Tread Lightly: Snake Season & Pet Safety

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With summer in full swing, snake bites are on the rise—but understanding the reptiles’ behavior can help people and pets stay safe.

Cases of snake bites in emergency rooms are on the rise, and it will only become more prevalent as the season progresses. Snakes’ seasonal behavior is down to physiology. Like other reptiles, snakes depend on their environment to regulate their body temperature.

In the spring and fall, snakes are most active during the heat of the day. In the heat of the summer, however, they are going to be active during twilight and overnight hours, but will seek out shade and water to cool off during the daytime. Because of this, there is no time that is off limits to when your pet may encounter a snake. Weather is just one piece of the equation. With more free time and time spent outdoors in the summer, there are more opportunities for interactions.

While not all snakes are venomous, even nonvenomous snakes can bite when provoked.

Err on the side of caution. When we see a snake, we tend to be distracted or find difficulty in identifying the animal. It’s better to be safe than sorry. To minimize the chances of a snake encounter, it is important to understand what attracts snakes in the first place and what motivates them to bite.

Identifying snakes in Florida

There are several resources for identifying the common and uncommon snakes of Florida.

What attracts snakes?

Anywhere that has ample food (small rodents, birds, bugs, other reptiles), shade, and places to hide are likely going to have snakes. They try very hard to stay away from us, and only bite when they feel threatened.

Keeping Pets Safe From Snakes

When it comes to pets, the issue is that dogs and even cats tend to be curious about snakes—from cats swatting at a snake to dogs putting their faces a little too close— all of which can lead to a bite. Consistent precautions can help keep pets out of harm’s way.

Turn on flood lights, make some noise, and supervise your pets when they are let outside in the yard (especially at night). When taking your pets for a walk on a leash, keep them away from shrubbery, landscaping timbers, and vehicles parked on grass.

We do not suggest the aid of snake repellents, but rather make ones’ property less hospitable to snakes by clearing shrubs, brush, leaves, as well as removing hiding spots like wood piles or cars that have been sitting awhile.

When You Are Face to Face with a Snake

Snakes play a larger role in our ecosystem. Realize that they are not looking for a fight with humans. Without snakes, we would have an abundance of small rodents and other pests. Do not kill the snake!

Snake bites occur when people fail to keep their distance. Rather than approaching or attacking a snake, contact animal control for assistance. Animal control officers can safely capture and contain a snake before moving it to a safe habitat away from humans.

So what can YOU do? Simply keep an eye on the snake, so that you are able to help animal control locate the animal.

Did you know even a dead snake could present a threat? Although not common, it is still possible for some snakes to deliver their venom even after they have died. If you believe the snake to be dead, leave it alone for an hour and then use a tool like a shovel or a broom handle for removal.

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Removal Resources

Bradenton Wildlife Control:

(941) 404-8859

Sarasota Wildlife Control and Nuisance Wildlife Removal:

(866) 263-9453

Manatee County Animal Services:

(941) 742-5933


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Salmonella Infection in Pets & People: Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

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Salmonella is a group of bacteria that can live in the intestinal tract of many different animals. Salmonellosis (sal-mohn-el-OH-sis) is a bacterial disease caused by Salmonella.

Although Salmonella is most often spread when a person eats contaminated food, the bacteria also can be passed between people and animals. Many different animals and pets can carry these germs. Animals known to commonly spread Salmonella to humans include:

  • Reptiles (turtles, lizards, and snakes)

  • Amphibians (frogs and toads)

  • Poultry (chicks, chickens, ducklings, ducks, geese, and turkeys)

  • Other birds (parakeets, parrots, and wild birds)

  • Rodents (mice, rats, hamsters, and guinea pigs)

  • Other small mammals (hedgehogs)

  • Farm animals (goats, calves, cows, sheep, and pigs)

  • Dogs

  • Cats

  • Horses

How do animals and people become infected?

Animals become infected with Salmonella through their environment, by eating contaminated food, or from their mothers before they are even born or hatched. Salmonella is naturally in the intestines of many different animals. Animals with Salmonella shed the bacteria in their stool which can easily contaminate their body parts (fur, feathers, or scales) and anything in areas where these animals live and roam (terrarium or aquarium, chicken coop, pen or fencing, countertops, sinks, etc.). It is important to know that many animals can carry Salmonella and still appear healthy and clean.

