Health Tips

Ice and Snow: 7 Tips to Keep Your Dogs Safe in Extreme Cold Weather


Okay we concede that extreme is different in different locations and Lu’s Labs rescues dogs all over the south and brings them up to the north, so some dogs may not like the cold. How can we protect our dogs against extreme weather no matter where we live?

1 - Deciding What’s Too Cold for Your Dog – First off, think about what is too cold for you, and it’s probably too cold for your dog. Weather and wind-chill below 32 Fahrenheit can cause hypothermia and frostbite for your dog. (And of course for you too!)

2 - Stay Indoors -  If anyone knows our rescue, dogs are indoor family members, not outside pets. At least not to us. That means that in extreme whether you shouldn’t be leaving your dogs outdoors and dog houses are not sufficient shelter for a dog. Maybe their ancestors were pack animals that lived outside, but our domestic dogs are not. And when they ran in packs they had other warm bodies to curl up with. Dogs, especially Lu’s Labs, belong inside, by the fireplace, snuggled in your blankets, and, for most of us, on the couch.

3 - Check Your Dog’s Paws – Walking in ice and snow can damage your dog’s paws. Check for cracking and bleeding, and make sure ice is not accumulating between toes. Some people go to extremes and get dog socks or boots, and while this may be helpful in some cases, also examine your dog’s level of comfort. The best course of action is to limit walks in cold weather.

4 - Wipe Down Feet, legs, and Bellies – While walking around your dog can pick up de-icing chemicals, salt, and antifreeze along with other chemicals unsafe for your pets. If you keep dog safe wipes by the door you can wipe down their paws and under carriage and legs to reduce the possibility of poisoning and illness from these harmful chemicals.

5 - Use Pet Safe Chemicals – While you can’t help what your neighbors do, you can help what is in and around your sidewalk and driveway. There are pet safe de-icers out there that will reduce your dog’s exposure to harmful contaminants. Again, try when you can to avoid walking across chemicals. It can cause burns and abrasions to your dog’s paws. Refer back to tip number 4 whenever in doubt.

6 - Avoid Anti-Freeze Spills – It is common practice during winter months to change or top off car coolant and anti-freeze. Chemicals within the anti-freeze have a sweet smell and taste that can seem attractive to your dog yet are extremely toxic when ingested. The ethylene glycol in these substances can cause severe illness and death to pets. Minutes can make a different when it comes to getting your dog help.

7 - Rock Salt Poisoning – Rock salt is a mixture of salt (Sodium Chloride) and grit and is commonly used to de-ice winter roads. It can be harmful to dogs though it’s hard to say how much needs to be ingested in order to cause damage. Ingesting rock salt (And even common table salt) can lead to high blood sodium which can cause thirst, vomiting and lethargic behavior.  In severe cases there is a risk of convulsion and kidney damage. If suspected dogs should be taken to a vet for evaluation.

Bottom line, when in doubt, when it’s cold out, keep your dogs’ exposure to a minimum to severe temperatures. Make sure you have plenty of indoor games and things to keep them occupied. Brain games, toys, and supervised play…otherwise you may just lose a shoe or two while waiting for the winter weather to subside.


Be Aware of the Dangers of These 4 Dog Toys


How do you choose the best dog toys for your dogs and how do you avoid the pitfalls and hazards that come along with dogs…toys…and chewing?

This is a never-ending question that doesn’t always have a straight forward answer because some dogs treat their toys differently than others. Some dogs are prolific chewers. Some like to disassemble toys but don’t swallow the parts. Other dogs, will ingest anything they can get their paws on… so how do you know what is safe for your pets?

This could be a really long post if we tried to tell you all the toys you can buy that are tough, and all of those that you should stay away from. Instead we will talk about 4 of the most common toys and chews on the market.

As we discuss toy dangers it is important to know that 95% of the time, when your dog swallows foreign objects, they will pass through their system without incident. It’s that other 5% of the time that can be life threatening and result in expensive vet bills or worse.

Rope Toys – From a tug of war stand point and if you play with your dog or supervise your dog this can be a fairly safe toy. BUT if you leave a dog to their own devices and their goal is to pull the rope apart and ingest it, then it should be a toy kept out of reach.

