Five Plants that are Toxic to Your Pets

While we love having plants in our homes and yards we need to be aware that some of those plants are toxic to our pets. Our pets are not aware of the dangers and may chew on the leaves or flowers of these common plants.


We have all seen the articles about having aloe plants in our home to clean the air, but aloe can be very toxic to our dogs and cats. If you suspect your pet has ingested aloe here are some of the symptoms to look for: diarrhea, vomiting, depression and occasionally tremors. Get your pet to the veterinarian immediately. 

Aloe is Toxic to Both Dogs and Cats.

Bird of Paradise

This plant is all over South Florida and it can be mildly toxic to your dogs and cats. If you suspect your pet has ingested Bird of Paradise some of the symptoms will include lethargy, vomiting and nausea. Get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Bird of Paradise can cause lethargy and more when ingested.

Calla Lily

This is a very common house plant and it can be very toxic to your dogs and cats.  If you suspect your pet your pet has ingested any part of a calla lily plant you need to seek immediate veterinary attention for them. Some of the symptoms are excessive drooling, vomiting and irritation of the mouth. 

Calla Lily can burn and irritate your pet’s mouth.

Rubber Plant

While this plant is not as toxic as some of the others, it is a common house plant and caution needs to be used. The rubber plant is toxic to both dogs and cats and will cause diarrhea and vomiting. Contact your veterinarian to see what your course of action should be if your pet ingests any part of this plant.

This common house plant can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Sago Palm

This plant is very common in South Florida and is extremely toxic to your dogs and cats. If your pet ingests any part of the sago palm in can cause death. You must get your pet to a veterinarian without delay. Some of the symptoms are increased thirst, bruising and vomiting. Ingestion of the sago palm can cause severe internal bleeding, liver damage and even liver failure. 

The sago palm can be deadly to your pets.

How Your Pet Sitter Keeps Your Home Safe: Keys, Alarm Codes and More


Chocolate lab getting a chin scratch

Pet sitters help keep your pets and home safe

When I first started Dances with Dogs 16 years ago my husband looked at me and said, “no one is ever going to give you the keys to their home.” Thankfully he was wrong, but I took his words seriously and have made our clients’ home security a top priority. We strive to keep your home safe, along with your pets, when entrusted to our care.

So, what do Dances with Dogs do to help keep your home safe?


We never advertise our pet sitting or dog walking services on our vehicles or clothing while at your home. Why do we do this? Because we feel that this type of advertising attracts unwanted attention to your home, announcing that you are away.


We take having the keys to your home very seriously. Keys are never tagged with your name or address. Keys are locked securely away when not in use. There is always a backup key locked up in our office in case of an emergency. Keys are never returned by leaving them under doormats or planters, they are only returned in person. We will not leave your keys in your home on the last visit and lock the door when we leave. What happens if you are delayed and we need to make an additional visit?

Alarm Codes

Alarm codes are stored on our secure online scheduling system. We ask that you now write them down and leave them in your home.

Home and Pet Information

All information you provide to us about your home and pets is also stored on our secure online scheduling system.

So next time you travel you can be assured that Dances with Dogs takes your home security seriously and know that your home and keys are well taken care of as well as your pets of course.

If you have questions and would like more information give us a call at 786-299-1552  

Spaying or Neutering Your Dog: The Pros and Cons

Dog sitting

Spaying or neutering your dog has its pros and cons.

As I sit here writing this my two rescue dogs, Briscoe and Kensi, are keeping me company. When my husband and I adopted them from one of our local rescue groups we did have to make the decision about spaying or neutering as that was already done. 

Here in South Florida, a nonprofit dog rescue organization can only adopt out a dog that has been spayed or neutered, unless there is a medical reason for not doing so, such as age or heart condition.

What Does Spaying or Neutering Mean?

In short, it means sterilization. For male dogs, it is castration (removing the testicles). For female dogs, it is the removal of the ovaries and uterus.

Pros of Neutering Your Male Dog

  • Some Health Problems can be Prevented – Your intact dog is at risk for enlarged prostate and testicular cancer.
  • A Calmer Dog – Dogs who are neutered tend to be quieter and less stressed.
  • Less Chance of Marking – A neutered dog generally does not feel the need to mark his territory, especially in the house.
  • Less Chance of Getting Lost – Neutered dogs are not on the hunt for a mate, so there is less chance of him wandering off in search of his next girlfriend.
  • Doesn’t Contribute to Pet Overpopulation – Here in South Florida hundreds of unwanted dogs and puppies come into our local shelters every day. There are dozens of others that are just dumped on the street like trash. While you may not own the female dog, your intact male dog is contributing to the problem. It takes two to tango.

