<![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-usWed, 21 Nov 2018 00:29:17 -0500Wed, 21 Nov 2018 00:29:17 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations<![CDATA[Croc Spotted Lounging on Rock in Coconut Grove]]>Tue, 20 Nov 2018 17:39:07 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/112018+crocodile+on+rock+coconut+grove.jpg

A crocodile was spotted casually catching some rays in Coconut Grove.

Gianni Taloni said he was walking his dog Tuesday morning when he spotted the large croc on a rock near a boat ramp at the Coconut Grove Marina.

"I got shocked because I saw a kind of potential danger for people," Taloni told NBC 6.

Wildlife officials said it's not too unusual to see a croc in the water near there.

Photo Credit: Gianni Taloni]]>
<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County Pets of the Week - Nov. 16]]>Fri, 16 Nov 2018 08:31:15 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/1114_NBC6_Bella.jpg]]><![CDATA[Thanksgiving and Pets: Sharing The Feast]]>Sun, 18 Nov 2018 11:58:50 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/187*120/111618+Thanksgiving+2018.jpg

Every year, our clinic goes to great lengths to warn pet owners of the dangers of holiday table foods. And every year, we’re good-naturedly accused of being holiday killjoys.

Thanksgiving is all about family - furry family members included. And who can resist those wide, sweet doe eyes as they longingly gaze upon our ample feasts? Surely a few morsels are okay. Surely we understand that no matter how many times that one family member is told not to feed the pets from the table, they will do it anyway.

Pet parents, I have heard your pleas.

This article is not an endorsement of home-cooked pet diets or a recommendation to shop for specific pet food ingredients. Rather, it’s a list of popular Thanksgiving staples which, given in small amounts, are safe for pets with no prior history of food allergies or sensitivities. So let’s start with the main course.


Pets can safely enjoy a small morsel of roasted turkey. Fried turkey is off-limits due to its high fat content. The same holds true for skin, fat, and pan drippings. Pets should not eat turkey that has been basted in butter or seasoned with onions, garlic, chives, or other plants in the allium family.


If you’re making a pumpkin pie from scratch, feel free to share the main ingredient. Pumpkin is naturally high in fiber and Vitamin A, making it a healthy and tasty addition to your pet’s diet. While canned varieties are just as good, be certain the ingredients are 100% pumpkin as opposed to pumpkin pie filling. Pie filling is loaded with sugar, dairy, fat, and harmful additives so don’t be fooled by labels.


If apple pie is on the menu, apples can be shared as well. Cut them into small pieces and strip them of seeds, stems and cores before giving them to your pet. Do not feed the sugar-laden canned versions of apple pie filling.

Sweet Potatoes

Like pumpkins, sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin A. They may also have anti-inflammatory properties which can help pets struggling with arthritis and joint pain. Pets should not eat sweet potatoes that have been seasoned, sweetened, or buttered.


Most green vegetables are safe for pets, provided they have not been seasoned or buttered. Green beans are a big hit at Casa Kupkee. Onions, garlic, shallots, or any member of the allium family must never be given to pets.


The canned, sugary, gelatinous cranberry sauce that maintains the shape of the can is strictly off limits to pets. If, however, you make your own cranberry sauce using actual cranberries, go ahead and share them before adding other ingredients to the sauce. Cranberries are high in Vitamin C and antioxidants and can help pets struggling with lowered immune systems and urinary tract issues.


Cooked rice will not harm your pet, provided it has not been buttered, seasoned, or flavored with onions. Brown rice and wild rice is more nutritionally dense than white rice.

Serving Suggestion

Many pets amuse themselves during dinner by foraging in the kitchen for bones, scraps and cooking debris. To keep Fluffy from getting into mischief, try putting her holiday treats in a food puzzle toy.

Perhaps the most important tip of all...have fun! Happy Thanksgiving from all your friends at Sabal Chase Animal Clinic and NBC 6 South Florida!

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

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Photo Credit: Dr. Ian Kupkee]]>
<![CDATA[Florida Vets Help Raccoon Found With Soup Can Stuck on Head]]>Tue, 13 Nov 2018 11:03:41 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/111318+florida+sanibel+raccoon+head+stuck+soup+can.jpg

Workers at a Florida wildlife clinic were able to free a raccoon that got its head stuck in a soup can.

The northern raccoon was admitted to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife in Sanibel Monday after it was found with the Campbell's Chunky creamy chicken noodle soup can lodged on its head.

