Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Dangers of Declawing Cats

If you have a feline family member, you’ve probably experienced the many benefits that come from having a loving bond with your kitty companion. You’ve probably also seen (or felt!) the familiar prick of those pointy paws. But, before you declaw your cat, it’s important to know the downsides – and dangers – of declawing your beloved family cat.

Why Cats Have Claws

  • Claws help cats grip and enjoy stretches that engage and tone their backs and shoulders. 
  • While humans walk on the soles of their feet, cats walk on their toes. Because of this, they need their claws to help them balance properly. Without claws, your cat is forced to alter the way they walk which can result in discomfort, pain and joint damage. 
  • Cats scratch to release happiness – which is why you may witness your kitty joyfully scratching their scratching post when you return home or after a play session with you or your other felines.

Why You Shouldn’t Declaw

  • Declawing is a painful procedure that actually removes part of a cat’s toes, cutting through bones and nerves. For humans, this would be the equivalent of cutting off a finger at the first joint, nail and all.
  • The removal of the bone and claw also has unhealthy, harmful side effects for your feline. Declawing can cause infection, abnormal claw growth within the toe, inflammation, arthritis or behavioral changes such as increased aggression, biting, emotional trauma or litterbox avoidance issues.
  • Animal Friends and the ASPCA discourage declawing – it is considered inhumane and is already illegal in 28 countries. Although it is not yet prohibited in the United States, several cities have banned the practice.

Safe and Healthy Alternatives

  • Ensure that your cat has approved surfaces to scratch. Cardboard, carpet, rope or fabric scratchers can be purchased or made at home. With a variety of scratching options, you’re sure to find a surface your feline will enjoy scratching more than your sofa!
  • Trimming a cat’s claws every few weeks can drastically reduce damage from scratching.
    • TIP: Make trimming a pleasurable activity for your cat by offering some yummy treats as a reward!
  • Cats' claws grow continuously, just like human nails. The outer sheaths of the claws, which become dull over time, are shed when a cat scratches. As cats get older, they may not wear their claws down as fast, resulting in the need for more frequent claw trimmings.
With proper education, patience and a little positive reinforcement, your cat can continue to scratch happily without you or your home paying the price! Contact Animal Friends at 412.847.7000 or visit our website if you need help training your cat to scratch appropriately. Your kitty (and your furniture) will certainly thank you!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Home to Home Adoption Program: Calli

Calli is a very friendly 7-year-old domestic short hair. Her family brought her home about a year ago, but is no longer able to give her the attention that she adores and deserves. Because of this, Calli's temporary family is searching for a more permanent arrangement for her! 

Calli is microchipped and loves to be cuddled, petted and will even give little headbutts when she is craving some attention. She is a very sweet girl and can be vocal when she wants to be! Calli can live with dogs as long as they can respect her personal space. She takes some time to warm up to new people, but loves her humans once she gets to know them.

Does Calli sound like the perfect companion for you? If so, contact Kerri at Kerris615@GMail.com to set up a time to meet her!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Home to Home Adoption Program: Vikki

Vikki is an incredibly friendly spayed black domestic shorthair who is about 1-2 years old. Vikki was found as a stray and taken into a home that she hoped was her perfect fit. Sadly, she has had a hard time getting along with her new feline housemate, so her temporary family is searching for a more permanent arrangement for her!
This lovely lady would be a great addition to a family looking to add an affectionate cat to their home. She has tested negative for both FIV and Feline Leukemia and is up to date on all vaccinations. Vikki even enthusiastically uses her scratching pads and litter box! Vikki is looking for a home to call her own that is ready to give her all the love and attention she deserves.

Does Vikki sound like the perfect companion for you? If so, contact Ed or Ruth at 412.512.7495 or email Dustydisks1@hotmail.com to set up a time to meet.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

7 Household Dangers for Pets

As a pet owner, it’s likely that you use extra caution with certain chemicals and toxins in your home that can be harmful to your four-legged family members. But, things like insecticides and rodenticides are just scratching the surface. Keep an eye out for these everyday household items that may pose a threat to your pet’s well-being!

