Top Toxins That Can Poison Our Pets, Do You Know What Is Or Is Not Toxic?

Trojan and Gitli near the fireplace


“Happy National Poison Prevention Week! In 2013, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, Illinois, handled nearly 180,000 cases of pets exposed to toxic substances, many of which are everyday household items.”


Read this great article from the ASPCA and learn more about common household items that results in frequent calls to APCC.

Winter Storm Preparations

Gitli dressed for negative temperatures in Southern Illinois 2014

Gitli dressed for negative temperatures in Southern Illinois 2014


I recently was on a radio broadcast with Peaceful Planet Pets and one of the topics of discussion was the fact that folks were leaving their pets out while the Blizzard Draco came rolling through.  At the end of 2013 winter season approached fast, were you prepared?  Does your disaster plan include winter weather?

Using wolves as an excuse to leave dogs out in these types of weather conditions ignores the evolution between wild and domestic dogs.  Wolves have adapted to these types of conditions but our domestic dogs have adapted to living with us.




I lived in Alaska for two years and really had to prepare for travel in subzero temperatures and part of my own preparations was  a winter emergency kit available and it includes things like extra warm clothing, blankets, dry shoes, a candle, a lighter or water-proof matches, food that doesn’t freeze, access to water, emergency flares and the list goes on.  Winter weather conditions can change on a dime, so plan your routes and stay alert to your weather reports, try to avoid the storms, and be flexible.  Sliding off the road and into a ditch will not help you get there anywhere quickly.

How do you prepare for winter?

Either purchase or build your own car winter kit and become familiar with everything in it, items to include (not all inclusive):

  • Have extra blankets, sleeping bags or space blankets in your care
  • Extra warm clothing
  • A Flashlight with extra batteries, there are flashlights available that will charge cell phones
  • A first aid kit for your car
  • Carry a knife, high calorie and non-perishable food, candles, water-proof matches, something to melt snow in for drinking water
  • Sanitary items like baby wipes, tissues, paper towels, garbage bags
  • Carry sand or cat litter for tire traction and a shovel to dig out with
  • Tool kit should include tow ropes, windshield scrapers, and jumper cable
  • A compass and roads maps, you may have to go another route
  • Emergency flares
  • A full tank of gas will keep ice from forming in the tank and fuel lines
  • Keep someone information of your schedule and routes
  • Winterize your vehicle before winter begins and this includes having good tread on tires, carry chains
  • Build your kit to your needs

Before leaving home, pound the hood of your car before starting.  Cats and other small animals may have climb in to seek warmth from the car.

Not all pets arctic breeds and can survive in harsh winter conditions.  Dogs and cats can also get frost-bitten.  When I lived in Alaska, my dogs were required to have covering for their feet because their paws could freeze to the ice, which could be painful for the dogs.  Even then I knew of sled dog owners when it hit zero and below brought their sled dogs in to keep them warm over the winter.  They could tell how cold it was by the number of dogs piled on the bed for warmth with their people.

Trojan dressed for negative temperatures in Southern Illinois 2014

Trojan dressed for negative temperatures in Southern Illinois 2014



If feral dogs and cats are in the area, encourage a temporary shelter so that they to can get out of the wind.  I can only imagine what these animals are thinking as they try to survive in conditions that are harsh for them and how many of them really just want to be safe, warm and fed.





Other cold-weather tips:

  • Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia.  This can include: violent shivering followed by listlessness, weak pulse, and lethargy. The parts of the body that is mostly exposed to the weather are more likely to get frostbite and includes ears, tails, and feet. The treatment for frostbite is to apply warm (not hot) water soaks to the frostbitten part for 20 minutes but do not rub or massage those areas. Most importantly seek medical attention.
  • Winter ice melters can be harmful to your pet.  Rock salt can damage your dog’s paws, and worse and they ingest all of that harmful salt by licking off their paws. Chemical ice melters are dangerous to and if you do need to use it, prevent the pets from walking on it. Encourage your clients to use the pet-friendly products that can melt ice without salt.  Never assumed these products are safe if ingest.  Don’t forget to wipe off paws as pets enter the home.
  • Antifreeze is a deadly poison:  Wipe up any spills, store antifreeze out of reach, and double check that your car doesn’t have a leak.
  • Dogs and Cats love sleeping next to a warm fire. Screen off fireplaces so pets can’t get too close and risk being burned.
  • Stock up on supplies.  Winter weather can bring heavy snow or ice at happen anytime. Keep extra pet supplies on hand and encourage your clients to do the same for their pets.
  • Keep an Emergency Kit.  These can be tailored to your needs and the changing season.  Include in the kits: emergency food, water, blankets, flashlights, first aid supplies, medications, a weather radio, and other supplies that you would need. Be prepared!  Encourage your clients to maintain their own emergency kits and know where these kits are kept.

