<![CDATA[NBC 6 South Florida - ]]>Copyright 2018https://www.nbcmiami.com/feature/all-about-animalshttp://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC+6+LOGO+GOOGLE.pngNBC 6 South Floridahttps://www.nbcmiami.comen-usTue, 25 Sep 2018 01:08:29 -0400Tue, 25 Sep 2018 01:08:29 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Thu, 06 Sep 2018 13:57:38 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0908-NBC6_Ace.jpg]]><![CDATA[Do Pets Need Health Insurance?]]>Fri, 31 Aug 2018 14:19:22 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/196*120/Doc+and+Finn.JPEG

Before I decided to apply to veterinary school, I worked as a financial advisor. When building a long term plan for financial security, my first order of business was to discuss insurance. Like many others in my field, I was taught insurance was crucial in protecting my clients against catastrophic loss - but only catastrophic loss. My mentors convinced me that insurance products covering dental, vision, and veterinary care were wastes of a client’s money. These expenses, they assured me, were comparatively trivial.

That was a long time ago, in an economy far, far away.

Last year, while Wall Street analysts were waxing lyrical about our country’s financial resilience, the Federal Reserve released a startling statistic: roughly 40% of American adultslacked the fundsto cover an unexpected, $400 emergency. While things may be looking brighter for some of us, clearly unplanned veterinary expenses can pose a problem for many pet owners.

Additionally, advances in veterinary medicine now provide treatment options never before seen outside human hospitals. CT scans, ultrasonography, adipose STEM cell therapy, acupuncture, board certified specialists - these are just a few of the state of the art services available to today’s companion animals. Yet all this technology and expertise comes at a price.

Is Veterinary Insurance Right For You?

People often ask me why both my dachshunds are covered by veterinary health insurance. The answer? Well...they’re dachshunds! There is so much to love about this breed, yet their willful, impulsive nature makes them prone to the types of orthopedic injuries which accompany misadventure. Perhaps the most common breed-specific catastrophe faced by dachshund owners is Intervertebral Disc Disease/Degeneration (IVDD), a condition which when not corrected surgically, can lead to permanent paralysis. This is a surgery general practitioners are not qualified to do, and the price tag starts at around $7,000 in Miami. Cancer treatments can easily add up to five figures. Or in other words, catastrophic loss.

A friend recently laughed at my decision, referring to pet health insurance as “an American thing.” As is happens, this could not be further from the truth. Roughly 23% of pets in the United Kingdom are insured. In Sweden, over 30% are insured. The total number of insured pets in the United States of America? Wait for it…

Less that 1%.

We refer to our pets by such euphemisms as fur babies, fur kids, companions, and members of the family. As such, we love to spoil them (and by “we” I mean “me too”). Between toys, beds, clothing, grooming, and in my case, pool rafts and trips to Key West, we spend lavishly on our furry friends. Yet when it comes to medical emergencies, too many of us would rather hope we never have to think about such things. For our family, the cost of a monthly premium is worth the peace of mind.

Next time, we’ll talk about how to find the best insurance plan for your pet!

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic. 

Click herefor deals and discounts exclusively for NBC 6 viewers. 

Photo Credit: Dr. Ian and Lynn Kupkee]]>
<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Thu, 23 Aug 2018 12:36:03 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0822_NBC6.jpg]]><![CDATA[Rare Sea Turtles 'Donkey Kong,' 'Mario Kart' Rehabilitated]]>Fri, 10 Aug 2018 12:06:03 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/081018+MK+DK+Turtles+4.jpgFlorida's Clearwater Marine Aquarium rehabilitated two of the rarest species of sea turtles, the critically endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle.]]><![CDATA[Clear The Shelters: Helping Your Shelter Pet Feel At Home ]]>Mon, 20 Aug 2018 06:50:14 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/196*120/Doc+and+Jessica.JPG

August 18th is right around the corner! If you’ve been thinking about adding a pet to your family, there’s no better time than next Saturday’s Clear The Shelters event. If you haven’t already done so, please take a few minutes to assess your lifestyle, and ask yourself if you are ready for the commitment of pet ownership.

Assuming you’ve done your homework, and decided what kind of pet is right for you, let’s focus on helping your shelter pet make a smooth transition into your home.

Before heading to the shelter, pick up a leash or carrier so you will have a way to safely transport your new pet. While some shelters supply them, it never hurts to be prepared.

Once your new pet is home, start establishing a routine. If you have school-aged children, the routine should be one that will easily gel with the new school year. The back-to-school transition can be jarring for pets, and your new friend has dealt with considerable change already. Schedule morning feedings and walks at times that will not interfere with the school year routine.

Since pets will naturally be excited when the kids get home from school, this is a great time to encourage play sessions. It also has the added benefit of allowing the kids to blow off steam before settling down to do homework. Both dogs and cats should be fed two meals per day in order to keep their metabolisms working efficiently, so work this into your new routine as well.

Should you decide to adopt a puppy or kitten, you may have to add a midday feeding. Be sure to ask the shelter staff how often your new pet eats, and stick to that routine for the time being. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you when it is time to change Fluffy’s chow times.

Many adoptive families wish to change their new pet’s diet. Since any change, even one that’s made to a better food, can cause gastrointestinal upset, it’s important to do this gradually. Find out what the shelter has been feeding and feed something similar, at least for now. After a couple of days, feed a 50/50 mix of the existing diet and the food you wish to start feeding.

Each day, take out a little more of the old food, and add a little more of the new food. After about a week, your pet should be completely transitioned to the new food. Resist the urge to spoil the new addition with treats and table foods. Many table foods are harmful to pets, and processed pet treats are loaded with calories, sugar, salt, and fat.

Dogs and puppies should be let outside for bathroom breaks using the same door every time. This will help them know where to go when they are trying to tell you nature is calling. Puppies who are still getting the hang of housebreaking will need to be let out often. Be patient, and reward successful outings with lots of praise and affection.

Cats and kittens will need litter boxes placed in quiet, low-traffic areas. Your home should contain one litter box for each cat or kitten, plus one extra box to spare. Be diligent about scooping boxes and changing litter - if it’s unpleasant for you, it’s unpleasant for your cat! I never recommend covered litter boxes as they trap odors inside. Cats are highly sensitive to odors, and if their box is off-putting, they may stop using it.

Giving your shelter pet a space of his own can go a long way towards helping him settle in quickly. A training crate for a dog or puppy acts as a cozy den for a dog who may be feeling overwhelmed. Teach young children this is Fluffy’s special house - they cannot be permitted to crawl in it or play in it, and must respect Fluffy’s decision to go there when she is tired of playing. When dogs know they can retreat from an exuberant child, they are far less likely to feel threatened and bite due to fear.

When raising a puppy, crates are a godsend. They can aid in the housebreaking process, as puppies tend to not soil their sleeping space. They also ensure your puppy - and your belongings! - are safe when you are away from home. Cats and kittens feel safest when perched up high, so a carpeted cat tree or kitty condo is bound to be appreciated. A rope scratching pad is also a must, as cats need a way to care for their claws. A designated area helps them do so in a way that protects your furniture.

Your new pet will also want to play, so provide him with toys before he makes toys of your belongings! Dogs and puppies love to chew, so don’t forget about chew toys. Stay away from rawhides, bones, and pig ears as these can cause dangerous intestinal blockages. Kong toys, NylaBones and bully sticks are safe, healthier alternatives to the old school favorites.

Again, teach children not to attempt to take these items away from the new puppy or dog. Toys that encourage pets to solve problems for a food or toy reward provide both cognitive enrichment, and an alternative to getting into mischief.

While it will be tempting to have lots of family and friends around to visit the new addition, remember your new pet is dealing with consecutive, and potentially stressful changes. Invite only one couple or family at a time, and monitor your pet’s body language for signs of anxiety.

If you feel as though Fluffy has had enough, encourage him to go to his safe space and reward him with a toy or small treat when he does. Synthetic pheromones and pet-specific CD’s can help more reticent newbies feel secure in their new surroundings.

Finally, be sure to schedule a post-adoption veterinary visit for your pet. This is a great time to address any questions you may have about caring for your new best friend. Many clinics - including ours! - offer free initial physical exams to pets who are adopted from shelters, so don’t be shy about asking shelter staff for a list of recommendations.