The veterinary team used a can opener to remove the bottom of the can to help the raccoon breathe. The raccoon was given sedation medication so the can could be cut away but as soon as the medication took effect, the raccoon relaxed and the workers were able to slip the can off its head.

The raccoon wasn't hurt and was being returned to the wild after he recovered from the medication.

Photo Credit: Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife]]>
<![CDATA[Record Setting Burmese Python Captured in Miami-Dade]]>Thu, 08 Nov 2018 10:46:02 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/110818+burmese+python+record+capture+miami-dade.jpg

A record setting catch took place this week when a Homestead man captured a massive Burmese python in the Everglades.

The South Florida Water Management District released photos of the catch from late Monday night in Miami-Dade County, showing Kyle Penniston with the female snake that measured at 17 and a half feet in length and weighed in at 120 pounds.

Penniston’s catch, the 235th he has as part of the agency’s Python Elimination Program, is the 1,859th capture made in total. Miami native Brian Hargrove has caught the most thus far with 257.

"Just six months after eliminating the first 1,000 pythons from District lands, this program is about to double that total because of a true team effort," project manager Mike Kirkland said in a statement.

Hunters are paid in four South Florida counties – Broward, Collier, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach – to find the snakes, including bonuses based on the length of the animal as well as nests with eggs in an effort to help protect the natural wildlife in the area.

Photo Credit: South Florida Water Management District]]>
<![CDATA[Protecting Pets From Halloween Hazards]]>Sun, 28 Oct 2018 08:02:18 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/160*120/102818+halloween+pets+edit.JPG

No matter how old you are, or whether or not you have little ones, Halloween is fun! But as with other hectic holidays, the fun and games need to be tempered with a little due diligence. Here are some tips to keep your fur kids safe this Halloween.

Keep all candy away from pets.

While cats are not generally drawn to candy, dogs will eat it with gusto - especially chocolate! Chocolate contains theobromine, an alkaloid that is toxic to dogs and cats. Clinical signs of theobromine poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive panting, and increased urination. These signs can to progress to irregular heartbeat, seizures, internal bleeding, cardiac arrest, and even death. While the amount of theobromine found in dark chocolate and baking chocolate is much higher than amounts found in milk chocolate, all varieties can pose serious risks to your pet. Additionally, the high fat and sugar contents can lead to gastrointestinal upset, or life-threatening pancreatitis.

In addition to chocolate, nuts can pose problems for pets as well. Their shape, size, and texture make them difficult to digest, and in the worst case scenario, they can cause an obstruction that requires a surgical repair. Walnuts often contain toxins produced by fungi. These compounds can lead to neurological symptoms. Macadamia nuts have been linked to muscle tremors, hindquarter paralysis, high fever and rapid heart rate. As of this writing, veterinary researchers have not identified the substance that causes these symptoms. Raisins must also be kept away from pets. Raisins and grapes contain compounds that have been linked to kidney failure in pets, and it only takes a small amount to make them seriously ill.

Sugar free candy must also be kept out of a pet’s reach. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in many sugar free sweets, can cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar within 10-15 minutes of ingestion. Larger doses can lead to liver necrosis, kidney failure, and death. Xylitol is commonly added to toothpaste, mouthwash, medications and supplements, so be sure to check with your veterinarian before giving your pet any products intended for human use.

It is important to make sure children know about the doggie dangers in their trick-or-treat bags. Make sure they know candy is never to be shared, and must be stored out of a pet's reach. Ask them to bring any unwanted candy to an adult so they will not be tempted to get rid of it by giving it to a pet. If your pet has a habit of getting into the trash, try to find a creative solution for unwanted candy.

Remember that Halloween is scary.

While many pets are happy to join in spooky fun, others find it absolutely terrifying. Constant knocking, strangers at the door, loud noises, crazy costumes - all of these things can be frightening for our pets. Since the front door is likely to opening and closing often, the best place for your cat may be in another room, behind a closed door. Be sure she has access to food, water, and a litter box. If your dog is not having fun, it's okay to put him in his kennel. Frightened animals may bolt through open doors. Additionally, a frightened dog is statistically likely to bite. Keep a watchful eye on both dogs and children, and calmly remove dogs from situations that may trigger a bite.

Choose pet costumes with care.

Every year, our clinic’s social media audience gets a kick out of our dogs’ costumes! The dogs, however, are often less than thrilled. That’s okay - we take some pictures, have a few laughs, then remove the costumes so the dogs can enjoy the day too.

