Doggy Dental Care

Did you know that 80% of dogs over the age of 4 have some form of dental disease?

As with people, the main culprit is a build-up of plaque, which eventually hardens into tartar, leading to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontal disease.

The result? A bacterial invasion of the gums and tissues supporting the teeth, damaging them and ultimately causing tooth loss. This bacteria can also invade the bloodstream, potentially damaging the lungs, heart, kidneys and liver. 

Did you know that, as responsible owners, you can lower your dog’s risks by following a program of conscientious oral care.

Before you start, have the vet examine your dog’s mouth for signs of hardened plaque and/or dental disease. If your dog suffers from either condition, once the dental disease is treated and/or the plaque professionally removed, your home care program can begin.

Ideally, you should begin caring for your dog’s teeth while he’s still a puppy. Brushing his teeth is the most effective way to control plaque by breaking it up before it hardens into tartar.

Choose only those toothbrushes, tooth pastes and oral gels designed especially for pets. For the more difficult ones, there are “rubber finger brushes.” If your dog refuses to accept any of these “tools,” use your own finger. It’s the act of brushing or rubbing which provides the most benefit.

Brush your dog’s teeth at the same time every day. Begin slowly, praising him often, stopping if he becomes agitated, then beginning again. Increase the amount of brushing time slowly, day by day.

If your dog absolutely refuses to have his teeth cleaned, add specially formulated antiseptic oral rinses (although they’re more effective when combined with cleaning) to his water.

Dogs love to chew, and this has the added benefit of helping to keep their teeth clean. There are dozens of specifically formulated oral care products for them, including dental chews, chew toys and treats.

There are also special dental diets shown to reduce plaque and/or tartar build up. They work by physically cleaning the teeth more efficiently than regular kibble (theirs is less likely to crumble upon chewing) or by the addition of chemicals to prevent the hardening of plaque into tartar.

Weekly inspections of your dog’s entire mouth can also help avoid both dental disease and costly and invasive medical procedures in the future. Ensure that your vet includes a thorough examination of your dog’s mouth, gums and teeth in each annual check up.

Be alert to such problems as bad breath, drooling, red or puffy, bleeding gums, yellow tartar crusted along the gum line, discolored, broken or missing teeth, bumps in the mouth, and changes in chewing or eating habits.

If you’ve been neglecting your dog’s dental health up to now, it is never too late to start.


Article by Nomi Berger


A single bite from a single infected mosquito can cause an otherwise healthy dog to develop heartworm disease and potentially die.

A heartworm is a parasitic worm (Dirofilaria immitis) that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an affected dog. The worms travel through the bloodstream, damaging arteries and vital organs as they go, before arriving at the lungs and heart approximately six months after that initial mosquito bite. Several hundred worms can live in a single dog from between five and seven years, and if left untreated, can prove fatal.

The best protection against this insidious disease? Prevention. Prevention is both safe and effective, whereas treating the disease itself is complicated, costly, and can, like the disease, have serious, even fatal, effects on the stricken dog.

Preventives work by killing the heartworm larvae before they can grow and mature into adult heartworms. Although a variety of preventives are now available to conscientious pet owners everywhere, the first step in the prevention process is a visit to the vet.

Most vets recommend yearly testing for heartworm in dogs older than 6 months, usually in late spring. If your dog is heartworm negative, inexpensive, chewable pills are available with your vet’s prescription. The pills, which are palatable to most dogs, must be given to your dog monthly, and are manufactured by several companies. These pills can also be given to dogs under 6 months of age without a blood test.

Besides pills, there are specially designed, chemical preventive products that you apply directly onto your dog’s skin. Application of these topical preventives should begin June 1st and continue for six months. Some heartworm preventives contain additional ingredients that will control other parasites, such as roundworms or hookworms, while the topical preventives prescribed by your vet will protect your dog against fleas and ticks as well.

If you choose the vet-prescribed pill, you can opt to give it to your dog only during mosquito season (from spring through the first frost), but the most recent recommendation from the American Heartworm Society is to keep giving them all year round. And remember, although your dog may not go outside, mosquitoes can still get INside.