Remember, shelter pets are a bargain, so if you need to pick up some shampoo or ear cleaner, you’re still way ahead of the game. The rewards of adopting a shelter pet far outweigh the expenses. So what are you waiting for? We’ll see you at the shelter!

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic.

Click here for special deals and discounts exclusively for NBC 6 fans!

Photo Credit: Dr. Ian Kupkee]]>
<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Fri, 27 Jul 2018 13:34:07 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0725_NBC6_Bane.jpg]]><![CDATA[Pet Safety In The Dog Days Of Summer]]>Tue, 31 Jul 2018 06:18:18 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/161*120/Safe+car+travel.jpg

South Florida’s soaring summer temperatures can be hard on everyone - including our furry friends. While Mother Nature presents many opportunities for pets to get into trouble, here are some of the more life-threatening hazards that threaten our pets during the dog days of summer.

Toxic Toads

Known to scientists as Rhinella Marina, this invasive toad species is more commonly called the Bufo Toad, Cane Toad, Giant Toad, or Marine Toad. They are most commonly found near bodies of freshwater, and generally speaking, are most active at night. That said, it is not uncommon to see them during the day in yards, under shrubs, and even in the middle of roads.

As dogs and cats are predators at heart, many cannot resist catching Bufo Toads with their mouths. And when caught, the toads secrete a deadly toxin as a defense mechanism. Symptoms of Bufo Toad Toxicity include vocalizing, mouth rubbing, excessive drooling, respiratory distress, vision problems, unsteady gait, seizures, collapse, and hyperthermia.

Left untreated, toad venom toxicity causes the victim’s body temperature to spike to unsurvivable levels. If you suspect your pet has come into contact with Bufo Toad venom, take her to the nearest veterinary hospital immediately.

While many trainers can help you teach your pet to ignore toads, a dog with an especially intense prey drive may abandon his training and go for it. For this reason, I always recommend clients leash walk their dogs whenever they are outside. Rethink doggie doors and don’t turn your back for so much as a moment.

One of our nurses had a toad emergency with her puppy several weeks ago. And our older dachshund took us by surprise a few years ago. Toad poisonings happen in split seconds, and even we professionals can be caught unawares. As is often the case, it is far better to be safe than sorry.

While cats are technically susceptible to the same symptoms as dogs, they rarely bother Bufo Toads. In my twenty-two year career, I have yet to see a case of toad venom toxicity in a cat. Canine counterparts, take note - it really isn’t worth it.


While many situations can lead to heatstroke in pets, many lose their lives to heat exhaustion while inside a locked car. Although outdoor temperatures can feel perfectly safe, this by no means suggests similar temperatures of a car’s interior. In fact, a Stanford University study showed the temperature inside a car on a 70 degree day spiking to over 104 degrees in just under 30 minutes.

And while many pet owners are happy to leave the engine and the air conditioner running,in places like South Florida, this is often not enough. While there are currently no organizations that track the number of pets who die in this manner, educated guesses range from the low hundreds to well into the thousands every year.

In fact it’s such a problem, that a colleague in North Carolina, Dr. Ernie Ward, locked himself in a hot car for 30 minutes and documented his physical and psychological responses to make his point

Dogs love to go for rides in the car. But don’t let a momentary impulse turn into a lifetime of regret. If you must have your pet in the car with you, tie a ribbon around the steering wheel and another on the door handle to remind yourself they are there.

Tie another one around your wrist. Set alarms on your phone for every five minutes. Check your rear view mirrors constantly. Place something you know you won’t forget (purse, cell phone, wallet, etc.) in the back seat next to your pet.

Parents know how handy an extra mirror can be - pet parents should use them as well. To be extra safe, a professionally installed chime reminds you to check the car for your pet - and relentlessly blasts the car’s hornif you forget

Summers can be hectic, but a little due diligence and forward planning can help the entire family get the most from the dog days of summer.

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic.

Photo Credit: Dr. Ian Kupkee]]>
<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Fri, 20 Jul 2018 13:39:34 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0718_NBC6_Andromeda.jpg]]><![CDATA[Thunderstorm Anxiety and Pets]]>Fri, 20 Jul 2018 13:35:43 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/187*120/Zohan+hides+from+thunder.jpg

South Florida summers can be hard for pets - including one of mine. At Casa Kupkee, we don’t need to check the weather reports to know when a storm is approaching. Our younger dog, Zohan, seems to know when storms are coming, and he responds to said knowledge by hiding under pillows, or attempting to glue himself to the nearest human body.

If you share your life with a pet like Zohan, you know the routine: shaking, panting, pacing, drooling, destructiveness, and lack of appetite, just to name a few. Here are some suggestions to help your furry friends weather the summer storms.

Create a safe space

Like pets who deal with fireworks phobia, storm phobic pets need a safe space to ride out the event. Unlike fireworks, however, tropical weather can be unpredictable, and often occurs when owners are not at home. A closet can make for an ideal hiding space, as they are dark, cozy, and partially soundproofed with hanging clothes.

A crate covered with a blanket and lined with bedding is also a great choice. If you are home during a storm, take him to the safe space and stay with him if you can. If he chooses a different one, follow his lead. Reward his initiative with lots of praise and positive reinforcement.

Cats, on the other hand, will often find their own safe space, and retreat to it as needed. If you notice your kitty tends to disappear under a bed, or into a closet during storms, resist the urge to haul her out and “comfort” her. This is a self-soothing behavior, and should be encouraged. Do not restrict her access to these places, as this will only heighten her level of anxiety.

Watch her carefully for any changes in her litter box habits. Urinating outside the litter box, blood in the litter, and vocalizing while in the litter box are just a few of the clinical signs that can signal the onset of stress-related urinary tract abnormalities. If your cat is showing any such signs, she needs to see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Invest in a summer wardrobe

Zohan rocks the summer fashion scene with a tightly fitting garment that uses gentle pressure to soothe anxious pets. While not a miracle cure, it helps him tremendously, and many of our clients have also reported substantial improvement. It is available for both dogs and cats. Other wearable options boast linings which claim to help neutralize the charges that accompany electrical storms.

Try synthetic pheromones

Synthetic pheromones mimic the pheromones of lactating mother dogs or cats. While undetectable to humans, they produce a calming scent our pets associate with feelings of security and safety. Such pheromones create the sense of well-being and calm felt by puppies and kittens when their mommies are caring for them. Synthetic pheromones are available as sprays, diffusers, or collars and the best prices can be found on Amazon.com.

Throw storm parties

If you are home with your dog during a thunderstorm, try running him through some basic obedience commands. Reward him lavishly with lots of praise and high-value treats. This is where trick training becomes your friend. The more tricks your dog knows, the more tools you have to distract him from his fear.

My wife is fond of telling clients that dogs are like us men - incapable of thinking about two things at the same time! If your dog is focused on tricks and games, he is less likely to focus on the sounds of impending doom.

The trick is to get him to focus on you, so when I say high-value treats, I don’t mean dry kibble. The potential for reward has to be so powerful that he sees his human companion as being more valuable than whatever is going on outside. Look for training treats that are meaty, chewy, and heavily scented. Each reward should be small, so he is motivated to do more. This is not the time to teach new commands, but rather to go through his existing repertoire.

The feelings of mastery and accomplishment should displace those of anxiety and help to build his confidence. It can also help create positive associations with storms, which will help him to cope with his fear when he is alone during a storm. Our older dog, Grendel actually enjoys watching storms from our bedroom window!

If you have a young dog who does not appear to be storm phobic, teach these behaviors anyway. Storm anxiety generally peaks at three to four years of age, so use this time to build his confidence and acquire the tools you may need later.

If your dog is too frightened to focus on you, do not force the issue. His fear of disappointing you will only amplify his fear of the weather event. Try tempting him with a favorite toy, or encouraging him to chase a ball around the house.

If that doesn’t work either, simply shut it down. Never scold or punish your pet for being frightened, and never force him to “deal with it” by leaving him outside during a storm. If none of these techniques work, this next step may be your only option.

Consider chemical courage

In the past, veterinarians prescribed powerful sedatives to tranquilize pets during storms. More recent research, however, has shown that while these drugs do a great job of shutting down the body, they do nothing to quiet the animal’s anxious mind. The more modern approach is to prescribe anti-anxiety medications, many of which are given on a daily basis.