Human Food

Most of us like to show our pets how much we love them by slipping them some yummy table scraps. And, it’s not just chocolate, grapes and raisins that should stay out of your pet’s bowl. Foods like avocados, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, and foods containing xylitol such as gum and certain peanut butters are no good. You’ll also want to be sure your pet steers clear of coffee grounds, yeast and alcohol.

Cooked meats can pose a serious threat to your pet’s health, too. Bones can become brittle when cooked, increasing the chance of breaking or splintering which is a big issue when ingested by your animal companion.

Human Medications

We know to keep our medications out of the reach of children, but human medicine can be enticing for curious noses and paws, too! From prescription to over-the-counter, human medications are not safe for our four-legged friends. Even inhalers can pose a danger, so be sure to keep your medications out of reach of your kids (two- and four-legged alike).

House Plants

Many people know that poinsettias and lilies are toxic to cats, but plant varieties such as azalea, rhododendron and sago palm are some of the less commonly known hazards! Additionally, kalanchoe flowers and schefflera leaves are often found in homes and can be harmful to pets.

Household Cleaners

You may be aware that chemicals like bleach and detergents can pose a threat to your pet. If ingested (or even inhaled), other common substances such as disinfectants or antifreeze can also be harmful to your pet. Don’t forget about garden fertilizers or paint chips containing heavy metals, too!

Essential Oils

While essential oils might be helpful for treating human ailments, many of these substances are volatile compounds, which mean they can be toxic to your animal companion. Cats can be especially sensitive to the scents in essential oils. Keep in mind that what is safe for you to use isn’t necessarily safe to use with your pet nearby.

For Rabbits

In addition to the dangers listed above, Rabbits can face special risks when it comes to toxic substances. There can be traces of cyanide in almonds, cassava roots, mangoes and millet sprouts, so those are not safe foods to feed to your bunny! A substance called “psoralen,” found in Parsnips, is also poisonous! Growing your own veggies in a garden might be great for people, but not all veggies are safe for rabbits. Stay away from eggplants, potato plants, sweet potato plants, tomato plants and the root of mustard plants.

Odds and Ends

Poisons aren’t the only thing that can pose a threat to your four-legged family members! Keep an eye out for other dangers like loose strings (especially attached to blinds or dental floss!), rubber bands, treated toilet water and plastic bags. In the winter time, ice melt can get into paw pads and injure the skin. Coins and other small objects such as lip balm, batteries, socks and hair ties can look or smell appetizing to your pet, but could cause serious internal damage if ingested.

While accidents happen, the best way to keep your pet happy and healthy is to know what to look for and keep a close watch over potential hazards in the home. If your pet does consume something they shouldn’t or even if you suspect they may have gotten into something unsafe, take them to the nearest emergency veterinarian right away!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Jasmine and Iris: Animal Friends' Home to Home Adoption Program

Jasmine and Iris were rescued about 4 years ago when they were just kittens. As part of a litter of young kittens, they had nowhere else to go, so a Good Samaritan who fell in love with them stepped in and gave a home to these two adorable kitties.

Now 4 years old, Jasmine and Iris are in search of a new home because a new member of their family is severely allergic to cats. In their current home, they spend their days playing with each other and even get along great with a canine sibling! These wonderful, friendly and lovable kitties need a home where they will get all of the playtime, love and attention they’ve grown accustomed to.

If you think your family might be the right fit for these sweet girls, contact Debbie at debbie.waldo@icloud.com.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Wellness Wednesdays

The hallmark of our Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center is to provide affordable wellness services to financially struggling pet owners. At Animal Friends, we know that just because a family may have fallen on difficult economic times, doesn’t mean their pets don’t deserve high quality veterinary care. By giving our community access to low-cost, high-quality services, we can keep pets healthy and at home with caring families – where they belong.

Scheduling a yearly wellness visit is the best way to keep your pet healthy. Not only will it provide your pet with preventative care they may need – such as a heartworm test, general blood work and vaccinations – it is the perfect time to identify any number of potentially life threatening conditions and begin treatment. As your pet ages, their need for routine care may increase. We recommend that pets older than 7 years have a preventative care appointment twice each year.