For those preferring to NOT use either the pill or the topical preventive, homeopathic

veterinarians advise testing your dog for heartworm twice yearly.

In short, consult with your vet. Protect the dog you love against these invasive, potentially fatal parasites, and this summer, all of you can rest, assured.


Article by Nomi Berger

Just A Minute


Sadder words were never spoken.


Because an errand meant to take that proverbial minute is 60 seconds too long when a dog is left unattended in a hot car.


Because, even on mild summer days, with a car parked in the shade and the windows cracked, the INSIDE temperature can rapidly reach dangerous levels.


Because a car acts like a greenhouse, trapping and magnifying the sun’s strength and heat. Both the air and upholstery temperature can rise so rapidly that a dog can’t cool down.


Because a dog’s normal body temperature is about 102° F. Raise it briefly by only two degrees, and heat exhaustion, brain damage, even death may occur.


Because, unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat. They can only cool themselves by panting and releasing heat through their paws.

Despite repeated warnings in the media, flyers distributed by animal welfare groups, and word of mouth, countless animals still die needlessly each year from heatstroke. Despite the axiom that one person can’t make a difference, in this type of situation, one person can make ALL the difference. And that person may be YOU.

If you see a dog in distress inside a car parked on the street or in a parking lot, note the make and model of the car, as well as its license plate number. Call the police, your local ASPCA branch, Humane Society or animal control immediately.

Watch the dog for the more obvious signs of heatstroke: exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting); an anxious or staring expression; restlessness; excessive salivation, tremors and vomiting. While waiting for help, you may – wherever possible – choose to act on your own.

(In 16 states now, the Good Samaritan Law prohibits keeping animals in hot, unattended cars).

If a window is opened or a door unlocked, extricate the dog cautiously and carefully — either alone or with assistance. Then, get him into an air-conditioned car or nearby building. Otherwise, lay him down in a cool, shady place. Wet him with cool water, but never apply ice to his body. Fan him vigorously to speed the evaporation process, which, in turn, will cool the blood and reduce his temperature. Give him cool water to drink or even ice cream to lick.

Hopefully, by now, help will have arrived, and you may have saved some neglectful owner’s pet.

A gentle reminder: don’t YOU become that same neglectful owner.

Remember there’s no such thing as ”just for a minute.“


Article by Nomi Berger

The ABC’s of Cat Behavior

Whether their behaviors are amusing, bewitching and charming or aggressive, bothersome and cantankerous, living with cats is always adventurous, seldom boring and occasionally challenging.

Whatever cats do, they do it for a reason, THEIR reason, while humans come along for the ride: to watch, listen and learn. Listed below are some feline behaviors (some naughty, some nice) that may sound oh-so-familiar to you.

Kneading you with their paws.

When cats knead you as if you were dough, they are demonstrating their love for you (often accompanied by melting expressions, purring, even drooling), and returning instinctively to when, as kittens, they kneaded their mothers’ nipples to stimulate them into releasing the milk in order for them to suckle.

Slowly blinking their eyes at you.

This usually signifies a state of supreme serenity and extreme contentment. Many feline guardians will respond by slowly blinking back, assuring the cats that they are loved, safe, and secure. The happy result? More often than not, they will close their eyes completely and luxuriate in a long, soothing nap.

Rubbing their heads against you.

Cats have special scent glands beneath the skin on their chin that release facial pheromones (often called “happy hormones”). By rubbing against you, they are “marking” you with their scent, affectionately claiming you as theirs, while showing that they, in turn, are in a loving, peaceful and contented mood.

Collecting and storing small objects in a safe place.

Certain breeds are more prone to this instinctive hunting and retrieving behavior. While some indoors cats will be satisfied chasing and catching feathered cat wands, some relish gathering up their own toys, string, or small items like their owners’ jewelry, and keeping them all together in a spot all their own.

Preferring running water to a water bowl.

Like humans, cats prefer fresh to stagnant water, and the very motion of water streaming from a faucet appeals to their sense of hearing, sight, and possibly smell. Even the cleanest water bowl (always use stainless steel) loses oxygen and begins collecting bacteria when left standing, if only for a few hours. Smart kitties!