Cons of Neutering Your Male Dog

  • Possible Weight Gain – Your dog may not be as active which can lead to an overweight dog. This can be managed with diet and exercise.
  • Anesthesia Risks – There is about a 20% chance your dog may have an adverse reaction when under general anesthesia, which is required for neutering. Most of these reactions are not serious, but there can be life-threatening complications for some dogs.
  • Hormone Imbalance – This can sometimes cause hypothyroidism, which can also lead to weight gain.
  • Can Affect Bone Growth – This is usually caused by early neutering. Consult your vet as to the best age to neuter your dog.

Pros of Spaying Your Female Dog

  • Some Health Issues can be Avoided – No ovaries means no ovarian cancer and no ovarian cysts. No uterus mean no uterine cancer or infections. Spaying your dog before she hits puberty lowers her risk of breast cancer too.
  • A Calmer Dog – When a dog has no desire to mate they are naturally calmer.
  • Less Mess – If your dog is not I heat there will be no bloody discharge.
  • Doesn’t Contribute to Pet Overpopulation – There are already so many unwanted dogs and you certainly do not want to be contributing to the problem. Besides, finding good homes for puppies is not an easy proposition.

Cons of Spaying Your Female Dog 

Close up of black and tan dog

Weigh the pros and cons of spaying and neutering.

  • Anesthesia Side Effects – Just like neutering, spaying is surgery requiring anesthesia. While most reactions are minor, 1 in 5 dogs reacts negatively to anesthesia. Anesthesia can, however, be life-threatening.
  • Possible Illness – Spaying may increase the occurrence of urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, and hypothyroidism.
  • Possible Weight Gain – Your dog may be less active, so they may put on a few pounds. This can be managed with diet and exercise.

There is no perfect answer to whether you should spay or neuter your dog. Every day I see so many unwanted pets, that I tend to think spaying and neutering is a must, but there are risks. There are also risks if you do not spay or neuter. Either way, you must be a responsible pet owner.

What are Your Thoughts on Spaying and Neutering? Are Your Dogs Spayed/Neutered? Let Us Know in the Comments Below.

Spaying or Neutering Your Cat: Why is it Important?

In a world where we all see stray cats wandering the streets, is there ever are reason for not spaying or neutering your cat? The American Veterinary Medical Association has supported early spaying and neutering of cats since 1993. What is early? Eight to 16 weeks of age. 

While that does seem early, that is the age when most kittens are adopted from rescues and shelters and these organizations feel it is imperative to spay or neuter these kittens before they go off to their new homes. There is no guarantee that the kitten’s new family will follow through at a later date.

Reduces Shelter Overpopulation

According to the ASPCA approximately 1.4 million cats and kittens are euthanized in shelters across the United States each year. In order to help bring that number down it is important to spay/neuter your cat.

Less Chance of Your Cat Getting Lost

If you do not neuter your cat and he gets out of your home there is a good chance he will go in search of a mate. That is not to say your neutered cat won’t wander off while hunting, but neutering will reduce the risk.

Cats who are not neutered tend to wander.

Better Health for Your Cat

You remove the chance of testicular diseases when you neuter your male cat.

Your spayed female cat will no longer run the risk of pyometra, which is an infection of the uterus. The chance that your female cat will get mammary tumors will be reduced.

According to research done at the University of Georgia, spayed and neutered pets live longer too.

Cleaner House

Male cats are inclined to spray inside the house due to hormones. Neutering your male cat should eliminate this urge. If your neutered male cat is still spraying it might be time for a trip to the vet.

Less Fighting

Neutered male cats are less likely to fight with other cats in the house. And, if you let your cat outside he will be less likely to fight with other neighborhood cats. Cats that get into fights are more likely to be exposed to diseases such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia (FeLV). This is because those diseases can be transmitted through bite wounds.

A peaceful cat household.

A Calmer Household

Spaying or neutering your cat removes the desire to breed and therefore they are not on the constant hunt for a mate.


No Unwanted Litters

There are millions of cats and kittens looking for homes each year, so finding good homes for an unwanted litter can be a daunting task. 

Spaying and neutering prevents unwanted litters.

While spaying and neutering will not solve all cat related issues, it can certainly help with quite few.

Are Your Cats Spayed and Neutered? Please Let Us know Your Thoughts in the Comments Below.

Easy Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Treats

I love baking for my dogs and giving them homemade dog treats is the best! This recipe is one of their favorites. It is such a quick and easy dog treat recipe that will leave your dog wanting more and I hope you will have fun making them.