To help low-income families keep their four-legged members feeling their best, Animal Friends is proud to introduce Wellness Wednesdays at our Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center.

Now, you can schedule a wellness visit that includes a physical exam by a licensed veterinarian. From there you can opt to get your pet routine vaccinations, flea and tick treatments and tests to detect conditions such as heartworm, Lyme disease, feline leukemia and FIV. You can also make appointments for routine illnesses, like ear and eye infections or sneezing and coughing. And, you’ll be provided with any necessary medication during your visit so you won’t need to make an extra trip to the pharmacy!

By offering low-cost wellness services with compassionate staff in a judgment-free zone, we know that we’ll be helping our clients and their pets – and we look forward to doing so.

Wellness visits are by appointment only. To schedule your visit, contact our Clinic Services team at 412.847.7004 or click here to learn more.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What to Know About Pet Dental Health

Did you know that February is Pet Dental Health Awareness Month? Because 70% of cats and dogs 4 years or older are affected by periodontal disease, we are committed to helping you keep your companions safe and healthy. 

Periodontal disease is preventable with proper attention and care. Below are some tips to provide the best oral care for your pet.

Cats and Dogs:

Take Note of Bad Breath:
Unusual scents coming from your pet's mouth could indicate that there is something wrong! Additional warnings of poor dental health are bleeding gums, yellow or brown teeth, pawing at the mouth and loose or missing teeth.

Brush Those Teeth!
Brushing your cat or dog's teeth may seem intimidating at first, but you can begin by letting your pet smell the toothbrush and pet toothpaste (human toothpaste is not safe for pets!) Over time, you can gradually ease into brushing on each side of the mouth for a few seconds.

Toys, Treats and More:
Consider toys, treats and food that are designed to improve oral health in pets by removing troublesome plaque. Before purchasing, look for the Seal of Acceptance from the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

The Scoop on Dental Exams:
A thorough dental appointment will include an exam of your companion's head and neck to check for abnormalities as well as the teeth and gums to look for redness, swelling or bleeding. To remove pesky plaque and clean your pet's teeth well, veterinarians recommend putting them under anesthesia.

And, we couldn't forget about those bunnies! 


Rabbit teeth differ from the teeth of cats and dogs because they continue to grow for their entire lives. This is a characteristic that can be found in animals who naturally eat tough, fibrous plants and vegetation. You can't brush rabbit teeth, but below are some tips to care for your bun's oral health!

80-90% of a rabbit's diet should consist of fibrous grass hay. Fed a low-fiber diet, the molars get too long, the upper molars curve sideways and form a sharp spike that cuts into the cheek, and the lower molars curve inward and form a spike that cuts into the tongue. To avoid these painful oral problems, it is vital to keep track of your rabbit's diet. 

Behavior Changes:
Monitor your rabbit for changes in behavior such as: if he stops eating hay and pellets, if he is eating less food overall, if he runs up to the food as if he’s hungry, sniffs it, then walks away without eating, if he has episodes of anorexia that recur every few months, if you find moisture around his mouth or on his chin, or a sour odor to his breath. If you notice these, there may be dental problems.

Dental Exams:
When you take your bun for their yearly exam, be sure the veterinarian checks their teeth. Most emergency vet trips are due to dental issues!

Toys for Healthy Teeth!
You may think rabbits only have the first two teeth you see in the front, but they really have 28! A good type of toy to offer your bun are wood-based toys to wear down the teeth similarly to how they are worn down in nature.

We hope these oral health tips are helpful in keeping your pet safe, healthy and happy for many years to come.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sit Happens

Having trouble teaching your canine friend to sit on command? We have a few tips and tricks to help you help you and your pup work on their doggy manners. It's much easier than you think!

Here's how you can teach a dog to sit upon request:

Hold a lure (a tasty treat or toy that a dog loves) in front of his face at nose level. Let him sniff it so that he realizes you are holding something he likes.

Slowly move your hand with the lure in it from the dog's nose up, along the top of his muzzle, between his ears. The treat should be held high enough that the dog has to crane his neck, but not so high he needs to jump up. When your dog looks up at the lure, he will probably sit to maintain his balance.