The Dangers: Strands of rope can be very dangerous when swallowed. Vets categorize this as a “linear foreign body.” The danger occurs when one part of the rope is stuck in the stomach and the other part of the rope makes it into the intestines. The digestive system attempts to pass this through its system, and it begins to cinch on itself like the drawstring in a pair of sweatpants. This slowly tightens the digestive track and can become life threatening and painful. Even small pieces of rope overtime can accumulate like hairs in a shower drain causing a blockage.

If your dog is continually trying to strip off the pieces of rope, even if this is a favorite toy, it’s best to find a different toy for your dog friend.

Nylabones – In the constant quest for something for prolific chewers some pet owners are divided about Nylabones.  There are pros and cons to these synthetic pet chews and you will get varying opinions on the use of these chew toys. While the pros are that these help promote healthy chewing (And saves your couch from time to time) and provide mental stimulation, there are some cons as well.

The Dangers: When unsupervised some dogs can chew these into small pieces that are not digestible. They can cause intestinal blockage, and when chewed into sharp shards can also pose a threat by puncturing the intestines.

Sometimes ring chews give a dog less purchase to break off small pieces and Nylabone does have some rings that may work well for your needs. Again supervising is the key. Know what your dog is doing to the toys you provide.

Rawhides – Again, the debate is real. So many vets, rescues, and dog experts steer away from the use of rawhide bones. While once a staple in dog families when they first became popular in the 1950s, our knowledge has evolved and the sources for rawhide varies. While dogs need to chew, and some people still gravitate toward rawhides because they are cheap and easy, the risks are worth keeping in mind. Especially with questionable sources from China containing such toxins as formaldehyde, arsenic, and other contaminants.

The Dangers: Some rawhide bones have been found to have trace contaminants and toxic chemicals not good for your dog’s consumption. Choking and blockages can occur when your chewer ingests pieces of the rawhide bones. Your dog may be sensitive to rawhide and it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other signs of poor health. 

Balls and Tennis Balls – This is an all-time favorite for most dogs who have any kind of fetching skills or ball drive.  Who doesn’t think tennis ball when they think of retrievers? But most people aren’t aware that tennis balls and balls in general can actually be dangerous for larger breed dogs. (Or any size ball that is the wrong size for the dog in question.) The most important thing is to be aware, be smart in choosing your ball toys, and know what to do in case of an emergency.

The Dangers: Balls are a major choking hazard for dogs. Especially if the ball is wrong sized. Typical tennis balls can be too small for larger breeds like golden retrievers and, you guessed it, Labs. The ball can get stuck in your dog’s throat when he or she catches it and cause a blockage.

When this type of accident happens, you will not have time to get the dog to the vet before he could choke. It’s important to get to your dog immediately, straddle the dog, open the mouth and grab it out of the throat, it may mean sliding 2 fingers down to try to get it un-wedged. If it’s lodged too deeply you may need to work on the outside of the dog’s throat first and try to roll the ball up. The faster you can get the ball out the better your dog’s chances of survival.  At the end of the day it’s important to consider oversized balls that won’t go down their throats when engaging in play.

The bottom line is, that when our dogs are left to their own devices it’s important we don’t leave them with toys that can be harmful. It’s also important to supervise their play and know the right toys for the right sized dogs.

Do Your Research When It Comes to Essential Oils and Your Pets



Hello Lu's Labs family. I just want to address something that went viral recently and I know that a lot of our Rescue community saw it. It was a viral post (that has since been taken down) about a woman upset about poisoning her cat with essential oils. However, many more exist out there so it’s important to understand safety and your pets when using essential oils. (Whether in your home for your family, or directly for your pets.)

The original post caused a lot of buzz on the internet for many reasons. And as someone who has taught Essential Oil classes (about animals and people) and recently taught a class specifically for Lu’s Labs on Facebook, and donated Oils (and an Animal Desk Reference) to our auction - I just want to put up an educational post for us all.  First and foremost, safety in purchasing and using essential oils is key. I have used essential oils for the past 3 years around my 3 cats, and my dogs.

I attach a medical disclaimer to all classes I do online about oils, and always recommend that people know what they are doing and consult professional holistic vets when in doubt.

****My medical disclaimer. I am not a doctor nor a vet. I am not able to, nor have I ever prescribed oils for animal conditions (or people) or diagnosed illnesses. Please consult a holistic vet or a professional.

When my dog Rio had cancer, I consulted a holistic vet and got the approval with my cancer specialist to use Young Living oils side by side with her treatment.