Heart-shaped cookie cutter

Cut your treats with a heart-shaped cookie cutter to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your dog.

This is a cookie cutter recipe and I found some really cute dog bone and dog paw shaped cookie cutters online, but you can use whatever cookie cutter shape you like. Hearts might be fun for Valentine’s Day.   

This recipe usually takes me about 50 minutes to an hour to complete from start to finish.


  • 2/3 cups of canned pumpkin
  • ¼ cup unsalted peanut butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour (much healthier than white flour)

I like to use organic ingredients when available although this recipe will work with the ingredients you have available.


  • Preheat your oven to 350°
  • Beat the canned pumpkin, unsalted peanut butter, and eggs together in a large mixing bowl using an electric beater on medium-high. You want to make sure these ingredients are mixed together very well.
  • Slowly mix in the flour one cup at a time until the mixture is not sticky.  You may want to add the last cup 1/4 cup at a time.
  • Place mixture on a flat, floured surface.
  • You will need to knead the mixture a few times.
  • Roll out to a thickness of ¼”.
  • Using your cookie cutters cut your treats into your desired shapes and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet or silicone baking mat.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes. The longer you cook the treats the crunchier they will be.
  • Make sure the treats are completely cooled before feeding them to your dog. 
Dog taking treat from hand

Your dog will love these easy to make treats.

Please let us know if you made these for your dogs and how they liked them in the comments below.

The Dog Walk: Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe

Taking our dog for a walk is one of the great pleasures of owning a dog. However, there are a few things you can do to keep you and your dog safe and get more enjoyment from your time together.

Focus on Your Dog

Man looking at his phone while walking dog.

Stay focused on your dog, not your phone.

Being aware of your surroundings while on your walk will keep you both safe. If you are distracted by a phone call, text message, Facebook or music you will likely miss something potentially dangerous to one or both of you such as your dog eating something off the ground, an oncoming dog or an approaching stranger. 

The purpose of your walk should be spending quality time with your dog, so enjoy.

 Don’t Let Your Dog off Leash

Even if your dog has a totally reliable recall, letting them off leash can be dangerous. All it takes is for them to see another dog, a cat, a squirrel or something else that makes them run off.

Other Dogs Can be a Problem

While your dog may love others of his kind those other dogs may not be so friendly. In the interest of safety, it is best to keep your dog away from others.

Even if the owner of the other dog seems to think it’s alright for the dogs to meet, no one asked the dogs. Play it safe.

Make the Walk Fun!

Walking your dog should not be a chore it should be a fun adventure for both of you. So, stay alert but enjoy!

Bring Water Along

You should always bring water along for both you and your pal. Even when the temperatures are a bit cooler it is important for everyone to stay hydrated.

When it is very hot outside, staying hydrated is especially important. You can find collapsible bowls at your local pet supply store, so you can pour a drink for your four-legged friend.

Never Leave Your Dog Alone

 It only takes a minute for your dog to be stolen or harmed, so never leave your them alone. There are always heartbreaking stories of dogs that are missing and their owner only left them for a brief moment.  Don’t take the chance!

Keep an Eye on Where Your Dog is Sniffing

You never know what people have thrown out of their car window or just dropped on the grass. Chicken bones or other items could be potentially deadly.

If you use a regular leash such as a four or six-foot lead you are more likely to keep your dog away from some potential danger on the ground. Using a retractable leash gives you much less control.

Watch Where Your Dog is Walking

Happy dog

Taking your dog for a walk is a great way to bond with your dog.

Broken glass is everywhere, so keep your eyes looking ahead to where your dog is walking. There are so many things on the ground that can hurt your dog’s paws.

Keep to Well Lit Areas

The safety of you and your dog is important. Walk in areas that are well lit.

Walking in areas that are dark or underpopulated puts you at risk for falls or worse.

Be present with your dog and you will both enjoy the walk much more.

Taking your dog for a walk can be a great way for you both to unwind and enjoy some quality time together.


If you work long hours, but would still like to get your best pal out for an adventure, please contact us for more information on our dog walking service.

Why Tethering Your Dog is a Bad Idea


Dog tethered with a chain

Tethering puts your dog at risk.

                                                                                                                                                                    What is tethering? According to Rebecca Wisch of Michigan State University College of Law“Tethering or chaining a dog under most state laws means that a person ties a dog with a rope or line to a stationary object.” Chaining or tethering your dog outside seems innocent enough, but there could be some big consequences. Sure, the dog gets to be outside and you have the peace of mind he will not run away, but at what cost? Here are a few of those possible costs:


Dogs that are continually tied up can get frustrated with their inability to move about, causing them to become aggressive. Dogs are also territorial and that small plot of land they are confined to becomes something that needs to be fiercely defended. Also, dogs are very social beings and being confined outside, away from interaction with others for long periods of time can be psychologically and emotionally damaging (think solitary confinement).