As soon as he sits, praise him and feed him the treat or let him play with the lure. After the dog has learned to sit with the lure, add the verbal cue, “Sit.”

Once the dog sits reliably with a lure, try to drop the lure and simply use your empty hand as a signal by following the steps above.

Once the dog reliably sits without the lure (treat or hand signal), only treat him sporadically when he sits. Vary how often and when you give treats

Need some Pointers?
  • Every now and then give the dog a jackpot – a handful of treats as a huge reward. Occasional jackpots keep dogs working, hoping to hit the jackpot.
  • Teach the dog to sit in a variety of situations and locations (e.g., before being fed, before going through doorways, before being given a treat or toy, before greeting a person, etc.)  
  • If trained properly, sit should become the dog’s default behavior (e.g., the behavior the dog offers anytime he wants something).
  • Don’t reward the dog if he jumps or paws at you, or otherwise acts pushy when asking him to sit. If this happens, withdraw the lure and turn away from the dog, then start again.
Teaching your pooch simple commands like "sit" can strengthen the bond you share, leading to greater trust and more affection! Sit could be the first step to a long, enriching life with you for your canine family member!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Slow and Steady

Some visitors to Animal Friends find a dog, cat or rabbit who is just right for them on their first visit. Others come back several times, waiting to find their perfect match. And then there are those who find exactly who they’re looking for without ever stepping foot inside the building.

Which is how Josh first met Delight …

After losing his 12-year-old Coonhound mix, Maggie, to an unexpected illness, Josh knew he could never replace her. She was one-of-a-kind, but something told him there was a place in his home and heart for another hound. So, Josh began searching online for a dog who needed him just as much as he needed them.

Soon, Josh came across the profile for our very own 6-year-old English Coonhound named Delight. She needed a patient family, one who would be willing to take the time to work with her.

You see, Delight had a very timid nature and, while her closest human friends knew how sweet and friendly she was, her shyness made it hard for new friends to see her true colors. Thankfully, when Josh came to visit her, he was willing to wait until she was comfortable. Before long, he was getting to know a sweet dog who was gently sniffing him and searching for a peaceful place for a nap.

A few days later, Josh returned to Animal Friends with his two dogs so they could meet Delight. Everything went well, so Delight officially became “Ginger” and was on her way home!

Once she arrived, Ginger was a little unsure. She took her time sniffing around her new home, exploring her big, fenced-in yard and getting to know her new canine brother and sister. After a few short days, it was clear that Ginger was home.

It’s been about a month since Ginger found her new family and things have been great! Josh and Ginger enjoy each other’s company every day and, if you ask him, it seems like Ginger has been part of the family for her entire life.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Orrie: Animal Friends' Home to Home Adoption Program

Meet Orrie (short for Orrville)! She’s a 9-year-old cuddly domestic shorthair with a gorgeous brown tabby coat. Orrie’s ideal home would be one that is quiet and stress free where she can continue living the life that she’s used to as an indoor cat.

She is very gentle and so affectionate, but young children and other pets tend to make her nervous, so she’d rather join a family with older members where she’ll be the only pet. When things are nice and calm, Orrie’s favorite thing to do is curl up on a warm lap and purr the day away.

If you have a cozy and welcoming home with room for a sweet feline member, get to know Orrie! You can contact her current family at wnatali116@gmail.com.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Dak's Road to Puppy Bowl XIV

It all started in August when Wonder Woman, a young Treeing Walker Coonhound and her litter of newborn puppies were transferred to Animal Friends from another shelter. The playful puppies were all given superhero names like their mother … Batman, Supergirl, Ironman, Huntress, Superman and, of course, Aquaman.

When they were just a few days old, a call went out to shelters across the country  Animal Planet was in search of the stars of Puppy Bowl XIV. So, these adorable pups put on their best face and struck a pose for the camera. We sent Aquaman's photo off to Animal Planet and crossed our fingers!

A few weeks later, the great news arrived Aquaman had been selected to compete in the big game! With just a short amount of time to prepare, Aquaman set his sights on the Lombarky Trophy and the coveted title of MVP (Most Valuable Pup). The filming of the Puppy Bowl was to take place in  New York City in October, so when the time came, Aquaman hit the road and was on his way to the Big Apple.