Being overly active at night.

Cats in the wild hunt at night, and inside cats who scamper about instead of sleeping haven’t been sufficiently “played out” during the day. The solution is a pre-bedtime ritual involving interactive toys such as wands, feather toys or Whirly Birds. If all else fails, a second feline companion can help yours burn off that excess energy.

Meowing or constantly making noise.

Some cats are natural “chatters”, but if yours is suddenly vocal, there are reasons for it, including hunger, loneliness, litter box issues, environmental changes and pain. The first step is to see your vet, and if medical problems aren’t the cause, pay close attention to each potential source of the problem and ensure it’s resolved.

Scratching on windows.

There are three ways to look at this. One: your cat is testing to ensure there’s a protective barrier between the world and them. Two: they’re literally trying to get closer to what they see, from caterpillars to cars. Three: they’re frustrated because that same barrier is blocking them from the many temptations outside.

Chattering teeth at birds.

This is another instinct from their days in the wild when chattering preceded their swift kill bite of small prey. The distinctive sound, which is often accompanied by a twitching or puffed up tail, may be caused for one of two reasons: your cat’s excitement at seeing potential prey or frustration at not being able to reach it.

Trying to bolt through an open door.

Once tempted by the sights, smells and sounds outside, they simply want more. To combat this, make the inside more appealing by installing cat trees, a hammock style bed near the window, leaving toys strewn about and the TV on when you’re gone. Or if possible, build a small, securely enclosed area outside your back door.

Pottying outside the litter box.

This behavior may mean something is amiss INSIDE the box. Perhaps your cat no longer likes the feel or smell of the litter or the type or location of the box. Perhaps your cat is ill or in pain or stressed by changes either in routine or in the environment. If your vet finds your cat healthy, address the litter box itself. Then, hopefully, once the cause is determined and the matter resolved, your cat will return to “business” as usual.

Sudden hissing while being petted.

You may think your cat’s enjoying every one of your pets, but a sudden hiss or even an attempt to scratch or bite you proves otherwise. Cats know their own limits, and although you assumed your stroking was a comfort, sometimes it’s an irritant. And when it is, hissing is your cat’s way of saying this particular session is over.

Attacking your ankles as you walk by.

This usually means a cat is bored. The solution is more stimulation in the form of cat furniture, scratching posts and climbing toys. Stuffy toys to drag about or place in a cat bed. Increased playtime with you. If this doesn’t solve the problem, another cat to wrestle, romp and run with can turn your cat’s boredom into satisfaction.


Article by Nomi Berger.

Cool (Cats) For The Summer

Picture yourself on a sweltering summer day wearing a long fur coat. Are you hot yet? Itchy? Thirsty? Desperately searching for shade?

Now picture your cats on that same summer day. And you’ll have some idea of how THEY feel.

Keeping cats cool and comfortable is essential to keeping them safe INside. Protecting them from the hot sun, hot air and hot ground is essential to keeping them safe OUTside. All it requires is common sense and some advance planning.

If you have air conditioning, cool down your place as much as possible before you leave for work/play/the day. Draw blinds/curtains and leave the air conditioning on low.

If you don’t have air conditioning, place fans in the windows and run them on “exhaust” to circulate the air without sucking in the hot air outside. Keep blinds/curtains drawn.

Freeze a bottle of water and place it IN your cat’s bed or place a package of frozen peas UNDER the covering of the bed.

Feeling extravagant? Purchase a cat bed that stays cool through low voltage electricity.

Store small plastic containers of water in the freezer overnight. Place the now-iced containers around your cat’s other favorite cuddling/napping spot(s).

Keep your cat’s food and water bowls out of any direct sunlight, and fill the water bowl with ice cubes to help it remain chilled for hours.

Keep activity to a minimum and discourage your cat from playing.

For those with a screened-in patio that their cat enjoys, put up shades on the sides that face the sun, set out several bowls of iced water and check on them throughout the day.

If gone for the day, consider keeping your cat in the bathroom to lie on the tiled floor or counter top or to curl up in the bathtub or sink.

