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Snakes Got You Rattled?

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Did you know that out of the 15 species of rattlesnakes native to the United States 11 can be found in Arizona, more than any other state in the country? Some people can spend their entire lives here and never see even one, others swear they practically trip over rattlesnakes everywhere they go. During the summer, snakes, like people and pets, avoid the blistering heat of midday, and are more active in the early morning or early evening just so it’s wise to be vigilant at those times.

Rattlesnake bites usually involve dogs. Often, the bite occurs on the face, as the dog is inquisitive about, or aggressive towards, the snake. It is not uncommon for the dog to lose an eye. Snakebites can take a heavy toll not just on a pet’s health but also an owner’s wallet. Antivenin is very expensive and sometimes a bitten animal needs more than one vial.

A rattlesnake vaccine is now available, and like a tetanus shot, acts as a preventative, building up antibodies prior to an attack. After an exam to make sure the pet is healthy, the vaccine is administered by injection in two doses, one month apart. Booster shots are scheduled depending on the area’s “rattlesnake season.” Because antivenin is so costly and can have adverse effects, the vaccine is becoming a popular option for pet owners.

If a vaccinated pet is bitten, antivenin may still be recommended because there is no way of judging the amount or potency of the venom received, or how many antibodies have had a chance to build up. What the vaccine does best is give the pet a fighting chance that the snakebite won’t be fatal.

But the best treatment is prevention. Check your yard for snakes. If you and your dog are out walking, don’t let your pet run ahead of you where he might “sniff out” a snake hiding in a crevice or under a rock. If your pet does get bitten, seek out medical help as soon as possible. A snakebite is always a medical emergency. While some dogs are fearful of snakes and will back off, others just can’t stay away from that rattler. For those dogs who are “repeat offenders” there are “snake-proofing” classes that can be effective in training curious canines to keep their distance. Remember an ounce of prevention is worth an ounce of antivenin.

For more information on rattlesnake vaccine, antivenin and snakeproofing classes for dogs call Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic, 480-987-4555.

Helping Your Hound Get Found

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Several Super Bowl Sundays ago, sometime between kickoff and halftime, a big Rottweiler named Bear made his escape from his fenced-in yard. He climbed on top of his doghouse, which was near the fence, then jumped over it and ran away. Bear’s owner drove all around the neighborhood looking for his dog and asking everyone he met but nobody saw Bear.

On Monday he checked the dog pounds to no avail, thinking his pet was gone for good. But luckily, Bear had a microchip. So by Wednesday, Bear was at Maricopa County Animal Control getting a routine scan which showed an AVID microchip. Animal Control called AVID’s central registry and read them the chip’s ID number. AVID told them the chip was registered to a Dr. Marc Schmidt. On Thursday Marc’s receptionist got a call from Animal Control. They gave her the information from AVID, she looked up the number, matched it with the owner’s name and called him with the good news.

Bear, who was picked up four miles from home, was tired and his paws were sore but the microchip did what it was supposed to do. It brought Bear home and may have even saved his life. Most animal agencies and humane societies have scanners and lost pets brought to these facilities that are found to have microchips will not be euthanized or sold to research laboratories.

While a microchip is as small as a grain of rice, it’s a big help in getting pets like Bear back home. The technicians and receptionists at Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic routinely scan pets for microchips. But sometimes the staff does not find a microchip in a pet that is supposed to have one. How can that happen?

  • The chip was never implanted.
  • The chip was not implanted properly and came out.
  • The chip is no longer functioning.
  • Even if there is paperwork showing the pet was microchipped, mistakes happen.
    – Did you see the chip being implanted?
    – Did the chip show up on the scanner after it was implanted, to confirm that it is indeed in your pet?
    – If done improperly, the chip may be left in the syringe or implanting device or may come out (usually shortly after implanting).
    – On very rare occasions the chip may stop working altogether.

Similarly, the staff has discovered a chip in a pet when the owner swore the animal never had one. How does this happen?