People can get a Salmonella infection if they do not wash their hands after contact with animals carrying Salmonella or their environment, such as their bedding, food, or tank water. For example, some pet products, like pet foods and treats, can be contaminated with Salmonella and other germs. Pet food and treats that may be contaminated include dry dog or cat food, dog biscuits, pig ears, beef hooves, and rodents used to feed reptiles (including frozen feeder rodents). Additionally, reptiles and amphibians that live in tanks or aquariums can contaminate the water with Salmonella, which can make people sick even if they don’t touch the animal.

Who is most at risk for serious illness?

Anyone can get sick from Salmonella, but some people are more likely than others to get salmonellosis. People who are more likely to get salmonellosis include:

  • infants

  • children 5 years of age and younger

  • adults aged 65 and older

  • people with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV/AIDS, organ transplant patients, and people receiving chemotherapy.

Prevention

The best way to prevent getting Salmonella from animals is to always wash your hands with soap and running water right after contact with these animals, their environments, or their stool.

DO/

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and waterRight after touching animals.After touching your pet’s food (like dry dog or cat food, frozen feeder rodents) or treats (like rawhide bones, pig ears, biscuits).After touching the areas where they live and roam.

  • Use running water and soap, if possible.

  • Use hand sanitizer if running water and soap are not available.Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water as soon as a sink is available.Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.

  • Use soap or a disinfectant to thoroughly clean any surfaces that have been in contact with animals. Do not let children 5 years of age and younger do this task. Children 6 years of age and older can help with cleaning and disinfecting but only if they are supervised by an adult.

  • Clean your pet’s cage, terrarium, or aquarium and its contents (such as food and water bowls) outdoors, if possible. If you must clean your pet’s habitat indoors, use a bathtub or large sink that can be cleaned and disinfected afterward. Avoid using a kitchen sink if possible.

  • Use a bleach solution to clean and disinfect.

DO NOT/

  • Do not let children 5 years of age and younger, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems handle or touch animals that can spread Salmonella (like turtles, water frogs, or poultry). They should also try not to touch the water from the animals’ containers or aquariums.

  • Avoid keeping live poultry, amphibians, and reptiles in homes and facilities with children 5 years of age and younger or people with weakened immune systems.

  • Never eat or drink around high-risk animals (like turtles, water frogs, chicks, ducklings), or in areas where they live and roam.

  • Keep animals away from areas where food and drinks are prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.

  • Do not ask children 5 years of age and younger, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems to clean pets’ habitats and their contents.

  • Persons 65 years of age and older and those with weak immune systems should wear disposable gloves if they have to clean their pet’s habitat.

  • Once you finish cleaning, throw out the dirty wash water in a toilet or sink that is not used for food preparation or for drinking water.

What are the symptoms of a Salmonella infection?

Salmonella Symptoms in People

People infected with Salmonella might have diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. Infants, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness. Please visit CDC’s Salmonella website for more information.

Salmonella Symptoms in Pets

Many animals with Salmonella have no signs of illness at all and appear healthy. Pets that become sick from Salmonella infection typically have diarrhea that may contain blood or mucus. Sick animals may seem more tired than usual and may vomit or have a fever. If your pet has these signs of illness or you are concerned that your pet may have a Salmonella infection, please contact your pet’s veterinarian.

Since there have been several pet treats recalled due to contamination with Salmonella, you should tell your veterinarian if your pet recently consumed a product that has been recalled. Do not feed your pet any more of the recalled product. Throw the product away immediately.

How can Salmonella infections be diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosing Salmonella in People

Salmonella infections in people usually resolve within 5-7 days, and most do not require treatment other than drinking plenty of fluids. People with severe diarrhea may need to spend time in a hospital getting rehydrated with intravenous fluids. Lab tests are needed to determine if Salmonella is the cause of a person’s illness. For more information about diagnosis and treatment, please visit CDC’s Salmonella website.

Diagnosing Salmonella in Pets

If you suspect that your pet has Salmonella, see your veterinarian. Salmonella infections may require prompt treatment with supportive care and fluids. If your pet is very sick, it may need to be treated with antibiotics or be hospitalized in a veterinary clinic. Your pet’s veterinarian is the best source of advice on your pet’s health.

More Information

Learn more about salmonellosis at CDC’s Salmonella website, which includes answers to frequently asked questions, technical information, and additional resources.


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Toxoplasmosis & Cat Owners

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What is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a microscopic parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. More than 60 million people in the United States carry the Toxoplasma parasite. Toxoplasmosis can cause severe illness in infants infected before birth (When their mothers are newly infected during pregnancy), or in persons with a weakened immune system.


What role do cats play in the spread of Toxoplasmosis?