Emergencies happen and winter storms can bring power and water outages, fallen trees and massive limbs blocking roadways, even evacuation orders. Having emergency plans and kits in place will save time when in a crisis.

Be prepared for winter conditions.  Please encourage pet parents to be prepared and to bring their animals in during the winter including their cats.  If the pets are not able to come in provide appropriate shelter out of the wind that contains bedding for warmth and unfrozen and clean water for them to drink and food to eat.

Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters and Disaster Plans: Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.

Preparing Families With Pets For Hurricane Season

Image courtesy of Mike Trenchard, Earth Sciences & Image Analysis Laboratory , Johnson Space Center.

Image courtesy of Mike Trenchard, Earth Sciences & Image Analysis Laboratory , Johnson Space Center.

Katrina veteran and Best Friends’ emergency response manager John Garcia discusses the importance of being prepared.

Click the link below to learn

What’s the number one strategy to keep pets safe if you are in the path of a hurricane? 

Why is Being Prepared For A Disaster Important?

Trojan inspection


“Modern-day preppers face a much bigger adversary – Mother Nature. With brutal winters, tornadic springs, fiery summers and a hurricane season that lasts for months, calamity seems ubiquitous in the news.


Before adversity strikes in your neighborhood, watch this episode of Pet Talk where Dr. Sarah offers her insights for how to avoid pandemonium in the wake of turmoil. Take this opportunity now to learn how to get your house in order, with helpful tips from our good doctor.”  Click here to learn more.


Murphysboro, Illinois Derecho May 2009

Trojan inspection
A derecho is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms. Generally, derechos are convection-induced and take on a bow echo form of squall line, forming in an area of wind divergence in the upper levels of the troposphere, within a region of low-level warm air advection and rich low-level moisture. They travel quickly in the direction of movement of their associated storms, similar to an outflow boundary (gust front), except that the wind is sustained and increases in strength behind the front, generally exceeding hurricane-force. A warm-weather phenomenon, derechos occur mostly in summer, especially during June and July in the Northern Hemisphere, within areas of moderately strong instability and moderately strong vertical wind shear. They may occur at any time of the year and occur as frequently at night as during the daylight hours. Attribution:

Below is a video of the storm damage that I received after a Derecho came through Murphysboro, Illinois May 8, 2009.

Have You Prepared Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters?

Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.

FREE Screening of Beyond the Myth

Saturday March 9, 2013

Time: 1:00 PM

FREE Screening of A Film About Breed Discrimination: Beyond the Myth

BeyondTheMythFlyer (2)

Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.

GET READY Preparedness Fair

Pet Survival Kits BoothSaturday February 2, 2013

Time: 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Old Highway 13, between Tower Rd. and Country Club Rd., Carbondale, IL 62901

Hurricane Sandy, Harrisburg, Joplin and now Newtown have these events heightened our awareness that an unexpected disaster can happen at any time. Would you like to have great peace of mind knowing your family is prepared for whatever may be in your future? Whether it is loss of job, derecho or earthquake, The Preparedness Fair Saturday February 2nd at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will help you begin your efforts to survive future disasters. Learn tips on weather advisories, responding to an active shooter, communication skills and much more. FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!  There will be many organizations and individuals with tips to help you begin preparing as well as scheduled presentations:

2pm Jim Rasor, WSIL TV3 chief meteorologist
3:15pm Larry Moore: Active Shooter Response
4:15pm U of I: Conflict Resolution Skills
5:15pm SIUC: The movie “Suddenly… on an Average Day ”

Attribution: Kara Dunkel

Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.

Preparing Your Pets For Emergencies and Disasters Presentation

Pet Survival Kits BoothFebruary 23, 2013

Time: 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM

Preparing Your Pets For Emergencies and Disasters will be presented at the Harrisburg District Library located a 2 W Walnut, Harrisburg, IL 62946-1261, the book signing will follow the workshop.




Please RSVP to Harrisburg District Library by February 1, 2013 if participants would like an autographed copy of “Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.”

You have been informed that you have 15 minutes to evacuate and you have pets.  What Pet Owners WISH they had known before an emergency or a disaster strikes. Don’t evacuate without your pets.  Joyce Rheal author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters will be presenting a workshop and book signing.  The work shop will consist of the importance of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters, don’t leave your pets behind when evacuating.  Joyce Rheal will facilitate pet owner in creating a disaster plan that includes their pets.

Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.

Keeping Pets Safe During Tornadoes

A picture of a tornado showing the kinds and sources of vortex infrasound generation. Attribution: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory   Source:

Attribution: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory Source:

Tornadoes can happen at any time during the year, yet the most common season for tornadoes starts in the spring as the cold temperatures give way to warmer.  In most cases, tornadoes happen at night, and being prepared is what will make the difference of our pets surviving and not being separated from us.