Some of these medications take about two weeks to take effect, and it may take even more time to find the dose that is most helpful for your pet. Some of my clients start giving the medications in May, and discontinue them once hurricane season ends. Since every pet is different, it is important to discuss this option with your veterinarian.

Most importantly, anti-anxiety medications are intended to be used in conjunction with behavioral modification. When you talk to your vet about medication, be sure he or she also recommends a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a pharmaceutical fix-all. But with the right tools and a lot of patience, you can help your pets endure the dog days of summer.

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic

Click here for deals and discounts exclusively for NBC 6 fans!

<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Thu, 05 Jul 2018 12:35:02 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0704_NBC6_Angel.jpg]]><![CDATA[Florida Deputy Wades Into Swampy Lake to Rescue Trapped Dog]]>Thu, 28 Jun 2018 12:44:19 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/062818+Hillsborough+county+deputy+matt+patellis+dog+rescue.jpg

A Florida deputy went "above and beyond the call of duty" to rescue a dog that became stuck in a swampy lake.

Video released by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Thursday showed Deputy Matt Patellis wading into the deep water after an owner reported that her boxer was trapped in the small lake.

Patellis comforted the dog and was able to get him out of the water and back to land.

"They both need showers but everyone is back home safe thanks to the Deputy going above and beyond the call of duty by going into the small lake," the sheriff's office tweeted.

Photo Credit: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]]>
<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Fri, 22 Jun 2018 14:17:04 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0620_HSBC_Ashley.jpg]]><![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Mon, 11 Jun 2018 06:14:32 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0606+NBC6_Amidala.jpg]]><![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Thu, 31 May 2018 14:19:21 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0529+NBC6_Baby.jpg]]><![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 12:39:39 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/052318+NBC6_Lady.jpg]]><![CDATA[Soldier Reunites With Dog She Rescued During Iraq Deployment]]>Thu, 17 May 2018 18:20:45 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/215*120/051718+dog+reunited+with+solider+mom.PNG

It was a reunion seven months in the making – and one that had tails waging and tears flowing inside a Florida airport.

U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Tracy McKithern reunited Wednesday with a dog she rescued as a puppy while deployed in Iraq in 2017.

The combat photographer from Tampa met the pooch, who had been wandering with her mother around the U.S. base for weeks, while she was stationed in the Kurdistan Province, according to Department of Defense news release. The dogs appeared malnourished and abused by locals and quickly learned that they were not only safe near the base, but would be fed, too.

McKithern, along with soldiers from the Italian and German armies, started caring for the dogs, the DOD reported. As weeks went by, their wounds began to heal and they gained weight. McKithern forged a special bond with the "sweetest little soul" and named her Erby after a nearby city in northern Iraq.

"She ran up to our convoy every day," McKithern recalled. "She was so tiny she would fall and trip all over herself to get to us."

As the end of her deployment approached, McKithern started to wonder how she could ever leave Erby behind when she returned to stateside.

"One night I posted a pic of us on Facebook, with a caption that read something like, 'I wish I could take her home,'" McKithern said. "I went to sleep, woke up and my friends and family had posted links to various rescue groups. I reached out to one of them, the nonprofit Puppy Rescue Mission, and they responded immediately. We sent them $1,000 and they set up a crowd fund to get the rest. We needed an additional $3,500."

With the generous help of strangers and fellow soldiers, McKithern was able to secure Erby's transportation to the U.S. But shortly after McKithern arrived back in Florida, she received orders for another deployment and was scheduled to leave on her new mission the very day Erby was slated to land at John F. Kennedy Airport.

McKithern’s husband, Sgt. Wes McKithern, also a combat photographer, picked up Erby in New York and drove the dog home to Tampa, where pooch waited more than two months to be reunited with her rescuer.

Video footage of the reunion at Tampa International Airport was posted on the airport’s Facebook page. In the video, McKithern can be heard asking Erby if she "remembers me," to which the dog confirms with excited wags of her tail.

An emotional Erby jumps on the soldier and embraces her.

"I can't believe it," said McKithern. "It feels like a miracle is happening."

McKithern told reporters at the airport that Erby’s mother is still in Iraq being cared for by coalition soldiers at the base and hopes that she can also be adopted and brought to the U.S.

Puppy Rescue Mission "assist with requests, logistics, administration and fund-raising for the adopted stray dogs of war rescued by and bonded with soldiers," according to its website. 

Photo Credit: Facebook / Tampa International Airport]]>
<![CDATA[What to do When You Find Kittens ]]>Fri, 11 May 2018 11:55:59 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/187*120/Doc+and+kittens.jpg

As the days grow longer and the temperatures rise, South Florida’s free-roaming cats have just one thing on their minds. This is when our clinic starts fielding frantic phone calls and emails that begin with “So I found these kittens...what do I do?”

Before you take on the project of hand-rearing a litter of kittens, it’s wise to discuss some of the things you shouldn’t do. The first decision you will need to make is whether or not you need to intervene at all. So before I get to the list of do’s, let’s go over some of the don’t’s.

Don’t assume the kittens have been abandoned by their mother.

When we find a mewling, helpless litter, the urge to jump in and save them can be very powerful. However, it’s important to note that like their wild counterparts, free-roaming cats must forage and hunt for their food. As a matter of necessity, mother cats must leave their kittens alone for several hours at a time. If you come across a litter, and mom is nowhere is sight, observe the litter from a safe distance for about three hours.

Since we are all busy, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of friends, and do this in shifts. If the mother cat returns, leave the family in peace - for now. You’ll want to check on them periodically to ensure nothing happens to mom, but if there is a mother cat in the picture, it is wise to let her nurse them until they are weaned. This usually happens at about eight weeks of age.

Don’t intervene without a plan.

Kittens generally do not begin eating solid food until they are roughly six to seven weeks old. Until then, they must be bottle fed every three to four hours. And without putting too fine a point on it, the other end of each kitten must be cared for as well! A cotton ball moistened with warm water is needed to activate the process of eliminating waste.

Mama cats do this with their tongues, so it could be worse...but joking aside, hand-raising kittens is a lot of work. While it is not nearly as rigorous as caring for a newborn baby, some of the same rules apply. A strict feeding schedule must be followed, including throughout the night. Plans may have to change, schedules rearranged, and “baby-sitters” must be found if your plans are set in stone.

Don’t assume “Somebody” will take them off your hands.

In the magical land of money trees and lollipop forests, there lives an elusive creature of myth named “Somebody”. If you scoop up an abandoned litter thinking Somebody will take care of them, you may be in for a rude awakening. Shelters may be full, rescues may be maxed out, and while veterinarians are usually happy to help, our hospitals can be dangerous places for neonatal kittens. The same holds true for animal shelters.

Both see sickness and disease on a daily basis, and the immune systems of bottle-feeding kittens are practically non-existent. Unless the facility has an isolation ward, and is staffed around the clock, they will probably not admit your foundling litter. While this may seem counterintuitive, the best place for a litter of neonatal kittens is often anyplace but a shelter or a veterinary facility. By all means, hit them up for advice, resources and discounted care, but don’t be surprised by “no bottle babies” policies. As my wife is fond of saying, “A synonym for Somebody is You.”

Don’t drop them off somewhere in the middle of the night!

Forget about the fact that it’s self serving and inconsiderate. It’s also horribly inhumane! If you’re thinking of leaving a litter on the kindhearted cat lady’s porch, that nice big property in horse country, the parking lot of your local animal shelter, or the doorstep of your kindly neighborhood veterinarian, know this - the kittens you “saved” are likely to be dead by the time they are found. Between dehydration, hypothermia, hypoglycemia, and predation by wildlife, these little souls don’t stand a chance.

Because this is considered an act of animal cruelty, it is also illegal. Most veterinary hospitals - including ours - are wired from top to bottom with hidden cameras. If you think we won’t turn the tapes over to the police, think again. You are not doing right by these animals. You are practically guaranteeing their deaths.

Don’t skimp on formula.