  • When the current owner acquired the pet, the breeder, animal control unit, rescue group, pet shop or humane society failed to tell the new owner that they had implanted a chip.
  • The animal control unit, rescue group, humane society or pet shop did not know that the pet came to them already microchipped and they did not scan the pet to find out.
  • When the pet was previously scanned, the chip was missed because a Universal Scanner was not used and the chip did not register with that scanner.
  • When the pet was previously scanned, the person scanning the pet did not check for a migrated chip.

Microchips are available from several different companies but the Universal Scanner used at Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic will pick up any functioning microchip. If you think your pet has a chip and our scanner doesn’t pick it up, we will x-ray your pet at no charge. Microchips show up very clearly on x-rays so we can confirm if one is there. And once your pet has been chipped, always remember to update your contact information if you move or change phone numbers so that your data in the Microchip registry is current.

If your pet does not currently have a microchip, or if you are not sure that your pet’s microchip is working properly, contact us at (480) 987-4555 today!

–Rikki Schmidt

shihtzu being examined at the vet office

As the (Heart) Worm Turns

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Arizona has lots of good things like sunny days, low humidity, and no pesky daylight savings time. And one bad thing we didn’t have…mosquitoes! But an increasing number of man-made lakes, water features, and stagnant swimming pools have resulted in a glut of mosquitoes. This means more than just running out and buying a big flyswatter.

Mosquitoes mean heartworm, and heartworm means big trouble for dogs. More heartworm cases are now being diagnosed in dogs throughout Arizona including Queen Creek and San Tan Valley.

What is Heartworm?

  • A very serious, often fatal disease transmitted between dogs via mosquitoes.
  • It only takes one infected dog and a mosquito to put other dogs at risk.
  • Caused by a parasitic worm that, in its adult stage, lives in the heart and the major artery to the lungs.
  • Heartworm is not transmitted by blood transfusions
  • It is seldom found in people
  • There have been cases where cats have contracted it.

How Do You Know If Your Dog Has Heartworm?

  • Heartworm can be present for years before any symptoms are noticed
  • By that time the disease is well advanced
  • Signs of heartworm may include coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and weight loss.
  • The only way to know if your pet is infected is through a blood test
  • If the test is negative your dog can be placed on preventative treatment
  • Preventative is an easy to administer once-a-month chewable tablet.

If a dog tests positive for heartworm, taking the preventative can be dangerous. And the treatment to cure the disease is very expensive, lengthy, unpleasant, and may come too late to save your pet. No dog is really safe. Even if your area is considered relatively mosquito-free, you can put your pet at risk if you take your dog with you when you go hiking, camping or fishing especially during the times when mosquitos are most active.

So get your dog tested and on the monthly pill regimen now.

—Rikki Schmidt

brown dog with cleaning products

Pills, Plants, Pesticides, and “On Purpose” Poisoning in Pets

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Every year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline handles over 150,000 cases of pets being poisoned. While many substances can be responsible for these poisonings, the most common is medication.


A childproof cap on a pill bottle may stop a toddler, but not a determined dog. But it’s not just pets breaking into pill bottles. Pet owners can inadvertently poison their pets when they dose them with human medications. Acetaminophen and any aspirin product, as well as birth control pills and vitamins, can cause internal bleeding. Keep the medicine cabinet securely locked, and never give a pet any pill without consulting your veterinarian.

Veterinarians are seeing an increase in accidental and deliberate marijuana-related incidents in pets including the ingestion of marijuana-laced foods. Symptoms include stumbling, in-coordination, listlessness, slow heart rate, and sometimes urinary incontinence.

Foods to Avoid

Milk: not easily digested by most adult animals and can cause them to develop diarrhea

Bones: can lodge in a dog’s passageways or cut its intestines

Chocolate: can be lethal, especially baking chocolate

Onions: can destroy a dog’s red blood cells, leading to anemia

Rich, fatty foods (such as turkey skin or gravy): can cause pancreatitis and inflammation of a digestive gland and can be very painful and serious.

