Poisonous Bugs in North Carolina

Brown Recluse Spider Building Its Web
“Seeing a spider is nothing. It becomes a problem when it disappears.”

BEWARE: some creepy crawlies that come into your home and yard are poisonous to your pet. Three of the most common and dangerous insect pests found in the Triangle area are:
black widows, brown recluse and fire ants. The two spiders will not bite unless provoked. The fire ants, however, will travel up your leg if you stand near their ant mound and are aggressive.

1. The Black Widow spider is one of the more infamous spiders, recognized by the shiny black body with a red hourglass shape on the abdomen. She is also known for eating the male after mating. The bite of an adult female black widow spider can be fatal, and they are most aggressive when they are protecting an egg sac. The male black widow spider is much smaller and not dangerous.

“The first sign is sharp pain at the site of the bite. Later the dog develops intense excitability, fever, weakness, and muscle and joint pains. Seizures, shock, and death can occur, especially with the bite of the black widow spider. An antivenin is available to treat these bites.” Pet Web MD.

2. The Recluse spider – Brown recluses are small, with evenly colored legs void of stripes or spines. A few species have a marking shaped like a violin on them. They are nocturnal and prefer to hide in crawl spaces, wood piles, or under house porches/decks. Bites occur when an animal rolls over in its sleep on top of a prowling recluse, or unintentionally disturbs the spiders resting place.

“Reaction typically occurs at the site of the bite, with an ulcerated necrotic wound that results in the death of the surrounding soft tissue. The wound is slow to heal, leaving an open wound that is at risk of further infection.” – Pet MD

3. Fire Ants – Are aggressive and have an intensely painful and burning sting. If you accidently walk on their mound, they will swarm. “The stings cause a painful wound that turns into a pustule, which can become infected and tends to itch while it heals.” -Virginia State.

To treat their bite, you can pick up an antihistamine from the vet or pet store to help. Calamine lotion applied right to the bites can also soothe your pet.

Another bug you don’t want to handle is the Millipede with bright yellow color patterns. It secretes a compound containing cyanide. It is found in parks and on trails in wooded areas. The sting causes a local reaction at site, and depending on the size of your dog, can be a minor irritation or more serious. A paste made of baking soda and water can be applied right to the site.

Some websites list insects alphabetically, with a close-up photo to aide with identification. There are brief summaries attached, or you can click on the insect name for an in-depth report that includes their habitat, life cycle, and if they are poisonous. Click this link to try it out:


Another good guide that has both thumbnail and larger photos to reference identification:

Springtime Bugs

Tabby Kitten And Ladybird On On Nose Isolated

Creeping across the floor today are several of my favorite bugs- millipedes!

My owner doesn’t appreciate them the way I do, preferring to jump away whereas I pounce on top of them. Eyeball to antennae, I examine my prey carefully, batting it around. A wonderful movement ripples across all those legs, and the bug seems to be waving at me. Quickly, I slap my paw down and watch it skitter across the hall.

A natural hunter, I pride myself in being able to out run any insect. My patience is infinite when they try to hide under the rug. My stealth is world-famous.  I never miss a bug when pouncing.

I love Spring, when the temperatures warm up and millions of creepy crawlies rise from their hiding places. Some were under the deck, others in the woodpile, under the mulch around the garden, or in the crawlspace. According to the BUG MAN that comes to kill all my favorite playmates, these  are all areas people should be checking and spraying with insecticide. I don’t want to get insecticide, so I researched some natural options to keep bugs away:

Lemon seed oil, Orange Guard, Herb Mint Oil from a health food store, or Diatomaceous Earth (DE) FOOD GRADE from a feed store. Safer Brand  Poison Free Ant & Roach Killer is another option.

Why kill them? Is it because one of them can lay thousands of eggs? Hatch hundreds of baby buggies? Or, like the ant, (my least favorite bug because they don’t squirm, jump, or play well with others) leave scent trails to attract other bugs to your cupboards. Nothing like eating my cat food after 500 ants have invaded the bag and crawled all over it. I refuse to share!

Dear owner, much as I love chasing and chomping on little critters, there are two issues I must inform you of:

1. I could CHOKE on a hard exoskeleton! Yep, eating those tough beatles cam be tricky to swallow and they “are rough on… the digestive tract; the shell may wind up causing  vomiting up of the pieces rather than passing them out the other end.” -The Nest.

2. If I ingest a bug that has been hit with fogger insect spray or insecticide from the garden, this could be potentially fatal. Several websites advise researching bug sprays  BEFORE you use them in your home or outside on the lawn. Veterinarian’s may also be able to help find  cat-friendly products.    ALWAYS let your bugman know that you have pets and need non-toxic/ pet-friendly products used in your home.