The only formula I personally recommend is Kitten Milk Replacer or KMR. The powdered version is a better value, and will give you greater flexibility if you need to experiment with consistencies. The cheap brands are cheap for a reason. As your kittens begin the weaning process, you will begin to thicken it with solid foods.

So don’t be alarmed by the rate at which your litter initially consumes formula. In a pinch (as defined by, nothing is open except the grocery store), you can use pasteurized goat’s milk, mixed with an equal part of water. NEVER use cow’s milk, or any grain or nut based milk product. Get them onto formula as soon as you can to optimize their chances of survival.

Now for the do’s!

Do be patient.

Your kittens are confused and scared. The bottle isn’t the same as Mommy. The milk probably tastes different. They may efuse the bottle at first, or have difficulty latching on. This usually doesn’t last. Hunger is a powerful motivator, and kittens are remarkably resilient.

That being said, if any of your charges seem listless, pale or cold, they need to see a veterinarian. You can check for dehydration by gently pulling the skin away from the body, then letting it go. If it snaps back immediately, your kitty is hydrated. If the skin leaves a “tent”, this too is a sign that it’s time to see the vet.

Do be creative.

Just like human babies, each litter of kittens is different. You may have to thicken or thin the formula. The nursing sets sold at pet stores come with nipples of varying shapes and sizes. There is a reason for this! If your kitties won’t latch on, try a different one until you find the sweet spot. If they demand to be fed more than every four hours, try thickening the formula. Make sure enough formula is getting through the nipple, and cut a larger hole in the tip if necessary.

Do keep them warm.

Warmth is essential to helping these wee ones survive. Keep them away from air conditioner vents, and make sure they always have plenty of small blankets or towels. Never use heating pads as these can cause life-threatening burns. An old-school hot water bottle is fine, as long as it is wrapped in towels. A safe and low-tech way to provide warmth is to make what’s known as a “rice sock”. Place a cup and a half to two cups of dry white rice or beans in a clean sock. Tie off the end of the sock, microwave it for 45-60 seconds, and place it under the kittens’ bedding. We have saved many a critical neonate with our hospital’s rice sock.

Do ask for help.

Neighbors, friends, church groups, homeschool groups, family members, older children - you’d be surprised how many of these folks are willing to lend a hand. The hardest part about hand-raising kittens is the 24/7 part. But when it’s spread out amongst several groups or individuals, it’s actually rather fun! Caretakers are less likely to suffer from burnout if they know there is an end in sight. Additionally, the kittens enjoy the benefit of additional stimulation and socialization.

Miami Dade Animal Services is currently seeking “kitten cuddlers” to help with their own kitten influx.  This is a great way to help the community, as well as pick up the skills needed to care for any bottle babies who may cross your path in the future. MDAS can also provide the materials, formula and training you may need to raise a litter in your care.

The Feral Cat Coalition has a fantastic page on the specifics of feeding bottle babies, including feeding amounts, intervals, and troubleshooting tips. Click here to access the page directly.

The Cat Network can also help with bottle rearing questions. Joining Cat network allows you to participate in their adoptions program, which can help you find homes for your kittens once they are weaned.

Finally, the best way to ensure you never have to hand-raise kittens is to do your part to keep them from being born in the first place. Spay and neuter your pet cats. If you are feeding a stray, feral, or “neighborhood” cat, contact Miami Dade Animal Services or the Cat Network for information on low-cost or free spay/neuter programs for free-roaming cats.

An intact female cat will inevitably become six cats. In a year or less, that one little stray can turn into a colony of 30 - 40 cats! By preventing these births, we can make tremendous strides in reducing the number of unwanted cats both in our streets and in our shelters.

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic

Click here to check out deals and discounts exclusively for NBC 6 viewers! 

Photo Credit: Dr. Ian Kupkee]]>
<![CDATA[Miami-Dade Police Get Training to Combat Animal Abuse]]>Tue, 08 May 2018 12:01:41 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/050818+miami-dade+police+animal+cruelty+training.jpg

Police officers in South Florida are receiving special training to help them detect animal abuse and neglect cases.

Miami-Dade Animal Services, the APSCA and the Miami-Dade Police Department are partnering in the training to help with the nearly 900 cases of animal cruelty processed by animal services every year.

"You have just outright neglect where someone is not taking care of their dog appropriately and that’s a problem, that’s something that we need to deal with through the law," animal services director Luis Munoz said.

More than two dozen officers received training Tuesday as part of the anti-cruelty task force.

"We see the cockfighting cases, the dogfighting cases, we see cases that there’s 20-30 cats inside a home and they’re hungry, some of them are dying of hunger," Det. Alvaro Zabaleta said.

In some cases, the abused animals have severe health issues or behavioral problems and have to be put down. The anti-cruelty task force provides veterinary care to neglected pets and also gives legal support in animal cruelty investigations.

The animal welfare organizations work closely with the police department, since many times animal cruelty cases are also linked to other crimes.

"Sometimes you respond to a scene that maybe it’s a domestic violence situation and there’s a pet that is malnourished and you may not be able to identify that if you are not trained in that area," Munoz said.

Once the animals are rehabilitated, they are placed with a new family.

The anti-cruelty task force also depends on the public’s help. If you see a possible case of cruelty you can report it by calling 311, but in cases of severe abuse or life or death situations, you should call 911 right away.

Photo Credit: NBC 6]]>
<![CDATA[Miniature Pony Rescued by Florida Police Department ]]>Fri, 27 Apr 2018 10:41:47 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/04+27+18+tiny+horse.png

When a Florida police department received a call about a horse running down a major highway, they were surprised to find a miniature pony with a floppy tail galloping beside vehicles.

The horse, roughly 3 feet tall, was found dashing across U.S. 27 in southwest Florida. The Clewiston Police Department posted video of the animal encounter on their Facebook page.

Officer Buffie McLeod is seen on camera gently guiding the pony back home with a rope. In the video, McLeod keeps the door of the police cruiser open as she leads the animal to safety.

The department used carrots to lure the pony back to its pasture before "successfully [taking] the pony into custody," as the Facebook post playfully quips.

The department also said the pony was processed for "fleeing to elude an officer."

All horsing around aside, the pony had a safe return home and can be seen prancing happily in a field at the end of the video.

Photo Credit: Clewiston Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Sat, 21 Apr 2018 20:56:10 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/NBC6-gala_Nyla.jpg]]><![CDATA[Miami-Dade Dogs Waiting For Adoption Getting Fun Day Out]]>Fri, 20 Apr 2018 12:47:17 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/225*120/Banner9.jpg

Every dog has their day – and Miami-Dade Animal Services is teaming with Miami-Dade Police and NBC 6 to make sure pups looking for their forever home get a chance to have a little fun.

On Wednesday April 25th, shelter dogs will all get to spend the day at a park. Luis Cuellar from MDAS says that besides shelter, food, water and healthcare, pets need to have fun - adding that the shelter environment is stressful for dogs and that the longer a pet stay in a shelter, the more prone to illness and depression it is.

Miami-Dade Animal Services are working to give shelter pets life enrichment opportunities, including playing outdoors with other dogs, toys, music and human contact. The afternoon will be filled with outdoor play time and doggie ice cream treats – and a chance for the pets to find a forever home at Tropical Park.

For more information, go to animals.miamidade.gov or call 311. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Photo Credit: Miami-Dade County Animal Services]]>
<![CDATA[Group Working to Save Bunnies in Danger at South Fla. Park]]>Thu, 19 Apr 2018 06:40:17 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/215*120/041918+bunny+park+palm+beach+county.png

An animal rescue group is working to protect dozens of bunny rabbits that have taken over a Palm Beach County park in recent years – after concerned residents said some were found killed or suffering from injuries recently.

Pioneer Canal Park in Boynton Beach, known to locals as Bunny Park, has seen an increase in the number of fluffy animals in the area recently. While residents love having them around, recent incidents had them worried for their safety.

“I’m tired of seeing them get hurt," Jana Sandler told NBC affiliate WPTV. "Almost every day, I find a dead bunny.”

Those living near the park say these are not wild rabbits – instead, domesticated animals who were once pets or meant to live as such, so they do not survive well in the wild.

Residents called East Coast Rabbit Rescue, who has spent the last two weeks gathering nearly three dozen bunnies to help give them care.