Grapes and raisins: can lead to appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and kidney failure

Coffee: watch out for grounds and whole beans

Nicotine: stimulant that can increase the heart rate, even death

Alcohol: can cause behavioral changes, staggering, excitement, decreased reflexes, and even death

Xylitol: a common artificial sweetener in desserts and sugarless chewing gum

Avocados: dangerous to birds


Kitchen and bathroom cleaning products, antifreeze, batteries, pennies, moth balls, glue, and insecticides are all dangerous, if not deadly, for pets. Keep these products in closed cabinets or high off the ground. Also keep in mind that flea control is commonly labeled specifically for dogs or cats because the agents used for dogs are not safe for cats, so follow the label directions and amounts correctly. If you have a bird, keep them away from aerosol sprays like hair spray or fragrances, as birds are known to be sensitive to these chemicals.


Some common houseplants are also poisonous and can cause heart and kidney problems if ingested. This includes Cycad (Sago Palm), philodendron, dieffenbachia, and lilies, which are extremely poisonous for cats. Other examples of toxic plants are the azalea, oleander, castor bean, rhododendron, and Japanese yew plants. While catnip generally isn’t toxic to cats, too much of the fresh plant can over-stimulate the central nervous system and cause a cat to injure himself.

Intentional Poisoning

Either for retaliation or spite, an animal can be poisoned by a neighbor or relative. Is the dog barking at all hours or doing his business on the neighbor’s property? Is the cat roaming around, digging up gardens? If there’s a problem with your pet, sometimes your neighbors may try to resolve it, so be alert. Keep your cat inside and your dog in sight. Look for foreign objects and food in your yard, such as the bluish-green pellets used in rodent poison. If you believe your dog is at risk, don’t hesitate to contact the authorities.

If you suspect that your pet has gotten into a poison, immediately call your veterinarian, your local emergency veterinary clinic, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. It’s helpful to have a list of your pet’s symptoms, when the symptoms first started, where the animal has been recently, and whether you found any pieces of uneaten meat, discolored vomit, or other foreign objects.

For a complete list of poisonous plants and household hazards, visit

–Rikki Schmidt

Retractable Dog Leash Dangers

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Why are retractable leashes harmful?

Do you walk your dog with a retractable leash?

Retractable leashes have been popular for a long time. Pet owners like that dogs have more freedom to roam while on their walks. The walker can reel them in whenever they choose to call them back. Right? Not always. Below is just one scenario of the dangers they can cause to the pet and to the holder.

Scenario One

You are walking your dog on his retractable leash when out of nowhere another dog appears from just feet away. Do you have time to reel in your dog if the other dog is acting aggressively or negatively to your dog, or worse, to you? You most likely don’t.

The danger is that if the dogs react negatively to each other and you have a long line attached to your dog’s collar you will not be able to move quickly enough to reel him back to you. Quickly the dogs can begin fighting and one or both become can become entangled in the leash line.
There is a great probability for one or both dogs to become seriously injured. The handler can also become seriously injured by having the leash torn from his/her hand with the force of the dog on the other end of it.

There have been reported incidents that people who have found themselves in this predicament have received painful leash burns, lost fingers, have received deep lacerations and even arms being pulled out of their sockets. There is also the strong possibility that if your dog sees a bird, squirrel or other small animal and decides to take off to investigate further, that he pulls the leash out of your hand and runs straight in to traffic. This can be deadly for your dog.

Retractable leashes are often dropped easily due to their cumbersome feel. This causes a hurdling effect towards your dog and can easily strike your dog in the head. When this happens it can easily and completely understandably, spook your dog with the possibility of him running off. If a person is not paying attention and this happens; most commonly their first reaction is that the handler grabs the leash line. This can cause injury to the hand causing severe leash burns and even amputation of entangled fingers.

Scenario Two

In the veterinary field, many retractable leashes are seen being used by clients on their dogs. Clients bring their pets to the veterinarian sometimes behaving as if they’re at the park thus letting their dogs have the freedom of the full length of their retractable leash. Not only is this dangerous it is irresponsible. Pet owners are often at the veterinary clinic with their pet because the pet is sick. They don’t want a dog approaching without permission, but sadly it happens. There are dogs that are deemed “Not dog friendly” so when a dog who has free rein on a lengthy leash approaches another dog; there is a possibility of a negative interaction between the two. That brings us back to the dangers of entanglement, lost fingers and serious leash burns.

Dogs on retractable leashes in the veterinary practice is not only impolite to the other pet owners but to the staff as well. They already know the dangers of retractable leashes. Now they have to watch your pet even closer.