If going on a road trip in a car without air conditioning, place a wet towel over your cat’s carrier or attach a small battery-operated fan to the outside of the carrier.

Fill the food and water cups inside the carrier with crushed ice for extra cooling, and use a spray bottle of cold water to occasionally wet your cat’s coat.

If traveling in a car WITH air conditioning, keep it on and ensure that the airflow reaches your cat’s carrier.

Never leave your cat tethered outside in the shade. As the day progresses and the light shifts, your cat will be directly exposed to the sun’s harmful rays and heat.

Never shave your cat’s fur as it offers SOME protection against sunburn. Pale and light-skinned cats MUST stay out of the sun because their ears and the tips of their noses are prone to skin cancer.

Never leave your cat in a parked car (even with the windows cracked) for even a few minutes. (Leaving the A/C on with the motor running is an environmental no-no). The inside of a car heats up quickly, making it much hotter than the air outside and can lead swiftly to heat stroke.

The symptoms of heat stroke include rapid panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, erratic/wobbly walking, and redder than normal gums.

Should you observe any of these symptoms, wrap your cat in a cool, wet towel, and get to your veterinarian or to an animal hospital immediately.

Being a responsible cat guardian means being an informed cat guardian.

The list of safety rules may seem long, but the hot days of summer are even longer.


Article by Nomi Berger

Consider the Pet Sitter

Are you hesitant about planning a vacation because of your dog? Are you stopped by images of your cherished family companion baying mournfully in a boarding kennel run by well-meaning strangers?

Consider another possibility: your dog, safe and snug at home, cared for by someone who’s qualified and experienced.

Consider a pet sitter.

Pet sitters are paid professionals who come to your home and spend quality time with your pet. The best ones are those who not only feed and play with them, but hold certificates in First Aid and CPR.

Consider the benefits.

Your dog remains at home, with the same diet and daily routine, and receives both attention and exercise while you’re away.

You can feel more secure knowing that, not only is your dog safe, but your home is too. Pet sitters can take in your newspapers and mail, water your plants and provide your place with that lived-in look.

To start, ask your vet for recommendations. Ask your family, friends and neighbors for the names of their own pet sitter if they have one. If not, research pet sitters in your area.

Interview each candidate over the phone, then in person, and ask the following questions: Can they provide written proof that they’re bonded and carry commercial liability insurance? What formal training have they received? Are contingency plans in place if an accident or emergency prevents them from fulfilling their duties? Will they provide extra services like grooming, dog walking or playtime with other dogs? If they provide live-in services, what are the specific times they agree to be with your dog? Will they give you a written contract listing their services and fees? Will they provide you with the phone numbers of clients who have agreed to be references?

If you’re satisfied with the person’s answers and if the references have checked out, it’s imperative that your dog first meet and interact with prospective sitter. Monitor them closely. Does your dog seem comfortable with the person? Are they a good fit? Are there any issues that need addressing?

Once your decision has been made and you, yourself, are comfortable, you can begin to plan that long-delayed vacation: whether for a weekend, a week or longer. Then, before your date of departure: Walk the sitter through your home, pointing out all the essentials needed to make the agreed-upon routine run smoothly and well. Give a trust worthy neighbor copies of your keys and have that neighbor and the pet sitter exchange phone numbers. Show the pet sitter any important safety features, such as fuse boxes, circuit breakers and security systems.

Prepare a comprehensive list of emergency contact information, including how to reach you, your vet, and the closest emergency clinic. Store all of your dog’s food and water bowls, treats, toys, and other supplies in one place, along with extra food in case you’re away longer than expected. Tape a list of feeding instructions and a photo of your dog (should your pet pull a “Houdini” and escape) to the door of your refrigerator.

With everything firmly in place, all you have to do now is leave. Secure in the knowledge that your precious dog is in good hands and is, after all, a mere phone call away.    


Article by Nomi Berger

Meet and Greet with Stamford’s Elite: The K9 Unit of the Stamford Police Department


We’re back with another Doggy Day Pawlooza update this week!