“We want the neighborhood to understand that what we’re doing is helping the bunnies and saving their lives basically," said Luz Pereira from ECRR. “They’re covered in bite wounds, they’re covered in abscesses. They have fleas, ticks, they have everything.”

Pereira added that the mission to save all the bunnies could take months as the ones who have not been found continue to multiple. Residents just want the bunnies to be safe and healthy.

“Everyone is sorry to see them go, most of all me. I love them more than my life. But I love them to save them," Sandler said.

Photo Credit: WPTV]]>
<![CDATA[Python Leads SWFL Biologists to Largest Snake Sex Party]]>Wed, 18 Apr 2018 18:27:41 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Largest+Python+Breeding+Aggregation+Found+in+SWFL.jpg

A Burmese python named “Argo” fitted with a tracking device led researchers to what’s being called the largest bed of breeding snakes ever discovered.

The sentinel python slithered his way to the massive breeding aggregation containing seven snakes – six males and one massive female weighing 115 pounds.

Researchers at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida released the reptile with a surgically implanted tracking device to search for female pythons during the invasive species’ busy breeding season.

In addition to finding six male pythons this season, officials say “Argo” found two female snakes each weighing more than 100 pounds. The two massive females would have laid more than 120 eggs, according to wildlife biologist Ian Bartoszek.

Breeding takes place from January through April, in which the female snakes are larger than males. Females will then guard the nest for weeks until the eggs hatch.

As of March 1, conservancy biologists and researchers have removed an estimated 10,000 pounds of pythons and more than 3,000 developing eggs from the ecosystem.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Springtime Blooms & Your Pet: A Guide to Toxic Plants]]>Wed, 11 Apr 2018 05:39:09 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Some_Springtime_Blooms_May_Be_Toxic_to_Pets.jpg

Springtime brings beautiful blooms to San Diego County but some of those blooms are among the most deadly to naturally-curious pets. 

There are certain plants that bloom in the spring that can be poisonous to animals if eaten, said Linda Septon, adoption counselor with Chula Vista Animal Care Facility. You may be growing these toxic plants in your backyard, and often these plants are given as a bouquet gift in the spring. 

Here's what pet owners need to know: 

What is Toxic to Pets? 

Daffodils, cyclamen and tulipsare among the plants that sprout in spring that can cause pets to get sick to their stomach, Septon said.

"(Tulips) are deadly, especially the bulbs. The bulbs are super deadly," Septon said.

Lilies can also be deadly to furry friends and all varieties should also be kept away from pets, Septon warns.

"Even a cat eating one petal or even some of the pollen from the stamens here, it can lead to kidney failure and death in 4 to 7 days," Septon said.

Geraniums, which are drought resistant and easy to grow, can cause anorexia, depression and vomiting, Septon said.

Certain palm trees can also be dangerous.

"This particular variety of palm called the sago, the leaves can cause irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, convulsions, seizures," said Septon.

Dogs will sometimes see their owner plant bulbs in the yard, and try to dig them out later, which may be toxic to the animal.

How to Have Spring Blooms but Keep Pets Safe: 

If you do want springtime blooms in your backyard, there are ways to ensure your pets can't get their paws on them:

Chicken wire and mulch can help prevent dogs from getting to the buried bulbs.

Dogs often dig because they're bored, so it's important to have toys in the backyard and a shady area for pets to rest, Septon said.

Any kind of plant could cause your pet to vomit but some are relatively safe. Here are some safer options to keep around the house: 

Sunflowers, marigolds, hibiscus and all varieties of daisies are okay for your pet to chew on.

What to do if a Toxic Plant is Ingested: 

If your pet does ingest a toxic plant, Septon said to ask a professional for help as quickly as possible. 

Some pet owners try to make their dog or cat vomit to get rid of the toxin but that could actually make the animal sicker, Septon said.

Pet owners should instead contact the 24-hour animal poison control hotline 888-426-4435 immediately and know the kind of plant the animal ingested.

Pet parents should also know the closest 24-hour emergency clinic and take the pet to a veterinarian if a toxic plant is ingested.

Here is a list of toxic and non-toxic plants for animals.

<![CDATA[Mother Manatee, Calf Recovering After Possible Boat Strike]]>Tue, 10 Apr 2018 10:13:18 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/041018+manatees+rescued.PNG

Crews at SeaWorld Orlando are working to help a mother manatee and her nearly 1-year-old nursing calf get back to good health after being found in Southwest Florida dealing with buoyancy issues.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said the duo were found near North Fort Myers and brought to the facility in Central Florida by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Officials say buoyancy issues, known as pneumothorax, could have been caused by blunt force from a boat strike and can have a negative impact on a manatee’s health and eating patterns – which can be harmful for those who are nursing and possibly life threatening.

The calf was unharmed but must remain with the mother while it is nursing. SeaWorld’s Animal Rescue Team says they have returned seven of the 30 manatees rescued in 2018 back to their natural habitats.

Photo Credit: SeaWorld Orlando]]>
<![CDATA[Zoo Miami's Zebra 'Apollo' Receives 'Pedicure' ]]>Thu, 05 Apr 2018 18:03:29 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/040518+Zebra+Pedi.jpg

Apollo, a 15-year-old male plains zebra, had his hooves trimmed on Thursday as part of a preventative medicine program at Zoo Miami.

Zoo Miami said that zebras, as members of the equine family, have hoof structures that are similar to domestic horses and, like horses, their hooves may need trimming.

"At Zoo Miami, they do not have to run from predators and tend to be on fairly even terrain, unlike what they would encounter in the wild," Zoo Miami said in a statement. "Because of this, their hooves can sometimes become overgrown and need to be trimmed."

Apollo was immobilized for the procedure.

Jorge Ocampo, a farrier, or craftsperson who trims and shoes hooves, performed the treatment with the help of Zoo Miami's veterinary team, led by doctors Gaby Flacke and Jimmy Johnson, who did a general health exam on Apollo.

Ocampo told Zoo Miami officials that Apollo's hooves were in excellent condition, only having to do minor work, the statement adds.

Plain zebras are the most common species of zebras, found throughout the plains and savannas of sub-Saharan east Africa and southern Africa, Zoo Miami said.

<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Thu, 29 Mar 2018 11:56:58 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/032918+NBC6-bigdog_Alex.jpg]]><![CDATA[Rescuing Baby Wildlife: How, And If, You Should Help]]>Thu, 29 Mar 2018 11:54:55 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Doc+with+nest.JPG

Springtime is when South Florida’s wildlife is hard at work, caring for the next generation of wild critters. It’s also when veterinary clinics are flooded with calls concerning young wild animals who appear orphaned or abandoned.

While these callers are always willing to help and eager to know what to do, they are often surprised to learn even good intentions can result in more harm than good. Here are some general rules for deciding how - and more importantly, if - you should help a baby wild animal.

Observe from a distance.

Perhaps the most important aspect of wild animal rescue is deciding whether the animal needs to be rescued at all. In 2016, two well-meaning tourists “rescued” a bison calf in Yellowstone National Park. The story did not end well. Often our attempts to intervene with the natural order of the wild world lead to tragedy. It is normal for baby animals to be left alone while their mothers search for food.

A young bird flailing on the ground may simply be learning to fly. These youngsters have not been abandoned, and the parents are probably closer than you think. Attempts to be a Good Samaritan may even result in attacks by angry mothers who see human involvement as a threat. Find a quiet, hidden spot, and step in only if the the baby is in imminent danger of being hit by a car or snatched by a predator.

Determine whether or not the baby needs your help.

If the youngster is shivering, he has probably been on his own for a while. In this case, intervention is necessary. Ditto for babies who are wandering and crying for more than about twenty minutes. If mom is around, she will rush back to quiet him, as such sounds draw the attention of predators. If a parent does not appear in response to such distress calls, the baby is likely on his own.

A youngster who is bleeding, or displaying a limb which is dragging or visibly broken needs your help. Search the area for a dead parent. If you find one, the baby needs you. The same holds true for a baby animal who is presented as a “gift” by a cat or dog. If the youngster has survived this misadventure, he needs help, and he needs it now.

With regards to birds, one should only intervene if the baby is pink, or has minimal, fuzzy feathers. If you can find the nest, carefully place the baby back inside. Contrary to popular belief, birds do not recognize their offspring based on scent. The parents will not abandon him if he has been touched by humans.