Oh- I gotta go! A beautiful blue beetle just crawled in from under the door. Stealth time!

Early Spay / Neuter is Very Controversial


“Over the decades, as animal sheltering has increased in visibility and animal rescue has become more popular, spay/neuter has hardened into an almost militant social policy.”-Whole Dog Journal

Early neutering is a controversial topic. After reading over 30 articles and numerous blogs from veterinarians, I have summarized  the Pros and Cons identified in the last few years. For every article against early neutering, there is another for it.  and both sides support their cases with facts. The choice is really an individual one, depending on the pet breed and  whether you plan to continue the lineage of a showdog.

Early Neutering Debate: 

1. Less Obesity
2. Less aggressive
3. Less likely to have “male” behaviors: fighting, jumping a fence, or getting hit by a car.
4. Less chance of Testicular Cancer

CONS of not neutering
1. Higher chance of Cancer and joint problems.
“ Both the joint problems and the cancers that they have linked are relatively common in large-boned dogs, so the challenge is to prove whether the early neuter actually caused an increase in the incidence. There have been no studies that prove this.” -American Kennel Society.

2. Higher chance of CCL rupture (Canine cruciate ligament) in neutered dogs

“For years the veterinary community has been aware that early-spay and neuter may impact orthopedic health in dogs. Through a very detailed analysis and inclusion of body condition score as a risk factor, Dr. Hart was able to show that timing of spay and neuter does indeed have health implications,” said Dr. Shila Nordone, Chief Scientific Officer for the AKC Canine Health Foundation

3. Slightly longer legs and less “masculine” muscle development

4. Possible endocrine problems:
“Dr. Becker noticed many of her canine patients were developing endocrine-related disorders. After a conversation with an expert in the field of veterinary endocrinology, Dr. Becker realized her practice of insisting on early spays or neuters for every dog patient had left many of them with serious health problems.” – Healthy Pets.com

5. Scientific evidence is mounting that gonad removal can deliver serious consequences to a dog’s future health. Among those consequences: shortened lifespan, atypical Cushing’s disease, cardiac tumors, bone cancer, abnormal bone growth and development, CCL ruptures, and hip dysplasia.

Early Spaying Debate:

1. Spaying females before 6 months is less controversial than neutering; preventing the first heat nearly eliminates the risk of breast cancer which is much more common than bone cancer.

2.  Spayed dogs no longer experience the hormonal changes during heat cycles that turn your pet into a nervous dog that cries incessantly and attracts unwanted male dogs.

3. Prevention of  Pyometra, a “uterine disease that occurs most often in intact female dogs six years or older that have never been pregnant. Pyometra is a hormonal abnormality with or without the presence of a secondary bacterial infection.” – Universityvet.com

CONS  to spaying early
1. Missing female hormones.

2. Delayed Closure of Growth Plates.

Females “spayed at 7 weeks had significantly delayed closure of growth plates as compared to those spayed at 7 months, and those spayed at 7 months had significantly delayed closure of growth plates as compared to those left intact”. – Canine Athlete.com

One question owners should ask: “Is there an alternative procedure that can be done so that my  pet is fixed but not losing its sexual gonads with the important hormones they secrete. That’s a whole different Blog…


“Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers” http://www.akcchf.org/news-events/news/health-implications-in-early.html#sthash.Hs5baSmn.dpuf

Are You Awake? (Or, Why I Wake Up Before Dawn)

Walk With A Cat.

Yes, that scratching at your bedroom door is not the boogeyman – it is far worse…

It is your wild and crazy cat!

I will meow and wail until I hear your lovely voice cry out -ah-ha! I got what I wanted – attention.

I will pace and race around the rooms, knocking off knick-knacks and clearing the counters of any small objects to make disturbing noises.

I will flex each paw, popping out individual nails carefully honed to make the most offensive scratching ever heard. Over. And Over. And Over on your closed door.

Finally, I will get fed.

Why? Is it that you appreciate my exciting tricks and sound-making factory? Or are you desperate for a few minutes of quiet?

I understand that you MIGHT want another solution to my wee-hour antics? So though it pains me, here are my TOP THREE ideas:

1. Let me out on a screened in porch where I can chase bugs.

2. Let me out on a LEASH while you garden. PetSmart makes a great adjustable harness that I can’t get out of easily. (Use a long nylon leash that won’t get tangled).

3. Provide me with a playmate! Even thought I am independent, I am also lonely. It is a myth that cat’s don’t need anyone around and are “just fine” being home alone all day.