We are SO excited to have the Stamford K-9 Unit join us for a meet and greet from 10am-11am at our Doggy Day Pawlooza event. Not only are these guys brave, they’re the best looking ones on the force (at least we think so ;)).

The K9 Unit works hard at helping keep you, and the town safe. These dogs have to go through special training to assist police and other law enforcement officers in carrying out their duties. Now that is impressive. Looks like Stamford has a pretty great team helping to keep us safe.

Don’t forget to mark your calendar for June 3rd from 10am-3pm and come meet some these awesome dogs! Make sure to stay up to date on all event updates by liking our Doggy Day Pawlooza Facebook Page and following us on Instagram @stareliefpets.

The Vet Is In: Doggy Day Pawlooza

STARelief’s mission since the start has always been to be a resource to all pet owners. Proper pet care is such an important topic. We work to make sure that resources and information are readily available to all pet owners. This year we wanted to expand Doggy Day Pawlooza and pack more fun and activities for all those attending.

At this year’s Doggy Day Pawlooza, we are so excited to welcome our friends from VCA Davis Animal Hospital in Stamford!

They will be hosting a Rabies and Microchip clinic from 11am-12pm and “The Vet Is In”  from 12-1pm.

Mark your calendar and join us along with our friends at VCA Davis Animal Hospital. They will be there to answer some questions about proper pet care and conduct a rabies and microchip clinic.


We are so thankful for VCA Davis Animal Hospital and all their support.

Forever Home: Now What?

Be an informed adopter and make your new dog’s entry into your world as pleasurable as possible.

If this is your first dog, establish yourself with a vet or register your new dog with your established vet. Then apply for the appropriate licenses, etc., required in your area.

Remember that a dog’s true personality may not reveal itself for several weeks. Therefore, these first few weeks require an atmosphere of calm and patience, not anger or punishment.

Knowing your new dog’s established schedules for meals, pottying, walking and exercise beforehand are essential to maintaining his/her sense of continuity.

Once you arrive home, bring your new dog to his/her designated pottying place.

Spend time letting your new dog get accustomed to the place, and if he/she potties, reward him/her with praise and a treat.

Repeat this (whether your dog potties or not) to reinforce it, but be prepared for accidents. Even a housebroken dog will be nervous in, and curious about, new surroundings.

Your new dog may also pant or pace excessively, suffer from stomach upsets or have no appetite at all due to the sudden changes in his/her life.

Give your new dog the same food that he/she ate before.

After 30 minutes, remove the food whether it’s been eaten or not. Do not allow your new dog to “graze.”

(If you want to switch brands, wait a week. Begin by adding one part new food to three parts of the old for several days. Then add half new to half old for several more days, followed by one part old to three parts new until it’s all new food and the transition is complete).

Learn the commands your new dog already knows and don’t attempt to teach him/her any new ones for awhile.

Walk your new dog slowly through your home allowing him/her plenty of time to sniff around and become familiar with all of its sights and smells. 

If needed, teach your new dog proper house manners from the start — calmly and patiently. Reward good behavior with praise and treats for positive reinforcement.

Introduce your new dog to the other members of your household one by one. Unless you know that the dog enjoys approaching new people, instruct everyone to sit, silent and still, on a couch or chair and ignore him/her.

Allow your new dog to approach them, sniffing, whether it takes several seconds or several minutes. Only when he/she is relaxed should they begin to pet him/her lightly and gently.

Children in particular should be closely supervised to ensure that they follow these same guidelines.

Show your new dog his/her place to sleep and place a few treats around the area as added incentives.

Give your new dog some quiet, alone time to get used to his/her space while you remain in the room for reassurance.

For the first few days, remain calm and quiet around your new dog, allowing him/her to settle in comfortably while you become familiar with his/her likes and dislikes, quirks and habits.

Begin the routine you want to establish (according to your own lifestyle) for your new dog’s pottying, eating, walking, playing and alone times, and maintain it — calmly but firmly.

Initial resistance is to be expected, but remain firm – without impatience or anger – while your new dog gradually becomes accustomed to his/her new schedule.