So the conclusion? Retractable leashes are not only unsafe for your dog but they are unsafe for you as well.

What leash is recommended?

A sturdy nylon or leather leash is suggested. These leashes have a “Hand/Loop” for you to hold on to and they come in all lengths. They are safe, durable and easy to use. The leashes are best used along with a safe harness. You can read our previous blog post on the dangers of prong, choke, bark collars and harnesses.

Let’s hope that most of you will in the very least, consider changing from a retractable leash to a sturdy nylon or leather leash!

Thanks pet friends!

terrier dog

February Case of the Month: Cystotomy Surgery

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Our case of the month for February involves a cystotomy surgery. Dr. Schmidt and the Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic team performed a cystotomy on one of our patients, Shae Pilson. Shae, a 3-year-old spayed Yorkie mix, was initially brought in because her owners noticed that she was frequently straining to urinate. They also noticed blood in her urine. During Shae’s visit, she was given antibiotics and had radiographs taken, along with a urinalysis.


After receiving the results of Shae’s radiographs and urinalysis, her owners elected for her to have a cystotomy. Cystotomy is a surgical procedure in which an incision is made into the urinary bladder, located on the belly near the rear of the abdomen. Once Shae’s bladder was accessed, Dr. Schmidt removed several bladder stones, which were then analyzed for their composition. After the surgery, Shae received antibiotics and pain medication.

We are happy to announce that Shae is doing much better now and is back home with her family!



Responsible Pet Ownership

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What does “Being a responsible pet owner really mean?”

Owning a pet is a privilege, but the benefits of pet ownership come with responsibilities.

That’s right. Owning a pet should be fun but there comes responsibility with it.

The following are some suggestions and tips on how to be a responsible pet owner:

1. Commit

  • Avoid impulsive decisions when selecting a pet.
  • Select a pet that’s suited to your home and lifestyle.
  • Keep only the type and number of pets for which you can provide appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship.
  • Commit to the relationship for the life of your pet(s).
  • Provide appropriate exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Properly socialize and train your pet consulting with a Force Free Dog Training Professional.
Be Kind to dogs

Be Kind to dogs

Microchipping can be done right at our office!

Microchipping can be done right at our office!

2. Invest

  • Recognize that pet ownership requires an investment of time and money.
  • Make sure your pet receives preventive health care (vaccinations, parasite control, heartworm testing and prevention, etc.), as well as care for any illnesses or injuries.
  • Budget for potential emergencies. These tend to happen while you are away or on the weekend when most family veterinary clinics are closed. Know the location and telephone numbers of the nearest Emergency Animal Hospital.

3. Obey

  • Clean up after your pet. Leaving feces in your yard can spread contagious intestinal parasites and serious and potentially deadly, viruses. (Parvo)
  • Obey all local ordinances, including licensing, leash requirements and noise control. The Law requires every dog owner to uphold an annual registration license and Rabies vaccines according to state laws.
  • Don’t allow your pet to stray or become feral.

4. Identify

  • Make sure your pet is properly identified (i.e., tags, microchips, or tattoos) and keep its registration up-to-date. Most microchip companies search for pet ID’s by owner name/address/telephone number, so if yours is outdated, there’s a very good chance you will not be contacted if your pet is lost and then found.

5. Limit

  • Don’t contribute to our nation’s pet overpopulation problem: limit your pet’s reproduction through spay/neuter! Adopt, Don’t Shop! Visit your local shelters when adding a new pet to your family.
Universal Microchip Scanner

Universal Microchip Scanner

6. Prepare

  • Prepare for an emergency or disaster, including assembling an evacuation kit and a home first aid kit for pets.
  • Make alternate arrangements if you can no longer provide care for your pet.
  • Recognize any decline in your pet’s quality of life and make timely decisions in consultation with a veterinarian.

Participate in a pet CPR and First Aid class so you will know what to do at home if your pet becomes ill or injured.

Help spread the word about responsible pet ownership by sharing this article. Thank you pet parents!

cat with stuffed pig

Spay And Neuter Awareness Month

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February is Spay and Neuter Awareness Month and we’d like to help spread the word of the importance of spaying and neutering your dogs and cats.