According to that VET you send me to I am “Sleeping too much during the day, home alone too often, and in need of stimulation. Your cat is bored ma’am…” (well DUH).
“…this leads to being awake at night and FIRED UP in the morning.”

Some good interactive play with me at night well help wear me out (laser pointer, small ball, dragging a string).

Are you still awake?

Then you just might want to reread this article and invest in one of my TOP THREE ideas.

Where’d You Come Up With That Name?

Hello my name is color signs with blank white copyspace for text

Does your pet answer to Smokey? Spot? Or a more traditional “Rover”? How do pet owners come up with their furry friends names, and what are the most popular?

An interesting fact for 2013: pet names and popular kid names didn’t overlap for the first time! The Founder of Rover.com stated: “We know from surveys that dog owners think of their dogs as family members. Turns out they don’t name them the same. The top 10 dog names, male and female, don’t overlap with the top 10 baby names.”

So how do owners come up with these original pet names? Families with kids often let them name the pets, and end up with favorite foods (Candy, Sugar Bear, Oreo) or popular characters they know (Scooby, Shadow, Flash).

With just a few exceptions, such as Max, Buddy and Bear, most of the names on the 2013 Top 10 lists “aren’t what would be considered traditional dog names,” says Easterly. There is no Rover, for example, in the Top 100.

The most unique names for a pet? “In a survey released this summer by the Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., a dog named Sir Knuckles da Dragon and a cat named Cheeto Burrito were the Wackiest Pet Names.” -USA Today.

“Interestingly, none of the top 10 baby names for boys and girls on the human side made it into the top 10 male and female dog names”, researched by Rover.com that surveyed pet sitters and pet companies. Below are the most popular male and female dog names of 2013.

Male Names for Dogs:     Best Friends
1. Max
2. Charlie
3. Buddy
4. Jack
5. Cooper
6. Rocky
7. Riley
8. Tobey
9. Bear
10. Harley

Female Names for Dogs:
1. Bella
2. Lucy
3. Bailey
4. Daisy
5. Lily
6. Molly
7. Lola
8. Maggie
9. Roxy
10. Missy

A fun website, BowowMeow (http://www.bowwow.com.au/) provides all kinds of information about “pet names with personality.” There are many ways to search, by Arts & Literature, Famous People, Personality to name a few!

And for all you cat lovers, there are several websites that have a “Cat name generator” to help you come up with a name for your feline. Friskies and My Pet Houses ask for descriptions of your pet and then come up with a name. PawNation just creates wacky combinations to go with the pet owners last name! To try these three sites, just click the link below:




Finally, the most popular cat names for 2013 were:
1. Angel
2. Charlie
3. Mittens
4. Milkshake
5. Oreo
6. Lily
7. Pepsi
8. Ellie
9. Amber

Remember, you will be calling this name 30-times a day for the next decade, so choose wisely!

Pets Please Pass on These Poisonous Plants!

Dog In Bluebell Field

In the South, we love our gardens, but BEWARE! You may be planting poisonous beauties. There are many local plants that are poisonous to your pet. I will focus on the vascular plants found both inside and outside the home.

There are two reliable resources to check out where you can look up any plant found in NC to determine if it is poisonous:

1. Our local NC State University has a website:

2. The ASPCA has a separate toxic-plant list for dogs vs. cats:
Cats –    http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/cats-plant-list
Dogs –    http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/dogs-plant-list

We love our gardens to have unusual plants, yet it might surprise you how TOXIC the following four Southern plants are:
1. Jimsonweed is one of the more common toxic plants. Symptoms that your pet has ingested it  include: dilated pupils, racing heartbeat, hallucination, delirium, aggressive behavior and possibly coma or seizures.
2. Another toxic-perennial used in landscaping is Foxglove. If ingested, symptoms include: nausea, abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea and possibly even fatal heart problems.
3. The Castor Bean plant has RICIN throughout, and just 3 of its seeds can kill your pet. Symptoms of castor bean poisoning include nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, internal bleeding, and kidney and circulation failure
4. Oleander is one of the most toxic in the world. A single ingested oleander leaf can kill a large pet. Ingestion of oleander results in diarrhea, vomiting, intense stomach pain, drowsiness, dizziness, an irregular heartbeat, and often, death.

Finally,  take a glance through the lists below. If you have one of these species on your property, make sure it is not easily accessible to your beloved pet!

House Plants you keep indoors:
Castor Bean, Caladium, Dumbcane/Dieffenbachia, Elephant Ear,  English Ivy, Hyacinth, Christmas Holly (mistletoe), Narcissus, Oleander, Peace Lily, Philodendron

Plants found in your flower beds outdoors:
Autumn Crocus, Belladonna (Nightshade), Bleeding Heart, Clematis, Elephant Ear, Foxglove, Holly, Hydrangea, Iris, Larkspur, Lily-of-the-Valley, Lobelia, Morning Glory, Oleander, Peony, Rhododendron, Star of Bethlehem, Wisteria.