About 7 hours and a few bathroom breaks later, he had arrived! Aquaman had celebrity-style accommodations for the trip, complete with a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline but the big city wasn’t the least bit overwhelming for this little pup!

Aquaman took in the sights and sounds of the city that never sleeps and made plenty of new friends along the way. After all, just shy of 3 months old, socialization is very important for a young puppy.

And, he was sure to stay out of trouble you know reputations are very important for a professional athlete.

This handsome little guy needed his rest though. The next day was going to be a big one as he would head to the filming and be one step closer to making his television debut in the biggest sporting event in the canine world!

The next day, Aquaman was up bright and early and made his way downtown for the Puppy Bowl. Once he arrived, he got to meet the other athletes more than 90 puppies from across the country. The puppy competitors had traveled from as far as Tennessee, Arkansas, Colorado and California. It was a whirlwind of a day as Aquaman posed for photos, filmed Puppy Bowl promotions, got a DNA test (now there’s no doubt, he’s 100 percent Treeing Walker Coonhound!) and enjoyed some valuable socializing with the other puppies and their handlers.

And then it was off to the television set for the game to begin! We don't have any spoilers about who won the big game, but keep an eye out for Aquaman who has since been adopted and will be called by his new name “Dak” during the telecast as he struts his stuff up and down the field. Whether he scores the game-winning touchdown or is flagged for unnecessary cuteness, there are plenty of loyal fans back at Animal Friends who are proud that Dak is representing Pittsburgh in Puppy Bowl XIV!

The Puppy Bowl will air on Sunday, Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. on Animal Planet. Tune in to watch as Dak competes to bring the Lombarky trophy and the Most Valuable Pup title to Pittsburgh and Animal Friends!

To celebrate the Puppy Bowl and Dak's world premiere, we're hosting The Ultimate Tail-Gate! This adoption event will run all weekend long with our very own mini Puppy Bowl taking place on Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Jake: Animal Friends' Home to Home Adoption Program

Jake is a purebred Jack Russell Terrier who is just over 2 years old. He is good with children and other dogs and despite his small size, loves to be the boss! Jake is an active boy who will need daily exercise.
This handsome boy's family has been experiencing some changes and have made the difficult decision that they can no longer give Jake the lifestyle they know he deserves. He loves to cuddle (especially with kids!) and is a great companion for his family, young and old alike. It's very important to Jake's family that he find a loving home that will give him daily walks, lots of love and all of the care and affection he's become accustomed to.
If your family could be the one that Jake needs, contact his family:

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Henry: Animal Friends' Home to Home Adoption Program

Meet Henry! This handsome black domestic shorthair is about 3 years old and was found as a stray by a Good Samaritan. For a while, he was living outdoors and being cared for by his new human friends, but when the weather turned cold, they decided to bring him inside.

Henry is neutered and has tested negative for both FIV and Feline Leukemia. And, he's up-to-date on all of his vaccinations – all he needs is a loving family to call his own!

During their time with him, Henry's caretakers have seen his sweet and silly personality and have learned how much he likes to play! Henry absolutely loves people and is very friendly with everyone he meets. This ebony kitty is very talkative and will keep you entertained with his constant chirps and mews.

Henry's foster family doesn't have the room to take in another cat permanently, but they know he is going to make a great companion to a lucky family. He is very good about using his scratching post and is litterbox trained. Henry also loves to lounge around on his cat tree or spend time chasing his toys. His currently family feels that Henry may do well with a cat-friendly dog or another cat in his new home ... he just needs to find them!

To learn more about Henry or to set up a meet and greet, contact Arlene at 724.283.8610 or Keatsar@Hotmail.com.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Roxas: Animal Friends' Home to Home Adoption Program

This handsome 7 1/2-year-old Labrador Retriever is Roxas. At 90 pounds, he is a big, powerful dog with a heart of gold. Roxas hasn't had any medical issues during his time with his current family and has been on a healthy and balanced diet for the majority of his life.
Roxas is typically a very well-mannered and obedient boy and generally has a quiet and mild personality. He knows how to sit, stay and come and is eager to learn a few more commands. While Roxas loves to play with his human friends, he can be a bit selective with other canine companions, so he will need a chance to be properly introduced before interacting with other animals.
This friendly pooch is in search of a family that can give him the loving home he deserves. While he is a very sweet dog, Roxas can be protective of people, so his new family will need to be aware of this when introducing him to friends, neighbors and other visitors. If you think you can give a playful middle-aged pup a warm and welcoming home, consider meeting Roxas!
To set up a meet and greet with Roxas, contact his current family at artlavigne@comcast.net.