I only use Young Living oils and when I run my classes I am only talking about uses for Young Living oils. Young Living is the only large company out there that sources their oils from Seed to Seal on their own farms and partner farms. They are involved in the process from growing the oils to distilling them, detailed testing of them and bottling them. They add nothing else. They are also the only company that I know of that has a veterinary advisory board. Does this mean this is the only company you should use? No. Of course not. And this is not a sales post, so please put that out of your mind.

It is important however that you research the quality of the oils you do decide to use. Know what it is in it. 95% of the oils out there are being sourced through oil brokers which means that the companies are simply re-bottlers. They are not involved in the growing or distillation process. No matter what you use, please use reputable sources when researching anything that you are going to use around your pets. Life Science Publishing has an excellent publication called Animal Desk Reference, this book addresses animal safety. Dilution ratios, and so much more.

It is true that cats cannot process essential oils the way humans and dogs can. Their livers are very sensitive and pick up on toxins and have a different way of metabolizing oils.

It is for this reason that around cats, (though why not around humans and dogs??) the quality of an oil is very important. This is in no way saying you must only use one oil company, but it is upon you, if you are going to use anything around your pets, whether it be everyday cleaning supplies or essential oils, to research the heck out of them. And please don’t take one frantic post from a questionable source and use that to determined that all essential oil is poisonous to your pets. It’s simply not the case.

Unfortunately, there is no regulation in the US in regard to labeling of oils. That is why it is so important to find a brand you can trust. And not just buy the cheapest stuff off Amazon. Even reputable brands purchased off Amazon can be altered and adulterated. It is very easy to remove a reducer from a bottle and change the contents within.  It happens all the time with beauty products as well. (Again, do your research.)

There are plenty of natural and organic things that are harmful to our pets. And don’t come with warning labels. Dogs can be poisoned by onions, chocolate, and other food items. Cats can be poisoned by lilies of many varieties. Here’s a blog post we published around the holidays to help you steer clear of things that can harm your pets.

Just because something is not labeled toxic to animals (think of sugar free peanut butter sweetened with xylitol which could kill our dogs and cats) doesn’t mean we don’t have to do our research and use it in the right way.

Please know that I have 3 cats and have used essential oils around them for 3 years with zero health issues to them. I thoroughly researched them. I started low and slow diffusing 1-2 drops for 30 minutes once every other day and slowly allowed the cats to build up their tolerance. I never close them in a room with a diffuser. I never use oils topically or internally with them.

There are plenty of toxic things we have in our homes that can be harmful to our cats. (And our dogs) Just think about all the air fresheners, plug ins, candles etc. that have synthetic toxins.

I know we all love our fur babies. Oils, in and of themselves, are not going to poison our animals if we are responsible pet owners who research and use them properly and consult professional vets/holistic vets when in doubt, and make sure we use reputable sources for purchasing our oils. I always recommend seeking out a holistic vet that uses essential oils. I mean you wouldn’t ask an Ear Nose and Throat doctor about your feet, you’d talk to a podiatrist. So why would you talk with a vet that doesn’t use oils in their practice about oils?

Remember. Don’t trust everything you read on the internet. That woman in that post googled a bunch of stuff and came up with some misleading stuff.  It doesn't mean you should ever feel compelled to use a product. But make your choices based on informed research from reputable sources.

I hope this post has been helpful to you all. I would never want anyone to use oils in a way that would harm their pets.

***About the author. While Leah Fellows writes and researches all of our blogs, they are usually written in 3rd person. This is a very personal issue near and dear to her heart and she would never want to see anyone do something harmful to their pets in the name of Essential Oil use. This is in no way a sales post. It is not about any single brand, but making sure you do your research and know what you are doing when using anything new or potentially harmful around your pets. This goes for cleaning supplies, dog toys, foods, snacks. And so much more! The goal of the author is to make sure people are responsible pet owners with a jumping off point to do their own research on Essential Oils.


8 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Dog

Photo By  Mr. Nixter

Photo By Mr. Nixter

New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for people, they are a pact you can make with your pets too. Lack of exercise, excessive eating, and other bad habits are not just people problems they can be pet problems too. What better way to start out 2018 then to bring your pet along on a journey toward a healthier happier new year.

#1 Get out and walk!

Yes it’s that easy, you and your dog can get out and walk and get more fitness into your day. If you’re usually taking your dog out 3-4 times a day for 10-15 minute walks, think about bumping it up to 20-30 minute walks a couple of times a day along with shorter walks. 