You may have read the popular article before, but for those of you who haven’t, we wanted to post it once more. The author is unknown and therefore shareable. If you need more information on spaying or neutering your pet, please call us at 480-987-4555. We will review with you the importance of spaying and neutering and schedule your pre-spay or neuter exam. Please read on…

The 10 Worst Excuses Not to Spay or Neuter Your Pet

  1. “Just one Litter and then we’ll have “Fluffy” spayed. (studies show that the entire pet overpopulation stems from the “just one litter” mentality.)
  2. “My dog doesn’t run loose, so he doesn’t need to be fixed.” (Murphy’s Law says otherwise.)
  3. “We always find homes for the kittens/puppies.” (And that means that an equal number of kittens or puppies at the pound will be killed.)
  4. “I want the children to witness the miracle of birth.” (Rent a video. Oh yes, and also make sure they witness the killing of innocent recently “birthed” kittens and puppies.)
  5. “My dog is so cute and unique; there should be more of her.” (The shelters and pounds are full of cute and unique pets, most with only a few days to live.)
  6. “It’s not natural.” (There hasn’t been anything “natural” about dogs since we began to develop breeds thousands of years ago.)
  7. “I just couldn’t look my dog in the eye if I had him castrated.” (Watch it, you’re anthropomorphizing.)
  8. “A female dog or cat should have at least one litter for health reasons.” (Medically, factually and ethically, indefensible.) (You actually reduce the chances of testicular, mammary and uterine cancer if spayed or neutered.)
  9. “Neutering my dog will make him fat and lazy.” (Too much food and not enough exercise make a dog fat and lazy.)
  10. “Fixing my pet will change it’s personality.” (The primary influences on an animal’s personality are the kindness and care with which it is raised.)

If your pet is not spayed or neutered please make an appointment with your Veterinarian today and get it done! Thank you for promoting responsible pet ownership!

brown doberman pinscher

Dog Collar Dilemmas and Force Free Dog Training

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What type of collar is best for you to use on your dog?

There are many collars and harnesses to choose from today and they are readily available on the Internet and at Pet Stores.

Many pet owners choose the type of collar and leash to use based on their dog’s behavior inside the home and at the end of the leash.

But my dog doesn’t behave with a normal collar! He’s aggressive on walks and pulls me! What can I do?

Let’s go back to the basics. Most of the undesirable behavior comes down to the training your dog has had or is currently receiving. Proper dog training goes hand in hand with what collar you choose to walk your dog with in a positive, fun way.

Many people are somewhat familiar with the phrase “Force Free” and/or “Positive Reinforcement” dog training and know that it is one of the most humane ways to train a dog and reward him for good behavior. This includes unruly dogs at the end of a leash. It’s not fun walking a dog that is pulling and tugging or starting fights with other dogs while on his walk.

What does Force Free training have to do with choosing a collar, harness or leash?

Force Free dog training has been around for some time but has most recently captured the attention of numerous pet owners all over the country thanks to the likes of such dog trainers such as Victoria Stilwell from “It’s me or the dog” on the Animal Planet Television program.

While there are still dog trainers that believe that “Teaching the pet owner to be the Alpha of the pack,” or “Teaching the dog who the boss is” by using intimidating factors along with shock, prong or choke collars are the way to gain control of the dog, we’ve pleasantly come to agree that Force Free training is proven to be more positively effective and makes for a much happier, confident dog and pet owner.

For example. Clients must bring their dogs to a vet clinic if that pet becomes ill, injured or is in need of vaccinations. This can be a very stressful event for both pet owner and dog if the dog is not socially well behaved in public or by wearing a collar with a leash.

Having to warn other pet owners in the veterinary lobby that their dog is unpredictable and to stay away from them, can be very stressful to the pet owner. Typically this type of dog owner opts for the use of a prong, choke or shock collar in such situations to control the pet from his undesirable behavior.

So why is that so bad? Because it’s dangerous and painful.

Below are several medical problems that can be associated with the use of a prong or choke collar around a dogs neck. These conditions are often painful and can cause life long problems.