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Message from our President & CEO

Dear Friend,

If you know anything about Animal Friends, you know that we never back down from the challenges that come along with rescuing animals.

As I walk through our kennels and see the faces of the animals in our care, I can’t help but to feel thankful for each and every one of you who will help us to give them a fresh start.

You’re the reason that we’re able to provide them with safe haven. That we’re able to bring outreach and education to our local communities. That we can rescue, rehabilitate and – of course – provide second chances for the animals who need it most.

I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done to help us to become such a trusted and valued part of our community.

But today, I come to you because Animal Friends needs your help.

As part of our Rescued for the Holidays Campaign, we’ll work closely with our partners in our region to bring even more homeless dogs, cats and rabbits into our facility to give them much-needed – and much-deserved – second chances. But, we can't continue our lifesaving mission without you.

So on behalf of the animals, we are asking you to give compassionately this year.

With gratitude and sincere wishes for a bright new year,

David J. Swisher
President & Chief Executive Officer
Animal Friends

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Saving Lives and Spreading Smiles

Every year, hundreds of kittens find their way through our doors. Sadly, many of them arrive without the safety, security and nutrition their mother can offer. Under these circumstances, we rely on Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR) to give them the important nutritional support that a mother cat’s milk provides. For kittens newborn to 6 weeks old, mother’s milk supplies prebiotics, probiotics, vitamins and minerals that are essential for them to grow into healthy adults.

This was just the case in August when we met Olwen, a tiny kitten who was just 5 days old. He had been discovered by a construction worker and was brought to Animal Friends. He was dirty, covered in oil and infested with fleas. We knew we needed to act quickly, so our Medical team jumped into action getting Olwen cleaned up and placing him into an incubator.

Since Olwen was still far too young to be away from his mother, we started him on KMR to be sure he would have a steady supply of the critical nutrition he would need to gain his strength. Before too long, Olwen was well on his way to growing into a healthy, happy and playful kitten. Once he was given a clean bill of health, Olwen was ready for adoption and just a few short months after arriving at Animal Friends, he found a loving new home!

You can save the lives of kittens just like Olwen (and all of our animal friends) by sending them a gift from our Amazon Wish List. For an added bonus, start your shopping at Smile.Amazon.com and designate Animal Friends as your charity and a portion of every purchase you make on Amazon will be donated to benefit our shelter residents. With the holiday season upon us and lots of online shopping to do, you can make a big difference in the lives of some very deserving animals.

Click here to see what else our four-legged friends are wishing for this year!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Spread Holiday Cheer with Animal Friends

Exercise is extremely important for rabbits, especially young bunnies who are still growing, learning and developing important social skills. While adult rabbits require time every day for playing and exercising – at least 2 hours daily – it’s even more essential for babies, who should have at least 4 hours to sniff, play and explore each day.

And, the young kits at Animal Friends – like Parker and Porter – are no different. These 5-month-old brothers came to us from another shelter and we saw their playful and energetic personalities right away! Giving Parker and Porter plenty of opportunities to put their minds to work has helped them continue to learn and grow. With the help of enrichment toys like the Toss and Learn Carrot Game, they can even make the most of time spent in their kennels.

You can brighten the lives of our resident rabbits (and all of our animal friends) by sending them a little holiday cheer from our Amazon Wish List. For an added bonus, start your shopping at Smile.Amazon.com and designate Animal Friends as your charity and a portion of every purchase you make on Amazon will be donated to benefit our shelter residents. With the holiday season upon us and lots of online shopping to do, you can make a big difference in the lives of some very deserving animals.

Click here to see what our four-legged friends are wishing for this year!