Take The Lead: Choosing a Leash

Cirneco Dell'Etna, Sicilian Hound puppy
What should you use to curb your dog from pulling like a Siberian husky in the Iditarod? How tight should a leash be and where should it fasten for each body type? Read on to better understand the “best fit” for your pet!

1. We will start with the plain vanilla Standard leash that clips onto a collar around your dogs neck. This is best for well-trained dogs that don’t pull. Slower seniors dogs also benefit from this minimal lead. Most pet stores have a basic nylon standard leash for around $10 if you are on a budget. Some of the sturdier standard leashes recommended on-line:

A. K9 Standard Leather leash is 6-Feet long, 3/4-Inch thick, with a strong bolt for large-breed dogs (around $18).

B. The Lupine Padded Handle lead comes with a chewing guarantee – best for puppies and chewers – they will replace the chewed-up leash

2. Adjustable leashes have several loops along the leash for the owner to shorten or lengthen using the strong clasp. These are great for training purposes and very similar to a standard leash, fastening onto the collar at the neck. Activedog.com sells a variety of adjustable leashes.

3. A retractable leashe works like a measuring tape, giving the owner control to shorten or lengthen the nylon band up to 26 feet. The rope band retracts into a plastic case with a handle but can be locked in place at any length. This leash is best for dogs that do not jump/wrap around trees or else it will get tangled. A small, lightweight version is the Zip Lead Retractable Leash that fits in your back pocket!

4. For smaller dogs, a Martingale lead-leash works well and acts as an all-in-one collar and leash. The collar portion slips over the head and tightens when the lead is pulled. A plastic tube slides down the lead to keep the collar in place. Mendota sells a variety of braided versions.

Additional Considerations:

*If you walk your dog early in the morning or late at night, a Reflective Leash is recommended. “The reflective material has been embedded into another material, such as nylon or leather.”

*Width is important when you are walking a larger dog. The wider the leash, the more durability. A wider leash is recommended for fast-growing breeds.

*Length – Smaller breeds and seniors may only need 6 ft of leash, where as dogs with more energy my benefit from 15 or 30 foot leashes.

*No Chain Leashes! “Don’t ever use a chain leash, even on the so-called dangerous breeds. Chain leashes are not effective training tools and they can seriously injure a dog.”

*If your dog tends to chew through leashes, you may want to try a Lupine brand: “Every item is covered by our Even If Chewed” Lifetime Guarantee.”

Home Alone


At first I was devastated when you left me alone. I would meow and wail and whine. Pace around the house and claw your favorite chair out of spite. Throw myself on the bed in defeat and wait agonizingly for your return.

But then one day it dawned on me – you weren’t there. You couldn’t scold me, or stop me from doing anything that I wanted to do. I could counter surf, taste the crumbs on the tabletop, pee in the plant, or drink from the toilet and NO ONE WOULD KNOW! How liberating.

Now, I look for signs of when you might be leaving: tension in the air, family members rounded- up. Then the shoes and coats come out of the closet. Finally, the jangle of keys and slap of the door as it closes behind you. My excitement level rises up as the car pulls down the driveway.

Warning! Read no further if you want to remain ignorant of how the cat plays while the mice (or owners) are away.

The first thing I do is get a refreshing sip of toilet water. Then over to the kitchen to clean the countertops. If the butter is left out, I might lick the top once for good luck. Next, a casual stroll across your pillows, pausing to scratch my ears and fling random fur. I will proceed to press my cute little nose against every window, exhaling briefly to make the maximum smudge mark.

Finally, I seek out any bug/mouse/old stinky thing I can find and scoop it into my mouth, carry it over to your clothes basket, and bury it inside. You won’t find it before washing and it will give your clothes a nice pungent smell.

If you are starting to sweat and worry, may I suggest investing in a kitty cam? I hear that Dropcam is affordable, has high-definition video, and can be accessed with a smart phone, tablet or computer.

If you are going away for more than a day, please make sure you have my favorite pet sitter from Four Paws come visit me and give me tasty treats!
She loves to play with me and she will let you know if I have done anything bad but more than anything you will know I am safe and sound.

Bird Brain


Do you know why cats love to watch birds?

Because they make the best high-pitched noises!

They are jumpy, quirky and never still!

Most of all, they appeal to our  predator instincts!