A baby bird who is fully feathered is probably on the ground because he is learning to fly. Leaving him alone is counterintuitive, but essential. Flying is difficult, and fledglings get frustrated when they fail. They may squawk loudly and flail around in a most dramatic fashion. But they are doing this for mom’s attention, not yours.

And your attempts to help are likely to be rewarded with a dive-bomb attack from an angry avian parent. If the fledgling is in imminent danger from a cat or dog, chase the miscreants away, and leave the bird alone. This will also alert the mother bird, who will happily take it from there. More extensive information on baby bird rescue can be found on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website

Take action.

If you’ve determined a baby needs your help, you need to get him to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as quickly as possible. This is not - repeat NOT - a DIY project you can do at home! Wildlife rehab is extraordinarily difficult. Every species has a specific diet, and babies must be fed often. Great care must be taken to ensure food is not aspirated into the lungs, where it can lead to life-threatening pneumonia.

Orphans must be taught how to hunt on their own, with minimal exposure to humans. Since the goal is to return the animals to the wild, the youngsters cannot be put in a situation where they may imprint upon their human caretakers. Some species are more susceptible to imprinting than others. Only a licensed wildlife rehabilitator can do this work successfully, and in a species-specific manner.

Because of the complications involved with this process, it is illegal for non-licensed civilians to attempt to rehabilitate wildlife. Since it is also illegal to keep wild animals as pets, it is not an option to rescue a wild baby in the hopes the imprinting process will turn it into a novel pet. 

Many rescuers are surprised to learn that veterinarians are not automatically licensed to treat and rehabilitate wildlife. While some of us may have this additional layer of training, most of us (myself included), do not. While your veterinarian can probably provide you with a list of licensed wildlife rehabbers, please be understanding if the vet you’ve always counted on cannot take your wild foundling off your hands. The same laws that apply to the general public also apply to us. Without the proper licensure, it is illegal for veterinarians to treat or rehab wild animals.

Transport the baby safely.

When dealing with an orphaned baby, it’s easy to get caught up in the drama, and neglect our own safety. Your foundling is probably terrified, and terrified animals - even adorable, helpless baby ones - often bite. If your orphan has teeth, use a blanket or towel to swaddle him. This should also protect your hands. Place him in a box or pet carrier, and do so as quickly as possible.

Remember these animals must be returned to the wild, so keep handling to an absolute bare minimum. It’s also important for them not to lose their natural aversion to the sounds of human activity. Once you have your charge secured in your car, make the interior as quiet as possible. Turn off the radio, silence your cell phone. Do everything in your power not to talk. If you are bitten or scratched, seek medical attention immediately.

The difference between life and death in many of these situations is warmth. In addition to the towels inside the carrier, cover the outside as well. Point A/C vents away from the carrier. Never put animals on a heating pad, but if you happen to have an old school hot water bottle, fill it up, wrap it in a towel, and place in the carrier. Do not give the animal any food or water unless specifically instructed to do so by a wildlife rehabilitator.

So who are these wildlife rehabilitators?

Here is a list of some of South Florida’s licensed wildlife rehabilitators. If you live in an area where wildlife is abundant, you may want to plan where you will go in advance. Call ahead to let them know you are coming, as many are not equipped with a reception area.

Most of these facilities are either non-profit organizations, or individuals donating their time and expertise. They may be bashful about asking, so I’ll say it on their behalf - financial donations are always needed, and greatly appreciated. If you use their services, please be as generous as possible.

Wildlife Rescue of Dade County 

South Florida Wildlife Center 

Pelican Harbor Seabird Center 

Falcon Batchelor Bird of Prey Center at the Miami Science Museum 

Everglades Outpost 

Florida Keys Wild Bird Center

Click here for a list of wildlife rehabbers throughout the state of Florida

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic 

Click here and discounts exclusively for NBC 6 viewers!

<![CDATA[Zoo Miami Welcomes Baby Giraffe, the 52nd Born at the Park]]>Wed, 28 Mar 2018 18:04:42 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/032818+zoo+miami+baby+giraffe.jpg

Zoo Miami welcomed a baby giraffe Wednesday, the 52nd born at the park in its history.

Sabra, a seven and a half year old giraffe, gave birth to the baby, her third calf. The unnamed baby will undergo a neonatal exam where its sex will be confirmed, although the initial indications show it to be a male, zoo officials said.

The baby and Sabra will remain off exhibit until they have bonded well and can be introduced to the rest of the herd.

Sabra came to the zoo from the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa in November of 2013. The baby's father, Titan, was also born at Zoo Miami in June of 2012.

Giraffe pregnancies last about 15 months and the mother rarely lies down while giving birth, so the baby falls about 4-6 feet to the floor, zoo officials said. Newborns usually weigh more than a hundred pounds at birth and stand nearly six feet tall.

"I am always amazed at the size of the baby that comes out of a giraffe!!" Zoo Miami's Ron Magill said in a statement. "She must have storage up in her neck for her to conceal the size of such a large baby in such a relatively small abdomen!!!"

Photo Credit: Zoo Miami]]>
<![CDATA[Manatee Appreciation Day Takes Place Wednesday]]>Wed, 28 Mar 2018 06:05:15 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/manateesFlorida_1200x675.jpg

If you are a lover of manatees, Wednesday is a special day for you!

The last Wednesday each March is designated as Manatee Appreciation Day, honoring the calm animal that makes Florida its home during the winter months each year.

Currently, there are around 3,200 manatees living in the United States – a group of calm herbivores that do not have a known natural enemy and spend most of their time eating, sleeping and traveling.

Known to make their home in slow rivers, canals as well as coastal areas and locations near warm water, the species comes south during the colder months and moves north and west during the summertime.

For more information on how you can help save the species that was moved from endangered to threatened in 2017, click on this link.

Photo Credit: TNS via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Are Essential Oils Safe for Cats? ]]>Thu, 08 Mar 2018 09:57:46 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/030817+cat+essential+oi.JPG

The past decade has seen roughly one third of Americans turn to various forms of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. As interest in natural medicine for humans continues to grow, so too has interest in natural medicine for pets. While many of these treatments are safe and effective for pets, veterinary practitioners have begun to see an alarming number of cats who have fallen ill following treatment with essential oils.

The responses to concerns expressed by these practitioners often range from surprise to suspicion. These remedies are natural! They’re been used for centuries! Perhaps the veterinary profession feels threatened by the healing capacity of a plant-based product available at the local health food store! Such reactions are understandable, but as one of my colleagues is fond of saying, rattlesnake venom is 100% natural and organic. In other words, not everything found  in nature is beneficial and benign. Factor in a cat’s small size and unique physiology, and it’s easier to see how these treatments might do more harm than good.

Like many other substances, essential oils are processed in the liver, using a particular enzyme called glucuronyltransferase. Simply put, cats naturally lack this liver enzyme. For this reason, it is not currently recommended that cat owners apply any essential oils directly to their cats, or use essential oil diffusers in their homes. While many cat owners report having used diffusers without incident, bear in mind that the effects of toxicity can be cumulative, as opposed to sudden and dramatic. Cats may choose not to leave a room where a diffuser is being used, and their interest in sticking around can easily lead to a false assumption that they instinctively know what is best. While hydrosols added to a cat’s drinking water can provide a safer method of treatment, this should only be done under the guidance of the cat’s current veterinarian. And ideally, the prescribing practitioner should be one who specializes in Complementary and Alternative Medicine for pets.

While all essential oils can present problems for cats, products high in 1,8-cineole, camphor, pinene, limonene, methyl salicylate, ketones, and phenols are especially dangerous. These include, but are not limited to, bergamot, camphor, clementine, clove, eucalyptus, fir, most species of frankincense, grapefruit, juniper, lavender (spike), lavandin, lemon, lime, mandarin, orange (including bitter, blood and sweet varieties), oregano, peppermint, pine, rosemary, sage, spearmint, spruce, tangerine, tea tree, thyme and yarrow.

Clinical signs of essential oil toxicity in cats include respiratory distress, vomiting, tremors, unsteadiness, drooling, or low body temperature. The cat may appear to be coughing up a hairball, or attempting to vomit, but may only stay crouched in this position. Cats showing any of  these signs require immediate veterinary intervention.