While pet costumes are a blast for us, the pets themselves may not be so enthusiastic. Unhappy pets may injure themselves trying to “escape” from an uncomfortable costume, and even laid back pets can become entangled in ribbons, stings, or other accessories. Those same decorative touches can be chewed off, choked on, or accidentally swallowed. Know your pet’s limits and don’t force her to endure something she hates. And if you’re headed outdoors with a costumed pet, remember it’s still hot out there! Many costumes are designed for cooler climates, so bring plenty of water, and ditch the costume if your pet becomes overheated.

Clean up after crafts.

If you’re spending Halloween in a homemade costume, clean up all crafting debris as soon as possible. Shiny needles and wispy threads are irresistible to cats. When swallowed, they present a life-threatening emergency. Ribbons and yarn can cause problems as well, so keep your kitty away from the crafting supplies.

Keep pets inside.

As Halloween approaches, our neighbors may decide to engage in a bit of mischief. Do not leave pets unattended outdoors where they can be teased, harassed, or frightened. Black cats in particular are often targeted for cruel Halloween pranks. If you share your life with a black cat, take every precaution to shelter her until the holiday has passed.

Most importantly - have fun! By taking a few simple precautions, we can save our pets from a scary post-Halloween trip to the vet.

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

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<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Thu, 25 Oct 2018 09:54:32 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/1024_NBC6_Arnold.jpg]]><![CDATA[Massive Gator Named 'Chubbs' Spotted Again at FL Golf Course]]>Wed, 17 Oct 2018 05:20:13 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Massive_Gator_Roaming_Florida_Golf_Course.jpg

Those just trying to play a round of golf at one Florida course have to deal with one gigantic hazard – a massive alligator who has begun to call the area home.

The monster reptile was spotted again over the weekend at the Buffalo Creek Golf Course in Palmetto, located between Sarasota and Tampa.

Affectionately called “Chubbs” by those in the area, officials say he has been roaming the course for years and hasn’t bothered any of the humans as he slowly walks.

The exact size of Chubbs is unknown – as well as what club he would choose on any of the course’s 18 holes.

<![CDATA[Cops Trap Tiny Gator at Miami Gardens Gas Station]]>Tue, 16 Oct 2018 10:52:59 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/101618+miami+gardens+gator+in+gas+station.jpg

Police in Miami Gardens had to wrangle a small gator that decided to make a pit stop at a local gas station.

Officials said they received a call in the middle of the night Tuesday that the gator was in the gas station, and two officers who are skilled wildlife handlers responded.

The officers were able to trap the gator and returned it to its normal habitat, as recommended by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, after taking some photos with the tiny gator.

Photo Credit: Miami Gardens Police]]>
<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County Pets of the Week - Oct. 11]]>Thu, 11 Oct 2018 11:58:01 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/1010_NBC6_Albert.jpg]]><![CDATA[Pink For Pets: Breast Cancer Awareness and Pets]]>Sun, 14 Oct 2018 07:23:43 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/178*120/Doc+Grendel+Breast+Cancer.JPG

Each October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month compels many of us to think of people whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer. In the U.S., roughly one in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer at some point during her lifetime. While the public is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of early detection and preventative care, many pet owners are surprised to learn their pets may also be at risk for developing breast cancer.

Breast cancer is rare in male cats and dogs, but sadly, very common in females of both species. It is generally diagnosed at roughly ten to eleven years of age. In dogs, the most commonly affected breeds are Poodles, Dachshunds, Spaniels, Rottweilers, Boxers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds. Feline breast cancer is most often seen in Siamese, Persian, and other Asian breeds. It is unclear whether or not breed-specific genetics play a role, or if the act of breeding these popular fan favorites simply creates a skewed sample.

The risk for developing breast cancer at any age is closely linked to a pet’s exposure to estrogen and progesterone in the first few years of life. The best way to limit your pet’s exposure to said hormones, and thus reduce the risk of breast cancer is to have her spayed. The risk of breast cancer in a dog who is spayed before her first heat cycle is a mere .5%.

After her first heat cycle, the risk increases to 8%, and rises to 26% after the second cycle. A mature, unspayed dog is seven times more likely to develop breast cancer than her unspayed counterparts! One study suggests certain, large-breed dogs may be less likely to develop orthopedic problems later in life if spaying is delayed until they are fully grown. Since there is a certain degree of risk associated with both choices, it is important for these dogs’ owners to seek help from their veterinarian when grappling with this particular decision.