Their movements are startling and they come right up to the window (!) oblivious to my twitching kitty whiskers pressed close.

The bright red Cardinal is the state bird of North Carolina, so easy to see against the dreary brown branches of winter.Male-Northern-Cardinal

If you hear me emit a low growl as I bird watch, it’s the excitement bubbling out my throat and I just can’t control what will happen next!

I might jump at the window, or sit for hours with my tail twitching, as I visualize the soft feathery neck between my teeth.

A bird like toy you may want to pick up for me: Da Bird.

This cat toy consists of a 36″ rod, nylon string and feathers that mimic the action of a real bird in flight. It costs around $3 and can be found at any pet store, including :
Natural Pet Discount Super Store

I do have one worry: They said on the news that “New studies have shown that several songbird species have been suffering badly as a result of rising levels of predation.

Population declines of the tree sparrow (down 89 per cent), bullfinch (down 56 per cent) and house sparrow (down 74 per cent) have all been blamed on (increased predators) and the resurgence of the sparrowhawk in both rural and urban areas.”

Oh no! Will I look out my window one day and see only grey branches?

Do your part, pet owners, and PLEASE keep your kitties inside.

If they insist on venturing out, make sure they wear a bell on their collar to warn birds of their approach.

Hey, I don’t want to be bossy, but do I also don’t want to lose my whistling, chirping, hopping BIRDIES!!

The Low-Down On Triangle Dog Parks


Does your dog enjoy frolicking with other dogs?

Does he want to greet every pooch that comes his way?

Then it may be time to discover one of  the Triangle’s Dog Parks.

Key things to consider about your dog before you go:

1. His temperament (does he get along well with others? Tolerate all sizes and energy levels)?
2. His eating habits (if he enjoys eating poop then you will have to be vigilante)
3. His vaccination records (is he up to date on Rabies, Bordetella, etc)?

Also note, not all dog parks are free and some require you to pick up a permit/pass ahead of time.


CARY (1 Park)
Cary Gobold Dog Park
2050 NW Maynard Rd
Cary, NC 27513
(919) 469-9142
*Fee:  $40 for Cary residents (1 dog only) and $80 for non-Cary residents
Not open to general public. Must have dog registered with Town of Cary. Registered pass allows entry through electronic gate.
Hours: 7 am to 10 pm 7 days/week
Amenities:  Five-foot high chain link fence with screening, paved entrance & electronic gate
Lighted areas for small dogs and for large dogs
Wood chips for ground cover
Water stations
Information kiosk
Pet cleanup areas

Homestead Dog Park
100 Northern Park Drive
(919) 968-2787
Hours:  Daily, dawn to dusk
*No Fee
Amenities: Very large 20,000 square foot, high fence, water stations, benches, large rocks for dogs to play on

Southern Community Park
1000 Dogwood Acres Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Amenities: 2 acres, separate small and large dog areas, benches, water

DURHAM (4 Parks)
Durham Dog Park
400 Cleveland St
Durham, NC, US 27701
(919) 560-4355
Fees: Annual registration.  Residents: $17
Non-City Residents: $22
Multiple Dog Discount: $2 off fee for second (and each additional) dog
Amenities: Water, Benches, Waste Bag Dispenser
This fenced, off-leash dog park is one of the largest in the area. Four separate areas for small dogs, large dogs, and training and obedience.

Downtown Durham Dog Park
A “paw-ket” park located at the corner of Roxboro and Elliott streets.
*Separate areas for small and large dogs
*No Fee, open to public
Amenities: Benches, Waste Bag Dispenser, Water
*Please note, this park is maintained by the local neighborhood.

North Gate Dog Park
Address: 400 W Lavender Ave, Durham, NC 27704
Phone:(919) 560-4355
Amenities: water spigots, both small and large dog play area

Pineywood Park
400 E. Woodcroft Pkwy
Durham, NC 27
*No Fee, open to all
Amenities: 3 Acres of play space,  Benches, Waste Bag Dispenser, Water
Has separate small dog park (under 30 lbs)

RALEIGH (3 Parks)   
Carolina Pines Dog Park
2305 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC 27603
*No Fee, open to public
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset 7 days/week
Amenities:Water available, picnic tables, *Almost entirely shaded, large area
Three separate areas: Large dog park, Small dog park , and a training area where the Wake County SPCA will do training.

Millbrook Dog Park
1905 Spring Forest Rd,
Raleigh, NC 27615
(919) 872-4156
Hours: Sunrise – 10 pm 7 days/week

Oakwood Dog Park
910 Brookside Drive
Raleigh, NC 27604
**Free to the public (sunrise to sundown)
Both small and large dog play area
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset 7 days/week