In the meantime, it’s a good idea to assess and reconsider the use of essential oils in our homes. If your cat has been exposed, but is not showing signs of illness, you may want to consider a veterinary check up which includes wellness blood work. This routine test will assess the function of your kitty’s internal organs, including his liver. If caught early, damage can often be stopped, and even reversed. As is often the case, just an ounce of prevention and early intervention can be worth a pound of cure.

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic. http://www.sabalchaseanimalclinic.com/home.html

Click here for deals and discounts exclusively for NBC 6 viewers! http://www.sabalchaseanimalclinic.com/nbc6.html

<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County Pets of the Week]]>Fri, 02 Mar 2018 14:37:03 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/NBC6-Walk_Charlton.jpg]]><![CDATA[Family Finds Iguana Inside Laundry Room of Florida Home]]>Wed, 14 Feb 2018 10:00:11 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/021418+iguana+inside+florida+home.jpg

A family on Florida’s Treasure Coast got a new houseguest this week –a four foot iguana that made its way into their laundry room.

Martin County Sheriff’s Office posted photos on Facebook showing the animal that made itself at home inside the Jensen Beach home, after the owners called deputies to say they saw an “exotic character” near their washing machine.

Having some fun with the situation, MSCO posted that the unnamed intruder was taken into custody without incident and taken to a “more appropriate iguana friendly facility.”

Photo Credit: Martin County Sheriff's Office]]>
<![CDATA[Woman in Florida Hospital Gets Surprise Visit From Her Horse]]>Tue, 13 Feb 2018 16:22:59 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/021318+woman+horse+hospital+florida.jpg

A woman undergoing treatment at a Florida hospital for a long-lasting illness had a special visitor Monday: her horse.

Christine Carbonneau’s long time partner, Gary, arranged for her horse, Ireland, to visit her at Florida Hospital Connerton Long Term Acute Care Facility in Land O’Lakes.

Carbonneau, 58, has had a long illness and is trying to wean off a ventilator, hospital officials said. Gary thought she seemed a little low in spirits and thought she might benefit from a visit from Ireland.

Hospital staff made arrangements for Ireland's visit and were able to get Carbonneau off the ventilator and outside so she could be reunited with her horse.

Photo Credit: Florida Hospital Connerton Long Term Acute Care]]>
<![CDATA[Keeping Pets Safe on Valentine’s Day]]>Thu, 08 Feb 2018 11:36:43 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/Pets+and+Valentine%27s+Day.JPG

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many of us have only one thing on our minds - chocolate! And while we may love its effect on that special someone, chocolate can be deadly if eaten by cats or dogs.

Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine. Consuming large quantities can lead to theobromine toxicity, symptoms of which include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, high blood pressure and rapid heart rate. Severe cases can easily progress to seizures, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrest. Because of their small size relative to that of humans, dogs and cats cannot tolerate amounts considered safe for human consumption.

The highest concentrations of theobromine are found in baking chocolate. Just one 2oz. square of baking chocolate contains a fatal dose for a 20-pound dog. Dark chocolate is nearly as dangerous. While milk and white chocolates contain lower concentrations of theobromine, the high levels of fat in these sugary treats can cause severe gastric upset, or a more dangerous condition known as pancreatitis.

Since most cases of theobromine toxicity are the result of pets helping themselves to generous portions, keep those heart-shaped boxes well out of your pet’s reach. Our furry friends are oblivious to these dangers, and they find chocolate-y goodness as irresistible as we do!

Nuts can also be a problem for pets, so stash these as well. Macadamias and walnuts contain a substance that has yet to be identified by researchers, yet has been linked to severe neurological signs in dogs. Nuts can also contain aflotoxin mold, which can quickly accumulate to dangerous levels in small animals. The size and shape of nuts can make them difficult to digest, so keep them safely out of reach.

If your sweetie doesn’t care for sweets and you’re bringing home flowers instead, remember that popular cut flowers like carnations can cause gastric upset for our pets. Lilies are toxic to cats, so be sure to inspect all bouquets for any flowers such as Easter lilies, tiger lilies, stargazer lilies, or any flower in the lilium family. If you live with a cat, dispose of these flowers safely, as even airborne pollen or water in which lilies are displayed, can be deadly if ingested by our feline friends.

Always use caution with lighted candles, as roughly 100 house fires per year are started by pets. Candles are the leading cause of such catastrophes. And if aromatherapy is on the agenda, be advised that these products can be a problem for pets as well. Cats in particular are at risk of falling ill as they lack an essential liver enzyme that allows them to safely metabolize such oils.

Oils which are a known danger to cats include Ylang ylang, pennyroyal, eucalyptus, cinnamon, and tea tree oils, but this list is not exclusive and much research has yet to be done. Cat parents should use extreme caution if they choose to use these products, and perhaps most importantly, never apply them to their pets.

If you suspect your pet has ingested or inhaled a toxin, call your veterinarian immediately. That said, a little due diligence can help ensure Fluffy does not cause the holiday romance to fizzle.

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic.

Click here for great deals and discounts exclusively for NBC 6 fans!

Photo Credit: Dr. Ian Kupkee]]>
<![CDATA[8-Foot Gator Found in South Florida Family's Pool]]>Mon, 05 Feb 2018 17:35:47 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/020518+gator+in+pool+boca+raton+wptv.jpg

A South Florida family woke up to find an 8-foot alligator taking a dip in their backyard pool.

The massive gator was found at a home on Southwest 14th Drive in Boca Raton, WPTV reported.

Trappers responded and were able to safely get the gator out. It's believed to have come from a nearby canal.

Photo Credit: WPTV]]>
<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County Pets of the Week]]>Fri, 02 Feb 2018 13:17:15 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/NBC6_Ash.jpg]]><![CDATA[Dog Bite Prevention For Runners]]>Mon, 22 Jan 2018 12:18:29 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/011818+Dog+Safety+for+runners+photo.JPG

Ah, the holidays...a time for family, food, festivities, and more food.

Did I mention food?

It’s okay, South Florida. All of us - myself included! - consumed half our body weight in coquito and chocolate chip cookies last month. All we can do now is step off the scale, dry our tears of shame, and work out a plan to shed those holiday pounds. And for many of us, that involves taking up running.

If you’re new to running, there are some things you should do before hitting the pavement. A veterinary perspective includes an additional prerequisite: having a plan for dealing with aggressive, off-leash dogs.

Before we get into safety tips, let me state for the record that I am in no way defending the actions of individuals who allow their dogs to roam. Leash laws apply to everyone, regardless how well behaved we think our dogs may be. No one is special. Animals can be unpredictable, and if your dog does surprise you by causing any kind of damage, the law is not on your side.

That said, accidents happen. Gates are mistakenly left open by service providers. Children and houseguests can forget to close doors. Dogs are owned by humans and humans make mistakes. Some dogs are stray, and others still are abandoned by those whom they trusted in residential neighborhoods. Many runners report being confronted by free-roaming dogs, and while most will neither attack nor bite, it’s good to have a plan for dealing with those who do.

Why are runners a target?

Runners who’ve had unpleasant encounters with dogs often take it personally. “I did nothing to provoke it,” one runner told me. “I love dogs. Seriously, what did I do wrong?”

While we love our dogs like family, celebrate their birthdays and dress them in sweaters when it’s cold, it’s important to remember, they are animals. What’s more they are carnivores. Carnivores hunt. They take down prey.

And prey runs.

How will I know if a dog is dangerous?

Most of the dogs who approach you on your run have neither the intent nor the desire to harm you. If a dog runs toward you while you are running, it’s possible said dog is a poorly trained goofball who simply wants to play. These dogs are often owned by people who call out “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” or “He’s just saying hi, it’s okay!” If you are one of these dog owners, this is actually not okay! It is neither cute nor endearing. It’s against the law, inconsiderate of your neighbors, and dangerous for everyone, including your dog. Leash your dog, call a trainer, and don’t be that neighbor.