Otherwise, unless you are a licensed, registered breeder of health-tested, purpose-bred cats or dogs, you should spay your pet sooner, rather than later to reduce her chances of developing breast cancer. Obesity during a pet’s early development can also increase her risk, so ask your veterinary team if your young pup’s weight is conducive to her long-term health.

If your veterinarian is concerned your pet may have breast cancer, he or she may recommend lung x-rays, blood analysis, or other diagnostic tests to ascertain whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Once this has been determined, the next course of action will likely be surgical removal of the tumor or tumors.

(Since dogs and cats have large litters, they have anywhere between six and ten breasts. It’s not unusual for veterinarians to diagnose tumors in multiple breasts). Surgical excision is delicate work, as great care must be taken to navigate around glands, veins, and soft tissue. Once tumors are removed, they should be sent to a lab to be closely analyzed by a board certified veterinary pathologist.

This report will tell your veterinarian what type of cancer your pet is fighting, and whether or not the the entire tumor was removed. From here, your vet can assess the likelihood of recurrence, ascertain whether or not further treatment is necessary, and determine your pet’s long-term prognosis. To reduce the chance of recurrence, the patient is nearly always spayed at the time of surgery.

Like many of the medical conditions which affect our pets, breast cancer is largely preventable. Spaying our pets, and maintaining them at a healthy weight can go a long way towards keeping them free of a disease that is sadly, all too common.

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

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

Photo Credit: Dr. Ian Kupkee]]>
<![CDATA[Cute Alert! Pygmy Hippo Baby Makes Zoo Miami Debut]]>Fri, 05 Oct 2018 14:59:26 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/214*120/hippo+baby+zoo+miami+14.jpgA male pygmy hippo that was born on Aug. 4 made his public debut at Zoo Miami this week.

Photo Credit: Zoo Miami]]>
<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week - Oct. 4]]>Thu, 04 Oct 2018 11:08:18 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/NBC6_Arlene.jpg]]><![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Thu, 27 Sep 2018 07:14:29 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0926_NBC6_Adam.jpg]]><![CDATA[Health Insurance For Pets Part 2]]>Thu, 27 Sep 2018 07:10:26 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Doc+and+Misty.jpg

Several weeks ago, we kicked off Pet Health Insurance Awareness Month by discussing the benefits of insuring our furry family members. As September draws to a close, we’ll look at how pet insurance works, and how to shop for a policy that best fits your family’s needs. Here are some questions pet parents need to ask when shopping for pet health insurance.

What exactly is covered?

Many hospitals offer in-house wellness plans. With this type of product, routine services such as dental cleanings and vaccinations are discounted, or even free, in exchange for a monthly premium. While there is nothing wrong these plans, clients are often surprised to learn that expenses incurred due to illness or injury may or may not be covered.

Personally, I would rather budget for the predictable expenses that are due on a regular basis, and put my insurance dollars toward a plan that will cover unforseen expenses and emergencies. Such turns of bad luck can cost thousands of dollars, which many Americans simply do not have. Should you find yourself listening to a pitch for hospital’s wellness plan, be sure to find out exactly what the plan includes.

How much does pet insurance cost?

Like our own health insurance, pet insurance premiums vary according to a number of factors. If you choose a plan with a low or deductible, expect higher premiums. Similarly, expect lower monthly premiums for a high deductible plan. This is where the “catastrophic loss” rule comes in handy. If you are able to cover a one-time, unplanned expense of $500 or $1,000, consider making that number your deductible.

This will result in lower premiums and a more manageable cash flow. While some plans do offer coverage for routine wellness, holisitc treatments, and complementary alternative medicine, such coverage usually comes with higher monthly premiums. In other words, the more extensive the coverage, the higher the premium will be.

Some of my clients opt for zero deductible plans, and while their premiums are higher, they rest easily knowing most of their pet’s care is covered. These are the numbers to discuss with a representative when shopping for pet health plans.

Your costs will also vary in accordance with your pet’s species and age. Cats are generally cheaper to insure than dogs, and premiums are higher for adults and senior pets,regardless of species. It is therefore highly recommended to buy insurance when your pets are young.

Puppies and kittens are prone to misadventure and notoriously lacking in impulse control. And insuring them at a young age means conditions diagnosed later in life will be covered, as opposed to being excluded as a pre-existing condition. Which segues nicely into the next question insurance shoppers should ask..

Does pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

While some insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions after a substantial waiting period, most of the time the answer to this question is no. All the more reason to shop for insurance while your pet is young, or at least has a clean bill of health.