To make the process as pleasant and reassuring as possible, spend quality time with your new dog, stroking him/her or brushing his/her coat, while talking gently and soothingly to strengthen the bond and trust between you.

If you want to change your new dog’s name, begin by saying his/her new name and giving him/her an especially good treat (chicken works well) or a belly rub. This will teach your new dog to love the sound and respond to it. Repeating this numerous times a day will speed up the process.

Limit your new dog’s activities to your home, potty and exercise areas, keeping away from neighbors and other dogs, public places and dog parks.

Invite a relative or friend over to meet your new dog. Hand them treats and tell them to be calm and gentle in their approach unless your new dog calmly approaches them first.

Gradually accustom your new dog to being alone by leaving your home briefly then returning, repeating this several times over a period of a day or two and gradually increasing the alone time from a few minutes to a half hour to an hour. This way he/she won’t feel abandoned. When you return, walk in calmly and don’t fuss over your dog until he/she has settled down.

If your new dog whines or cries, don’t cuddle or console him/her. It only reinforces this behavior. Instead give him/her attention and praise for good behavior, such as resting quietly or chewing on a toy instead. And treats always work wonders.

Slowly begin introducing your new dog to your neighbors and other dogs, closely monitoring his/her reactions, especially towards the dogs.

Bring your new dog to the vet to introduce them to each other, address any health or behavioral concerns, and get a new rabies certificate. For any behavioral issues you can’t resolve on your own, ask your vet for the name of a professional.

Remember that making your new dog the newest member of your family is a process, and that consistency is the key.

Your reward? A loving and happy companion, and the satisfaction of knowing that you have saved his/her life.

Article by Nomi Berger.

ACHOO! Cat Breeds for Allergy Sufferers

Are you for cats but your allergies are against them? Don’t despair. There ARE solutions. Although not purr-fect, they are certainly more paws-itive. 

But first: Allergies 101.

What is the culprit behind your sneezing and itching, coughing or wheezing?

The protein Fel D1 in cat saliva. When cats lick their coats, the allergen-laden saliva dries, becomes airborne, and like a warmth-seeking missile, will head straight for your sinuses.

Low allergen or “hypoallergenic” (NOT to be confused with “non-allergenic”) cats produce fewer allergens than other cats. Note the word “fewer”. But, saliva aside, all of these cats must be groomed frequently, which includes brushing and wiping them down, to keep their dander (like dandruff, dander is composed of skin cells and can cause allergies in people) to a minimum.

Listed below are seven breeds best suited to allergy sufferers:


Often referred to as the “long-haired Siamese”, they are intelligent, inquisitive and very social. Despite their appearance, they produce less of the notorious Fel D1 protein, causing fewer allergy symptoms. 


Playful, devoted, and “chatty”, they, like the Balinese, sport a medium-long, single coat that doesn’t mat. And because they have no undercoat, they have less fur, meaning fewer allergens.

Oriental Shorthair

As members of the Siamese family, with their distinctive wedge-shaped heads and almond-shaped eyes, they are active, outgoing and happy, with coats that produce fewer allergens.

Devon Rex

Active, curious and people oriented, they have both shorter fur and less fur. And while their paw pads and ears need frequent cleaning due to oily buildups, they require fewer full baths than either the Cornish Rex or the Sphynx.

Cornish Rex

Curious and friendly, they get along easily with people and other pets and have no fur except for a fine undercoat. Like the Sphynx, they need frequent full baths due to the oily buildup on their skin.


Fearless, energetic and friendly, they may be hairless, but they require frequent full baths to remove the gummy buildup on their skin. Their nails and overly large ears also require frequent cleanings.


Loyal, energetic and playful, they have thick triple coats with a surprisingly low concentration of Fel D1 in their saliva.

BUT before you consider inviting any of these breeds into your life, you MUST spend time with them to test your reaction to them. If your allergies should flare with one, remember that you still have another six from which to choose. 

Article by Nomi Berger


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STARelief and Pet Assistance
P.O. Box 3035
Stamford, CT 06905
Phone: 203-636-0971
Fax: 203-883-0325
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