The good news for runners is that this dog will probably not hurt you. If the dog’s body appears curvy, loose, or wiggly, he is not likely to be thinking of attacking you. The same holds true for an open-mouthed dog with a floppy tongue. If you are approached by one of these good-natured boneheads, stop running. Do not look at the dog or engage him in any way. This dog wants to play, so be boring. Chances are he will lose interest and leave you alone. You can also attempt to shake him by giving a firm command such as “No!” “Off!” or “Go home!”

It is always surprising to me just how well this works! If the owner is nearby, this can also attract their attention, and (hopefully!) inspire them to retrieve their dog. My wife runs with a slip lead in her pocket. She’s had several encounters with well-meaning owners who simply lost control of their dogs. We’ve made some new friends in the neighborhood by returning these rascals to their grateful owners. Sometimes life happens, even for the most responsible pet parents. If you think you can do this safely, these leads are available in most pest stores and seldom cost more than a dollar.

The dog who means business

While most dogs mean you no harm, there are others who mean business. They want you gone. For some, it is nothing personal. You are too close to their turf, and they have a problem with that. These dogs may stare intently, raise their hackles, show their teeth or make a lot of noise.

They may hold perfectly still as they decide whether or not to give chase. For our purposes here, the difference between a defensive dog and an aggressive dog is neither here nor there. Both situations are potentially dangerous.

Earlier, we discussed prey drive. Remember - prey runs. While it is quite possibly the most counterintuitive response imaginable, the best response to a charging dog is to stop running. Continuing to run can further trigger the dog’s prey drive and make them even more determined to take you down. It also increases your chances of falling, and if that happens, you are at even greater risk. So here is another piece of difficult advice: stay calm.

Think back to the prey/predator analogy. When we act like prey we are treated like prey. Prey runs. Prey shrieks. Prey stares, transfixed with fear. Prey screams and flails around wildly. If the worst case scenario happens and you can think of nothing else, remember this - do not act like prey.

Standing your ground or fighting back

Some columnists have written that to avoid the resemblance of prey, runners should stand their ground and be ready to fight back. Kick! Punch! Growl! Yell! Make yourself big bad and scary so the dog backs off. Better yet, spray them with mace or pepper spray. They won’t seriously injure the dog, but will let him know you’re not an easy target, and that you mean business as well.

This might work. But depending on why the dog is attacking, it might not. A dog who is protecting puppies or property sees you as a genuine threat, and may simply escalate the attack in response. Pepper spray requires close quarters to be effective - something we would ideally like to avoid. And if the canister malfunctions or the wind shifts its direction, the chemical is more likely to affect you than the dog. These sprays are painful enough to bring a grown man to his knees. And God help you if you fall to the ground in the presence a dangerous dog who is poised to attack.

In my opinion, this option is simply too risky. Unless you are very strong, and have extensive experience in handling dangerous dogs, this plan is not likely to lead to an injury-free encounter. I prefer plans which involve convincing the dog you are simply not worth the trouble.

Fighting back without fighting back

A dog who gives chase may be more interested in making you go away than picking a fight. He may see you as a threat or a challenge. Show him you are neither. Stop running and turn your body sideways. In this position, you can still see what the dog is doing, but you are not facing the dog in a way that could cause the dog to think you are rising to his challenge. Do not make direct eye contact.

Many dogs see this as either a challenge or a threat, and can cause the situation to escalate quickly. If the dog backs off, hold your body in that position and WALK away, sideways, from the dog’s position. Avoid the direction from which the dog came. He wants you to go away. So without running, screaming, or making eye contact, let the dog know this is exactly what you are going to do.

Using vocal commands

Dogs who engage in this type of behavior often have few boundaries in their everyday lives. That said, most have them have at least some rudimentary training. Try issuing one of the vocal commands listed above - “No!” “Off!” “Sit!”, or my personal favorite, “Go home!” With the dog who means business, however, it is imperative to remember this is a command, not a request. Don’t scream or use a high pitched voice or growl through your teeth - remember, prey screams, challengers growl - but use a tone that lets the dog know you mean business too.

Think of a drill sergeant. Bellow. Don’t ask. Command. Go home! That’s an order. You’d be surprised how many dogs - even aggressive ones - stop in their tracks, blink, and do exactly as they’re told! If you get this response, back off and retreat as discussed above. Again - do not run. Your Jedi mind trick may not work a second time.

Using distractions

It is sometimes possible to use a bait-and-switch technique to divert a charging dog. Some trainers recommend carrying a squeaky toy in your pocket. This dog obviously has a strong prey drive, which has already been triggered, so the theory is, runners can make it work in their favor.

This technique advises squeaking the toy and waving it around (read, make the toy behave like a prey animal) and get the dog to fixate on the toy. Once the dog has done so, throw the toy as far as you can and while the dog is chasing the toy, make your retreat.

While his can work in theory, it’s risky. If it doesn’t work, you’ve wasted precious seconds that could have been used to employ a more reliable technique. Think this through - how far can you throw? What if the dog retrieves the toy and brings it back? Now he thinks you’re his BFF, but have fun getting that toy back.

Should this happen, do not attempt to retrieve the toy from the dog, even if he has dropped it on the ground. These types of dogs are dangerous and unpredictable. Lowering your center of gravity and getting to a dangerous dog’s eye level can provoke a mauling, or even a fatal attack.

A better option is to give the dog something you may already have, and can easily reach. If you’re wearing a jacket, an extra layer, or a hat, take it off quickly and let the dog have it. He may decide he’s just as happy to thrash that as he is to thrash you. And while he is thrashing, make your retreat.

The worst case scenario

A runner who has been brought to the ground by a dog, or worse yet two or more dogs, is in a life threatening situation. The American Veterinary Medical Associationteaches children in this scenario be pretend they are a rock. This is good advice for adults as well. Roll into a ball with your face toward the ground, and cover your head with your arms.

Fighting back can enable the dog to grab an arm or leg, causing serious injury. It also exposes your face, neck and vital organs. Again, it seems counterintuitive, but your best hope for avoiding serious injury or death is to make yourself as uninteresting and non-threatening as possible. Such attacks are rare, but they do happen, and it’s imperative to have a survival plan.

The best plan

The best way for runners to survive encounters with dogs is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Plan your route ahead of time, and drive it before you run it. Do so at about the same time you plan to run, taking note of any off-leash dogs, ‘Beware Of Dog’ signs, or open gates. If you see potential trouble, consider changing your route. Ask your neighbors or other runners if there are any troublesome dogs in the vicinity. Get descriptions and locations and avoid those areas.

When running, be aware of your surroundings. If you must use headphones, keep the volume low. If an aggressive dog is in the area, you will want to have as much time as possible to react.

While I’m not a fan of mace or pepper spray, my wife’s deterrent of choice is a marine air horn. These small devices give off a jarring blast of sound most dogs have never encountered before. The volume alone is likely to jolt a dog’s sensitive hearing, and bring a fixated dog back to reality. Unlike mace or pepper spray, it is effective at a distance and carries no risk of being swept into the user’s face on a windy day. Additionally, it is not a sound a dog can easily mistake for sounds made by either predator or prey animals.

When dogs cannot easily categorize another entity in this fashion, they usually err on the side of retreating. People who have used this technique (including my wife!) report the errant dogs skidding to a halt, blinking for a beat, then turning tail and running for home. This has always been her first choice of prevention, and has thankfully spared her from having to resort to more dangerous methods of self-defense.

Like many other things in our world, the presence of aggressive dogs is something for which we must be prepared. That said, it is the product of the unique brand of human failure that is irresponsible dog ownership. If you see your dog in some of these scenarios, own the problem and call a trainer before your dog causes serious injury.

Remember, the law is never on your side in these situations. If you’re a runner and you’ve encountered a dangerous dog, have a word with the owner. They may be unaware their dog is a danger to the community. Your efforts may not be appreciated at the time, but it is always better to take action before tragedy strikes as opposed to after.

Dr. Kupkee is the lead practitioner at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic

Click here for deals and discounts exclusively for NBC 6 viewers.

Photo Credit: Lynn Kupkee]]>
<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County Pets of the Week]]>Sun, 14 Jan 2018 11:41:02 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/011418+NBC6_Molly.jpg]]><![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County Pets of the Week]]>Mon, 01 Jan 2018 12:05:43 -0400https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/010118+NBC6_Brandon.jpgCheck out the pets of the week from the Humane Society of Broward County.]]>