#2 Mix Up the Activities

Just like your workout routine may get stale and boring when you do the same thing day in and day out, it may be the same for your pup. Consider activities you will both enjoy from hiking solo with your dog, to group dog activities in dog parks, doggy day cares, or meet ups. Play fetch, throw a frisbee, or take your dog for a kayaking trip. Bonding with your baby dog can be fun and healthy for both of you.

#3 Portion Control

This isn’t just for people. Measure your dog’s food, and make sure you know what is recommended on the bag. And adjust your dog’s exercise accordingly. Remember if you are going to add in lots of treats you may need to adjust the amount of food at breakfast and dinner.

#4 Watch What They Eat

Different age and energy level dogs may have different nutritional requirements. Make sure you are providing the right dog food that is age appropriate for your furbaby. And if supplements are needed for bones and joints as a dog ages, make sure you are taking this into consideration and getting them the supplements they need to stay healthy and strong.

#5 Regular Check Ups

This is important for people, and it’s no less important for our dog friends. Make sure you are getting your dog in regularly for their vet checks and wellness appointments. This will help stay ahead of diseases, and make sure your dog maintains a healthy weight. This is a great time to talk with the vet about any behavioral issues, and make sure their shots are up to date.

#6 Dental Health

Your dog only has one set of teeth. From dental chews, to daily brushing with dog friendly tooth paste, you can keep your pet healthy and keep their plaque and tarter from becoming a problem.

#7 Make Sure Records and ID’s are Up to Date

It never hurts to make sure your vet has all the current information on your pet.  If you’ve hopped from vet to vet, or use multiple vets, make sure they are communicating with one another and all your records are up to date. At the same time make sure your Pet ID is current, microchip is registered to your current address. People move. Phone numbers change. It’s important that if your pet gets lost, all your information is current and accessible.

#8 Socialize

We all like to be social creatures, your dogs are no different! At least they shouldn’t be. A happy healthy pet is one that is well socialized. Take the time to do group training classes, head to the dog park for group activities, or even consider fostering in order to give your pup a chance to socialize in their home.

Tis' The Season to Remember: Pets Aren't Presents


Movies portray cuddly puppies with red bows around their neck popping out from Christmas boxes under ornament laden trees. Starry eyed children, or smitten soulmates gaze into the eyes of those pups and think, “ahhh what a perfect present.”

While getting a puppy for Christmas may sound like the perfect gift, it also may be a case where good intentions turn quickly into bad ideas. This is especially true as the magnitude of owning a pet sinks in.

A few hours later reality sets in. Presents are destroyed by chewing teeth. Tree skirts are soiled by poorly timed potty-breaks.  And no preparation for a pup was made beyond the surprise. This sort of gift giving can really spring you into the deep end of the pool of pet ownership without the preparation.

We may think someone is ready for a puppy or needs the companionship, but the truth is many people may not be ready for the responsibility and expenses that come along with pet ownership. Many people would much rather pick out their own pets and make sure it fits the characteristics and personality they desire.

The reality of owning a pet is that once the red bow is removed some serious investments must be made not just emotionally but financially as well.

Some Expenses Gift Givers Don't Consider

  • Veterinary care and vaccinations
  • Preventative medication for flea, tick, and Heartworm
  • Food and treats
  • Grooming and training expenses
  • Bedding, toys, and crates
  • Boarding, pet sitters, or dog walkers

Beyond the expense of the dog is also the care giving, the energy, and effort that goes into making a dog a part of your home. Unfortunately, not everyone is well prepared for this. And the most devastating effect of gifting a dog for the holidays is when families decide it was an ill-conceived adventure and give up their pet to a shelter or rescue.

The Consequences

Every year, once the magic of the holidays wears off pets are dropped off at shelters like clockwork.  Too many people do not realize the full responsibility of a pet when they decide to gift them.  They get caught up in the moment and think the spontaneity of a unique gift is all that matters. The truth is, animals are not toys to be gifted. They are living breathing beings that have a complexity of considerations to weigh before taking them into your home. 

