snapdragons, marigolds, jasmine, and thyme in your yard and garden.

What is toxic in the garden for dogs?

When it comes to plants in your vegetable garden, there are some plants that you should keep your pup away from. Onionstomatoes, chives, and garlic can all pose a risk to your dog. Consider fencing these sections in or ensure your dog is supervised at all times. It’s also important to keep dogs away from your compost pile. As foods are broken down, they may become toxic to dogs if ingested — particularly with dairy products and various pieces of bread and grains.

How can I identify toxic plants to keep away from my pets?

Along with this article, there are plenty of great online resources to check which plants you should keep away from your furry friends. You can also consult your local nursery or plant store to see which plants they recommend keeping away from pets. Overall, it’s best to do as much research as you can before introducing a new plant to your home or garden.

What are the early warning signs of plant poisoning in pets?

Symptoms tend to vary by plant, but often the first universal signs are vomiting, upset stomach, diarrhea, excessive salivation, lethargy, skin irritation, and loss of appetite. If your pet is experiencing any of these, contact your vet immediately.

Are there any houseplants that can improve indoor air quality for both humans and pets?

Yes! Plenty of the houseplants listed above provide air-purifying benefits, specifically: Spider plants, Boston ferns, areca palms, and cast iron plants.

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