If your dog is tethered in a yard that is not secure there is a possibility that one day that tether will snap, and your dog will escape. Ask yourself this question; would you come back?

Injury or Death

Dogs that are chained run the risk of getting entangled in their chains or tethers, breaking or cutting off circulation to a limb. They can injure their necks and backs when they hitting the end of their tether. They also run the risk of hanging themselves if their chain is caught on an object. Tethered dogs are vulnerable to attack from other animals as well as venomous snakes and insects. Extreme heat and cold can be deadly to dogs confined to the outdoors. And dangerous weather events such as hurricanes and snowstorms can also be life-threatening.


Dog tethered with a chain

Tethering can cause emotional and physical harm to a dog.

Are tethered dogs really thought of as family members? Are they getting regular meals and fresh water? Are they provided with adequate shelter? What about veterinary care? What about simple things such as affection and play? They are simple things that dogs need.

These are just a few of the damaging effects of being tethered outside. It is no wonder more and more states, cities and towns are making it illegal to tether your dog. Click here for a comprehensive list of the states that have addressed tethering and chaining.

Here in Florida, there are several cities that have made tethering illegal, but the whole state is not on board yet. Here are the Florida cities and counties where it is illegal to tether your dog (Sourced from Collier County, Fernandina Beach, Hallandale Beach, Hernando County, Hillsborough County, Lake County, Lee County, Miami-Dade County, Marion County, Martin County, Mount Dora, Okaloosa County, Palm Beach County, Pasco County, Pembroke Park, Pinellas County, Sarasota County, and St. Lucie County.

What can you do if you see a dog that is tethered? Call your local Animal Control and report the abuse.

What Leash is Right for You?

As professional dog walkers, we are very particular about the types of leashes we use. We do not walk dogs on retractable leashes or bungee type leashes. But why? Isn’t it nice to let your dog have a little freedom out on the walk? If you are using one of these types of leashes let us give you a couple of scenarios and then you can make a more informed decision about the type of leash you want to use.

The Retractable Leash

You are out for a morning stroll when an off-leash dog charges your dog. Your dog runs circles around you trying to escape his aggressor. Suddenly, the cord from the retractable leash is wound so tightly around your legs you can’t move, and your dog can’t move because he/she has used up the length of the retractable leash trying to escape. You are helpless to rescue your dog or to even help yourself. If you are wearing shorts there is a possibility that the cord from the leash will cut into your skin. Ouch!

Dogs meeting on retractable leashes

Retractable leashes limit your control over your dog.

Maybe you and your dog meet other dogs on leash, but in the chaos of greeting, the dogs’ leashes get entangled, the dogs panic and a fight ensues. Using a retractable leash makes it so much more difficult to keep leashes untangled than a standard leash.

Or, what if you are out for a walk with your dog and you accidentally drop your retractable leash? The leash retracts, and the plastic handle of the leash hits your dog sending her into a panic. As your dog runs the plastic leash handle continues to hit your dog sending her into more of a panic.

Bungee Leashes

If the snap on this type of leash breaks while the leash is stretched it can snap back hitting you in the hand, face, eye or some other part of your body. Again, Ouch!


Standard six-foot leash

I personally use a six-foot leather leash. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive, but you get what you pay for. Leather leashes last, they are more comfortable in your hands, they don’t collect dog hair. Leather leashes are great for strong active dogs. You can also purchase a nylon leash, but make sure you test the feel in your hands. I find nylon leashes harder on the hands. Nylon leashes can collect dog hair and while they can come in fun colors, those colors may fade over time.

Retractable leashes

Retractable leashes can get tangled or caught on something.

The type of leash you use is important for your safety and the safety of your dog. Choose wisely.

How to Tell if Your Pet is Overweight and What to do About It.


Did you know that over 50% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight according to the latest veterinary surveys? An obese pet is at greater risk of developing severe health problems. Is your pet fat?

What are the Health Risks?

  • Heart disease

    Overweight dog

    Having an overweight pet puts them at risk for several health issues.

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Arthritis
  • Many forms of cancer

How can I tell if my dog or cat is overweight?

There are many Body Condition Score (BCS) charts you can find online, but here are a few guidelines for dogs and cats:

  • Obese – It is difficult to feel the ribs because there is a thick layer of fat. The base of the tail is thick and it is difficult to feel the tail base because there is a thick layer of fat. When viewing your pet from above, the back is widened and no waist definition. When viewing your pet from the side there is no waist and your cat may have that hanging belly that swings from side to side when it moves.                    