Tornadoes are violent rotating column of air that contact with the ground and a cumulonimbus, or in rare cases the base of a cumulus cloud.   They come in many sizes and shapes yet most are visible as condensation funnels in which the narrow end touches the ground resulting in damage, downed trees and flying debris and dust.  The majority of them occur  in “Tornado Alley”, a specific region of the United States.  Tornadoes have been observed on every continent except Antarctica and can occur anywhere in North America.

The U.S. National Weather Service (USNWS) uses pulse-Doppler radar to detect and recognize patterns of storms that may produce hook echoes.  The USNWS provides storm spotters classes for volunteers to be weather spotters to assist in the efforts of spotting dangerous storms.  USNWS has created a network of weather professionals and storm spotters that provide them with vital information to inform communities of approaching tornadoes.  “When thunder roars, go indoors!”

Tornadoes usually come with thunderstorms, and understanding the different alerts is imperative to protecting yourself and pets.

  •  Severe thunderstorm watch means that conditions are right for lightning or damaging winds great then 58 miles per hour, hail that can reach a diameter of 0.75 inches, and heavy rain. Start taking actions to protect yourself and your pets.
  • Severe thunderstorm warning means one has been sighted either in your area or is headed your way.  Animals, especially dogs, often hear thunderstorms long before humans, and will indicate the storm’s approach by becoming anxious, hiding, vocalizing or showing some type of stress. Horses sometimes will run around their pasture frantically.
  • Tornado watch means that conditions are right for tornadoes to develop and keeping an eye on the sky became imperative.
  • Tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted, either by a spotter or on radar.  These warnings will give the location and the path of the tornado.  Warnings will go out immediately to areas that can be affected by the warning.  Take cover when warnings are issued in your area – and include your pets!

You can increase the chances that you and your pets will survive a tornado by preparing yourself.  This means taking several steps to keep yourself, your family and your pets safe during thunderstorms and tornadoes

  • Make your disaster plan and include your pets and practice it.
  • Designate a safe area in or near your home that will allow animals to be brought inside.  Pet-proof these areas by closing off and eliminating unsafe corners and areas where pets may hide, and move dangerous items likes tools and chemicals from these areas.
  • If you don’t have shelter from a tornado, stay in the center of your home and away from the windows and outside walls.  Take cover under solid furniture or mattresses and protect your heads.  Your pets should be in carriers to protect them.
  • If you are driving and a tornado is spotted  get out of  your car with your pets and seek shelter. If you use a ditch, be watchful for flood waters so that you and your pets do not drown.  Protect your head and stay low to the ground.
  • Teach all family members what to do if they are at home, outside, in a car when these storms approach and include teaching them how to relocate all animals to safe areas.
  • If your animals become stressed during these storms, mitigate their responses.  Contact your vet for safe solutions and remember that drugging them could actually hinder attempts at relocating them to safe areas.
  • Brings your pet inside and remember: if it is NOT safe for you to be outside it is NOT safe for  your pets to me out.
  • Create an evacuation and first aid kit for your family including your pets and keep it easily accessible.
  • Maintain emergency pet supplies as part of your evacuation kit and secure this in a tornado proof room or cellar.  Be sure these supplies can be easily transported.  Include in your kits:
    • An adequate supply of food, water and treats for your pets
    • Sanitation items which can be litter box and litter, puppy pads, bags for picking up dog feces.
    • Crates for each pet to provide a secure place for them as the storm passes.  Emergency shelters that accept pets will require these before pets are granted access.
    • Do not forget your pets medications.
    • Include copies of your pets vaccinations and current photo of them with you.
    • Make sure your pets shots are up to date
    • Each pet should have a collar with an identification tag that is up to date and visible.
    • Micro-chipping your pet will increase the changes of your pet being reunited if you become separated.  This information must be up to date.
    • Practice with your pets in getting them into the tornado safe area
      • Train dogs to go into the safe areas and to come on command during distractions
      • Learn to teach how to quickly and safely secure all your pets
      • Find favorite hiding places and learn how to safely remove pets from them.

 Never leave pets chained or enclosed outside in a way that they cannot escape danger.

 Take your pets, evacuation and first aid kits if you have to evacuate.

Tornadoes can occur anytime of the year. By taking precautions and making preparations, pet parents can increase the chances of their pets’ survival and staying with their families.  Your pets are family too! When tornado warnings are go off, take cover and take your pets with you.  Taking care of your pets after the storms will be just as important.  Your home maybe very different after a disaster; familiar landmarks and  smells are missing, things in disarray, downed trees and power lines. This can be very distressing and confusing for your pets.  Leash your pets and don’t allow them to roam in the yards.  Your pets can easily get lost under these conditions.  Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers until you have completed your damage assessment to prevent escapes.  Get your pets back to normal routines as soon as you can and be patient with them as they may develop behavioral issues resulting from stress.

Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.