Does pet insurance cover congenital disorders?

Simply put, congenital disorders are conditions with which your pet was born. Some of the more common congenital disorders affect the liver, heart, pancreas and urinary tract. They often manifest early in the pet’s life, and can be fatal without prompt surgical intervention. This leads us to the next question a pet parent must ask before purchasing an insurance plan.

Are there any waiting periods that need to expire before filing a claim?

Many plans do not allow policy holders to file claims until the policy has been in force for a specific period of time. The length can vary from as little as ten days to as long as thirty days, and may be applied to all types of claims, or claims for certain conditions.

Such waiting periods most commonly apply to the types of disorders described above, and a puppy with a compromised heart valve cannot wait thirty days for life-saving surgery. Look for a policy with no waiting periods for any type of conditions.

Are breed-specific disorders covered?

It is common knowledge that purebred dogs and cats can have medical problems specifically related to the breed. Be it retinal atrophy in Bengal cats, hip dysplasia in German Shepherds, or Intervertebral Disc Disease in dachshunds, these conditions can be extremely expensive to treat.

Additionally, pet insurance companies can be very clever when it comes to labelling a pricey problem breed specific. In order to avoid countless appeals and battles you may not win, make sure the policy you purchase covers all conditions to which your pet’s breed are genetically predisposed.

How exactly does my pet’s bill get paid?

Generally speaking, pet insurance plans are indemnity contracts, meaning the policyholder pays the bill in full, only to be reimbursed by the insurance policy. The upside of this arrangement is that there are no concerns that a practitioner or facility may not accept your insurance. It can be used anywhere. The downside is that not all pet owners have the cash flow flexibility to wait for reimbursement.

Some companies expedite claims so that the pet owner only pays the copay at the time services are rendered, while the lion’s share of the bill is paid directly to the veterinary facility by the insurance company. Many of my clients have these types of plans and they love them! Should you choose to pay up front and wait to be reimbursed, make sure you know how long you will wait for payment before signing on the dotted line.

As I mentioned in the previous installment, my wife and I have insurance policies on both our dogs. Between knee surgery, advanced dental surgery, and kidney stones, we’ve submitted roughly $13,000 in claims. That small monthly payment goes a long way toward providing us with the peace of mind of knowing our pets will be okay should the unthinkable - and unaffordable - come to pass.

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

Click herefor great deals and discounts exclusively for NBC 6 viewers.

Photo Credit: Dr. Ian Kupkee]]>
<![CDATA[Humane Society of Broward County's Pets of the Week]]>Thu, 06 Sep 2018 12:57:38 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0908-NBC6_Ace.jpg]]><![CDATA[Do Pets Need Health Insurance?]]>Fri, 31 Aug 2018 13:19:22 -0500https://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 11:36:03 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0822_NBC6.jpg]]><![CDATA[Rare Sea Turtles 'Donkey Kong,' 'Mario Kart' Rehabilitated]]>Fri, 10 Aug 2018 11:06:03 -0500https://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 05:50:14 -0500https://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 12:34:07 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0725_NBC6_Bane.jpg]]><![CDATA[Pet Safety In The Dog Days Of Summer]]>Tue, 31 Jul 2018 05:18:18 -0500https://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 12:39:34 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/0718_NBC6_Andromeda.jpg]]><![CDATA[Thunderstorm Anxiety and Pets]]>Fri, 20 Jul 2018 12:35:43 -0500https://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 11:35:02 -0500https://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 11:44:19 -0500https://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 13:17:04 -0500https://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 05:14:32 -0500https://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 13:19:21 -0500https://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 11:39:39 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/052318+NBC6_Lady.jpg]]><![CDATA[Soldier Reunites With Dog She Rescued During Iraq Deployment]]>Thu, 17 May 2018 17:20:45 -0500https://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 10:55:59 -0500https://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 11:01:41 -0500https://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 09:41:47 -0500https://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 19:56:10 -0500https://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 11:47:17 -0500https://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 05:40:17 -0500https://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 17:27:41 -0500https://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.

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<![CDATA[Springtime Blooms & Your Pet: A Guide to Toxic Plants]]>Wed, 11 Apr 2018 04:39:09 -0500https://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 09:13:18 -0500https://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 17:03:29 -0500https://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 10:56:58 -0500https://media.nbcmiami.com/images/182*120/032918+NBC6-bigdog_Alex.jpg]]>