Cats get Toxoplasma infection by eating infected birds, rodents, and other small animals, or anything contaminated with feces from another cat that is shedding the microscopic parasite in it's feces. After a cat has been infected, it can shed the parasite for up to two weeks. The parasite becomes infective one to five days after it is passed in the feces of the cat. The parasite can live in the environment for many months and contaminate soil, water, fruits and vegetables, sandboxes, grass where animals graze for food, litter boxes, or any place where an infected cat may have defecated.


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How are people infected with Toxoplasma?

There are several ways in which people may become infected with toxoplasosis.

  • Eating food, drinking water, or accidentially swallowing soil that has been contaminated with infected cat feces (think: homegrown produce that feral cats may have access to!).

  • Eating raw or undercooked meat from animals (especially pigs, lamb, or wild game) that have been infected with Toxoplasma.

  • Directly from a pregnant woman to her unborn child when the mother becomes infected with Toxoplasma just before or during pregnancy.


What are the symptoms of toxoplasmosis?

Individuals with a healthy immune system:

Most people who become infected with Toxoplasma do not know it and have no symptoms. However, when illness occurs, it is usually mild. Some may feel like they have the “flu”, with swollen lymph glands, or muscle aches and pains that last for several weeks or more. Although rare, eye disease may also occur.

Individuals with weakened immune systems:

People with weakened immune systems may experience severe symptoms. The most common symptoms in people with HIV infection are headache, confusion, and fever. Other symptoms include seizures, poor coordination, and nausea or vomiting.

Infants infected before birth:

Most infants infected with Toxoplasma before birth show no symptoms at birth. However, many are likely to develop symptoms later in life. These include vision loss, mental disability, and seizures.


How can I protect myself from toxoplasmosis?

Several steps can be taken to protect yourself and others from toxoplasmosis.

  • Change your cat litter boxes daily. Toxmoplasma takes more than one day to become infectious. If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, ask someone else to change the litter box. If this is not possible, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water afterwards.

  • Cover any outdoor sandboxes when not in use to keep cats from defecating in the them.

  • Avoid adopting stray cats, especially kittens, off the streets (go through an agency such as our local Cat Depot to assure a happy & healthy stray). Younger cats are more likely to be releasing Toxoplasma in their feces.

  • Do not eat undercooked meat. Cook meat until the internal temperature reaches 160° Fahrenheit.

  • Wash all kitchen supplies (such as knives and cutting boards) that have been in contact with raw meat.

  • If you have a weakened immune system, it is important to talk to your health care provider about getting a blood test to determine if you have been infected with Toxoplasma.


How can I protect my cat from toxoplasmosis?

Protecting your cat from toxoplasmosis may also help to protect you from toxoplasmosis.

  • Feed your cat commercial dry or canned food.

  • Never feed cats raw meat because this can be a source of Toxoplasma infection.

  • Keep indoor cats indoors so they do not become infected by eating small animals.


Do I have to get rid of my cat?

No, you do not have to give up your cat. Owning a cat does not mean you will be infected with the parasite. It is unlikely that you would be exposed to the parasite by touching the infected cat, because cats usually do not carry the parasite on their fur coat. In addition, cats kept indoors (that do not hunt prey or feed on raw meat) are not likely to be infected with Toxoplasma. But, if you are pregnant, or have a weakened immune system, it is important to protect yourself from infection.


Can toxoplasmosis be treated?

Yes, most certainly. There is treatment for toxoplasmosis. In an otherwise healthy person, mild symptoms typically go away within several weeks to months and treatment is not needed. However, treatment may be recommended for an otherwise healthy person with eye disease due to toxoplasmosis. A woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can be treated with medication that may protect her unborn child from toxoplasmosis. Mother and baby should be monitored closely during the pregnancy and post-birth.


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How do pets and people become infected with Giardia?

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Did you know:

Giardia is a tiny parasite that lives in the intestines of various animals.

Giardia is passed in the feces of animals in the form of a cyst that is resistant to many environmental extremes. These cysts are scattered through the environment in feces or fecal-contaminated water. These cysts are infectious when passed, and upon ingestion by the next host, the encysted trophozoites emerge from the cysts in the intestinal tract. Within the intestine, the trophozoites feed and multiply. Some trophozoites will then form a cyst wall around themselves, and those cysts will be passed in the feces to continue the cycle.


How Do Dogs, Cats, and People Become Infected?

People and pets rarely share each other’s Giardia.

People are typically infected with a human form of Giardia, dogs with a canine form, cats with a feline form, and cattle and sheep with a ruminant form. People are occasionally infected with a different form that is shared with animals. On rare occasions, dogs and cats have been found infected with the human form. Thus, there is little evidence for direct transmission from pet dogs and cats to people. However, the rare occurrence of the human forms in cats and dogs means that there may be a slight chance that they pose a risk as a source of human infection. To be able to distinguish the specific forms, a veterinarian is required to submit samples for specialized tests.