  1. Damage and bruising to the skin and tissues of the neck
  2. Disc disease, spinal and neurological injuries
  3. Psychological problems
  4. Dislocated neck bones
  5. Vocal cord damage
  6. Bruising of the trachea and or esophagus
  7. Brain damage
  8. Eye prolapse

Imagine if you will, 50 lbs of pressure on your own neck with a choke collar being tightened and jerked with force. Painful I’m sure.

Unfortunately dogs can’t tell us their collar is causing them pain so they begin associating the pain and the undesirable behavior with each jerk of the collar. This can worsen your dogs behavior on the end of a leash. Positive reinforcement is the opposite.

Using the reward system for “good behavior” on the end of a comfortable harness and leash. Good behavior equals yummy reward. No pulling, no barking, no aggressive behavior on walks equals more yummy rewards, not pain. See the difference?

Another possible danger presented with the use of a choke chain around your dog’s neck on his walk is the possibility of encountering another dog, one who is threatening your dog. Dogs’ teeth can get caught on a choke chain while fighting which can lead to both dogs panicking, twisting, and thrashing. This can lead to severe mouth and neck injuries as well as strangulation of one or both pets.

Buckle collars can be just as unpredictable in their safety and dependability. Although they are certainly a better and a less painful choice than the use of a choke, shock or prong collar, your pet still runs the risk of unnecessary pressure around his neck which in itself can cause pain and physical damage. Some people don’t know how to properly fit a dog collar. Many collars are too loose or too tight. Too loose can equal a dog escaping, too tight can cause injury to the dog’s neck.
guide dog

Buckle collar

Buckle collar

So what are safer options?

Just one opinion would be to use a durable, no-pull, nylon harness with a nylon or leather leash as well as using “Force Free” training techniques. The positive reward system.

Safe, comfortable- No Pull harness

Safe, comfortable- No Pull harness

A nylon harness is safe, non-painful, prevents injury around the neck and spine and is a great way to walk your dog without causing pain. The harness puts the pressure on the dogs chest, not his neck, making him/her less likely to dislike the walk and/or the walker.

Positive reinforcement dog training works by rewarding your dog with food or praise for good behavior. This includes walking on a harness/leash without pulling. You shouldn’t have to resort to the use of a painful choke chain or prong collar if your dog is properly trained.

If you are currently using a choke chain, prong collar, or a shock collar, please reconsider your choices and purchase a more effective and safe harness/collar and discuss possible behavior modifications with one of our veterinarians. By seeing a veterinarian first you can rule out possible health conditions your pet may be experiencing that could be causing the undesirable behavior.

We recommend consulting with a “Force Free” professional dog trainer if your pet is healthy. Kathrine Breeden is a well known valley force free dog trainer that we trust and refer to many of our clients. You can read more about Kathrine by visiting her website at

Be Kind to dogs

Be Kind to dogs

Stay tuned for our next article about the dangers of retractable leashes! Thanks pet parents!

Kim MacCrone-CVT

brown chihuaha

National Pet Travel Safety Day

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National Pet Travel Safety Day was January 2nd, 2015. Although we are past January 2nd, we wanted to post a very important article about travel safety with your pet/s. In today’s world pet lovers enjoy taking their fur family to many outings that not long ago would have been unheard of. There are pet friendly restaurants’, stores, parks, hotels and much more.

With the increase in pet friendly accommodations, brings many more pets traveling in cars, trucks and vans. For those of us in the pet business as well as those medical personnel in the human world, such as Fire Fighters and Paramedics, this leaves us holding our breath each time we see an un-restrained pet come out of a car once at their destination. People who have small dogs just love those Sunday afternoon drives with their little ones on their lap, head hanging out of the window, tongue and ears flapping in the wind.

Pets who are allowed to hang their heads out a car window are at risk for dirt, debris and anything else in the outside air, to embed in an eye. There are much worse scenarios than an injured eye. You’ll see here in a minute.

We came across an article written by Colleen Paige; “Riding in Cars With Dogs” that really says it better than we could because she’s personally been involved in these scenarios. Please click here to read Colleen’s article.

Please head Colleen’s warnings pet friends and make traveling with your pet fun and safe! Thank you!

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270 East Hunt Hwy, Ste. #4
San Tan Valley, AZ 85143