Impulsiveness vs Preparation

A dog should never be an impulse buy. Adding a pet to your home should be something that is thoroughly considered from all angles, and each family member’s perspective. Some simple questions to ask of the whole family that will help you determined whether or not you are ready to bring a dog, or any pet for that matter, into your home are:

  • Who is going to feed and walk the dog?
  • Who is going to clean up after the dog?
  • Where is the dog going to sleep?
  • With all the family activities, how long will the dog be home alone each day?
  • How will you train a dog?
  • How much do you think a dog will cost you each year taken into account expenses listed above?
  • And does that fit your budget?
  • What becomes of the dog as the children get older or you add another child to the family?
  • Where will the dog go if you go on vacation or move permanently?

Once all these questions are answered and you’ve figured out how a new dog will fit into your family - not just under the Christmas tree, but for the years to come as an integrated part of your household - then it’s time to go look for your new dog. 

Always remember, when you are ready to add a furry family member, adopt don’t shop. It may take longer to find the right dog to add to your family, especially if you work with Lu’s Labs. But in the end, the best gifts are worth waiting for.

Common Foods That Can Be Toxic to Your Dogs

With the Holiday Season upon us, there may be more than the usual temptations in the kitchen ready to entice even the best dogs into raiding the trash, or surfing the counter tops. It’s important to understand that foods that have no effect on us humans can be poisonous to dogs.  Some of the most commonly used ingredients can have adverse effects on your dog’s health so make sure you know what they are early on when you introduce a furry friend to your family.

Chocolate – This is probably one of the most common food items that pet owners are familiar with as harmful to their pets. And from Halloween through the New Year there’s probably a higher concentration of these delights in the home. Large amounts of cocoa can kill your dog, due to the theobromine in the chocolate. The darker the chocolate the heavier the concentration of this component.

Xylitol – This artificial sweetener can be present in gum, candy, toothpaste, and even some peanut butters as well as other processed foods. This substance is extremely toxic to dogs and even small amounts can cause seizures, liver failure, or death. It’s important to check the ingredients of packaged foods and keep them away from your pets.

Grapes (and raisins) – While it’s still a mystery as to what exactly the toxin is in this popular fruit, even small amounts of grapes and raisins can be toxic to dogs, the fact remains that some dogs experience kidney damage and even kidney failure. The reasons why some dogs are affected and others are not, is a topic of research.

Garlic, Onion, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, and Leaks – With soup season warming up, these are so common in cooking, and easy for a dog to get into when browsing through your trash.  More than .5% of your dog’s body weight (Cats are even more sensitive) can be toxic to your dog. It can cause anemia, pale mucus membranes, and weakness.

Coffee, Tea, Coffee Grounds, and Tea Bags – The caffeine present in these substances is toxic to dogs and is a cousin chemical to the toxicity found in chocolate. Even 1-2 diet pills can easily cause death to small dogs and cats. It’s important to keep all these away from your fur babies.

Salt – Another common component we use every day in our foods can be harmful to dogs in large quantities. Too much salt can cause sodium ion poisoning.  Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures.

Walnuts – While it’s best to stay away from all nuts because of their fatty content. Black walnuts native to the Northeastern US and Canada are especially toxic to dogs and horses. Old walnuts from a tree can cause dogs to develop tremors and seizures from walnut hulls that are moldy and contain penitrem A.

Macadamia Nuts – These are also a toxic nut that your dog should stay away from also causing tremors, lethargy and hyperthermia.

Alcohol – Tis’ the season to be merry, and that can come with alcohol. A dog’s liver is much more sensitive than our livers, and thus the effects of alcohol can be much more severe

Apple Seeds, Apricot Pits, Cherry Pits, Plum Pits, and Peach Pits – These fruits themselves are not harmful to dogs, though too much natural occurring sugar, as is found in fruit, can cause weight gain in your pet. It’s the seeds and pits you need to stay away from. With the pits, there are obvious dangers such as choking hazards and bowel blockage. But there is also poison contained in these seeds and pits. Amygdlin, which is a form of cyanide is found in the seeds and pits, and in large quantities can cause acute poisoning, or in small amounts over time, your dog can suffer from chronic poisoning. Cyanide prevents the blood from carrying oxygen throughout the body.

The leaves and stems of many vegetables in large quantities such as potato, rhubarb, tomatoes, peaches, peppers, and others. For more information check out the Solanaceae family. These plants contain Solanine which can cause sever gastrointestinal distress.

There are lots of foods that are actually beneficial to your dogs. When in doubt it’s best to research whether something is going to be helpful or harmful to your dog. We hope this list is helpful.