    Overweight cat

    Having an overweight pet puts them at risk for several health issues.

  • Overweight – It is hard to feel the ribs because there is a sufficient layer of fat. The base of the tail is somewhat thick and hard to feel because of the layer of fat between the bone and the skin. When viewing your pet from above the back is widened and there is little if any waist definition. When viewing your pet from the side there is little if any belly tuck and your cat may still have that hanging belly that swings from side to side when it moves.

What is the ideal body condition for my dog or cat?

  • You can easily feel the ribs.
  • You can feel the base of the tail.
  • When viewing your dog or cat from above there is a defined waist.
  • When viewing your dog or cat from the side there is a belly tuck.

What can I do to help my overweight pet?

Cutting back on their food and increasing exercise are two great places to start. Talk to your veterinarian about how much you should cut out of your pet’s diet and how much exercise they suggest. This is also a great time to rule out any health issues that are already present or are brewing.


Start increasing your pet’s exercise gradually. Just like you can’t get from couch potato to marathon runner, neither can your pet.

While you can grab a leash, and take your dog for a walk, exercising cats take a little more creativity. Use your cat’s inner hunting instinct and play, play, play. Cats are more active at sunrise and sunset, so those are the times you will get more play activity from your cat.

If you don’t have the time to exercise your dog or cat, consider hiring a dog walker or pet sitter to get your pets moving.

Dances with Dogs has a proven track record of helping pets drop unwanted pounds. Click here for more information on how we can help you help your dog or cat lose the weight.

Daily Visits for Cats: Why We Require Them


Cat being pet

Cats need social interaction.

It is easy to see the independence and aloofness of cats as cats not needing much social interaction and care. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Cats need daily care for several reasons. Here are a few:

Cats Are Cats

What does that mean? Cats can find themselves in some precarious situations.

A few years ago, I went to care for one our kitty clients. It was cold for South Florida, down in the 50s. When I arrived at the house I could not find one of the cats, Gizmo. I looked all over the house and called his name, but no Gizmo. I looked under beds and in cabinets. No Gizmo. I knew he had not gotten out, the house was secure, but I walked out onto the patio anyway, calling his name. As I turned around to go back inside I saw him. He was wedged between a desk and the other sliding glass door. He was on his back with his feet up in the air, unable to move. I rushed to get him out of his predicament. How long had he been there? How long had that cold glass been pulling the heat from his body?

Fortunately for Gizmo, the ending is a happy one. I got him warmed up and he was fine, but what would have happened if I had been visiting every other day? Would the ending have been the same? I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think so.

Cats get trapped in bedrooms and closets, drawers and crawl spaces. Cats are curious and that curiosity can get them in trouble.

Cats Are Social

Contrary to the old myth that felines are aloof and independent, cats are actually very social creatures. Cats get lonely and need daily social interaction. Even if you know your cat is going to hide under the bed when the pet sitter arrives, your cat will appreciate having someone in the house. 

Cat in bowl by window

Cats are social and need attention.


Kitties are incredibly sensitive creatures and delaying medical attention can be life-threatening. If your cat falls ill while you are away a professional pet sitter should be able to get your cat to the veterinarian in a timely manner.


Yes, cats can regulate their intake of food, but will they? Obesity is a problem not only for people but also for pets (click here for more information on pet obesity). Leaving “extra” food down for your cat while you are away can lead to your cat overeating and getting sick. A pet sitter will not only be able to portion out your cat’s food properly but will also be able to judge how much or how little your cat is eating. Loss of appetite can be a sign your cat is not feeling well. 

Cat on table

Cats can overeat.

Water, Water, Water

Cats need to have access to fresh water at all times in order to flush toxins from their kidneys. If your cat plays in their water bowl or accidentally tips their bowl over, they could be without water for quite some time if they are not being visited daily. Your pet sitter will also be able to notice if your cat is not drinking enough water which could be a sign of illness.

Checking on Your Home

Some of the things that burglars look for when casing a house is a pile-up of mail, newspapers, packages, and advertisements on the door. Having your cat visited daily has the extra benefit of having your home checked on too. And then there are the unexpected things that happen to your home such as roof leaks and burst water pipes. Having a pet sitter check on your home daily means having these problems caught early so that the damage can be mitigated.

Next time you are making travel plans, be sure to hire a professional pet sitter to check on your cat daily while you are away. Your cat and home will thank you.

If you would like more information on our cat sitting service please contact us.