Symptoms of Infection with Giardia

In dogs and cats, infection with Giardia is usually asymptomatic. Some pets will, however, develop persistent diarrhea. There is usually no blood in the stool.

In people, infection with Giardia is also often asymptomatic. However, some people can develop acute, intermittent, or chronic non-bloody diarrhea. Other symptoms in people include abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

Prevention and Treatment

  • Unlike for heartworm disease, there are no drugs that can be routinely given to a pet that will prevent infection.

  • Dogs, cats, and people that have symptoms of the infection can be treated; however, there are situations where it is difficult to clear an animal of their infections.

  • There are approved drugs for treating the infection in people. These drugs have not been approved for this specific use in dogs and cats, but these and similar drugs are used in them.

Risk Factors for Human Infection

  • Accidentally swallowing Giardia cysts from surfaces contaminated with feces, such as bathroom fixtures, changing tables, diaper pails, or toys contaminated with feces.

  • Drinking water from contaminated sources (e.g., lakes, streams, shallow [less than 50 feet] or poorly maintained wells).

  • Swallowing recreational water contaminated with cysts. Recreational water includes water in swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs or spas, fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, or streams that can be contaminated with feces or sewage.

  • Eating contaminated uncooked, fresh produce.

  • Having contact with someone who is infected with Giardiasis.

  • Changing diapers of children with Giardiasis

  • Traveling to countries where Giardiasis is common and being exposed to the parasite as described above.


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Diabetic Alert Dogs: Their Roles & Importance

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A brief history

The use of service dogs first came about in 1863, in the form of the American Civil War Therapy Dogs. A training school for Law Enforcement Dogs was established in 1899, and in 1929, the world met its first Seeing Eye Dogs.

A woman named Dorothy Harrison Eustis ran a training program in Switzerland for guide dogs in the 1920s, and trained the United States’ first known seeing eye dog named “Kiss.”

Before they were established in the US, guide dog training programs were established in both Switzerland and Germany.

Today, as we can see , Service Dogs are utilized in so many different ways, and have remained loyal servants and best of friends to those who need them the most.

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Client Spotlight

This is Kaylah and her faithful Diabetic Alert Dog, Daytona. Daytona's ability to smell the chemical changes in Kaylah's body when she is experiencing seriously high or low blood sugar levels is a lifesaver.

Now Daytona needs our help. He was recently diagnosed with a torn ACL (a major stabilizer of the joint) that will require him to have surgery to repair. All donations will go directly to pay for Daytona's surgery and rehabilitation bills.

Help Kaylah and us help Daytona in his time of need.


So, What is a Diabetic Alert Dog?

Diabetic Alert Dogs are trained to alert diabetic owners in advance of low (hypoglycemia) or high (hyperglycemia) blood sugar events before they become dangerous. That way their handlers can take steps to return their blood sugar to normal such as using glucose sweets or taking insulin. A Diabetic Alert Dog is specifically trained to react to the chemical change produced by blood sugar highs and lows. Diabetic Alert Dogs can provide emotional security and a sense of balance for individuals and for those who have loved ones with diabetes. They can help you lead a more confident and independent lifestyle.



How does a Diabetic Alert Dog work?

Our bodies are a unique makeup of organic chemicals - all of which have very specific smells. Low and high blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia/ hyperglycemia, release chemicals in the body that have a distinct odor that is undetectable by humans. Our training process positively motivates these dogs to alert when these odors are detected.


Can Diabetic Alert Dogs be in public places?

The Americans With Disabilities Act considers Diabetic Alert Dog a service dog. A service dog is permitted by federal law to accompany you anywhere that you are entitled to go including: restaurants, stores, work places, schools, and other public places that pets are not normally allowed. For more information on U.S. service dog laws, please visit www.ADA.gov.

How can I find my own Diabetic Alert Dog?

Getting a Diabetic Alert Dog of your very own is a process. The first step is to find a legitimate, accredited organization made up of trainers that will assist you in both the acquiring and the training of your new DAD. Alternatively, there are Diabetic Alert Dog Training schools that will assist in the training and development of the dog of your own choosing. After being matched with the right dog for you, you may be asked to provide a “scent collection kit” so that your dog can learn your body chemistry during its training. Home visits are scheduled in order to begin the bonding process.


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Related: We have more information under our dog health + client care categories.