Keeping Your Pet Warm (And In Style) In Winter

frenchi hoodIt’s that bizarre time of year in Iowa again — one day it’s 45 degrees and sunny, and snow is coming down hard the next. Winter is almost over, but we’re not quite out of the woods yet. In the meantime, here are some great options for keeping your pet warm on those chilly days (and check out our post on winter safety tips while you’re at it). And hang in there — spring is almost here!

RC Pet Products Sport Pawks Socks

RC Pawks

Photo courtesy of RC Pet Products

These socks are equal parts functional and cute, with non-slip soles and eight bright colors to choose from. They protect your pet’s paws from the harsh salt and chemicals that are found on the sidewalks in winter, as well as providing a bit of traction for icy spots. They can be worn indoors to help older dogs or pets who have trouble keeping their footing on slick hardwood or tile floors.

While these socks might not be the best option for a blizzard or more severe snowfall, they are perfect for after sidewalks have been shoveled. For a more heavy-duty option, we’d suggest:

Ruffwear Polar Trex Boots

Ruffwear Polar Trex

Photo Courtesy of Ruffwear

These durable boots are specifically designed to handle snow and ice, with three layers of warmth and a sole carefully engineered to give your dog maximum traction and control on the ice. They also feature a reflective trim so your pet will be safer at night. And good news: Ruffwear also has single boots available for sale, so in the event that your pup loses one of his boots, you don’t need to buy another set of four.

Chilly Dog Sweaters

Chilly Dog Cable Knit 3

Photo courtesy of Chilly Dog

Chilly Dog Cable Knit

Photo courtesy of Chilly Dog

Chilly Dog Cable Knit 2

Photo courtesy of Chilly Dog

It’s not just your dog’s paws that need protection in these cold winter months. These sweaters will keep your pet warm both indoors and out, and come in a variety of patterns and colors. As an added bonus, all Chilly Dog sweaters are handmade and created following Fair Trade guidelines. And they sell scarves too!

Hurtta Winter Jacket


Photo courtesy of Hurtta

While many pets will be just fine wearing a sweater on milder days, this waterproof jacket will provide your furry friend with more protection in rain, sleet or snow. The jacket is adjustable, making it a perfect fit for each individual dog. It also provides extra coverage that other jackets do not, protecting your dog’s tummy and major muscle groups from the cold.

RC Pet Gear Whistler Zipline V2

rc pets whistler zipline

Photo courtesy of RC Pet Products

For many owners, finding a jacket that fits their dog is relatively easy. However, some dogs are shaped in such a way that it is difficult for them to fit into many. This jacket is made specifically for dogs with barrel chests and thicker necks (bulldogs, pugs, etc.) who typically have trouble fitting into pieces that other dogs their size can. The jacket is fleece-lined, reflective and water-resistant, ensuring that your dog will be safe and warm.

Zack & Zoey Fleece Flower Dog Jacket

Photo courtesy of BaxterBoo

Photo courtesy of BaxterBoo

This fleece jacket will keep your dog both warm and fashionable in the snow. With its flower detail and button/tab accents, it’s a perfect option for a pet who wants to be cozy without giving up style.

Doggie Design Brown Plaid Classic Coat Harness with Matching Leash

doggie design

Photo courtesy of Doggie Design

This stylish plaid coat (also available in houndstooth) features a plush faux fur collar to keep your pet in vogue and out of the vet’s office. It also comes with a matching leash that easily attaches to a ring on the back of the coat.

East Side Collection Corduroy Toggle Dog Coat

Photo courtesy of BaxterBoo

Photo courtesy of BaxterBoo

This coat, available in your choice of trendy green or raspberry, will keep your pet warm with its sherpa-lined cotton shell. It also has working toggles and pockets on the back and velcro closures on the stomach for easy dressing.

Sunbeam Self-Warming Heated Pet Bed

Photo courtesy of PetSmart

Photo courtesy of PetSmart

We didn’t forget about our feline friends! Cats like to look out the window to observe the goings-on of the neighborhood (and birdwatch), and the freezing winter temperatures won’t keep them away from their favorite watch post, no matter how chilly it might get. This heated bed will keep them warm while they keep watch, and its self-warming core means that no cords are necessary. It’s perfect for dogs, too!

Posted in Cats, Dogs, Holiday | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Stop the Sniffles: Tips for Living with Pet Allergies

cat reach

No matter how much we enjoy spending time with our pets, nothing can ruin it more than dealing with a runny nose, an itchy throat, or watery eyes. But even if you suffer from pet allergies, there are a number of measures you can take to keep them in check around the house so you can keep your pets where they should be: at home.

Pet allergies are caused by a protein found in pet dander. While it is commonly thought that pet dander comes exclusively from a pet’s fur, it is also found in their saliva and urine. Pet dander particles are airborne, which makes it easy for them to get all over your house.

Pet allergy symptoms can range from the mild (nasal congestion and sneezing, itchy throat, watery eyes) to the severe (asthma-like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath). If you think you might be allergic to your pet, you should make absolutely certain before you begin taking steps to reduce allergens in your home. Make an appointment with an allergist and have them test you specifically for an allergy to pet dander — he or she can help you figure out if your Shih Tzu is making you sneeze, or if it’s something else.

If it turns out you are allergic to your pet, don’t fret — here are some actions you can take to keep both you and your pet happy at home.

Make your bedroom a pet-free zone

Though this may be an challenging feat to ask of some pet owners, experts recommend keeping pets out of your bedroom. With the bedding, carpet, curtains and other fabrics you may have, there is no shortage of places for pet dander to get into and stick. Unfortunately, keeping irritants out also means keeping Fido away. On the plus side, a lack of allergens (and early wake-up face-lickings) may help you sleep better at night. But if you just can’t keep pets out of room, add an anti-allergen cover to your bed to help keep dander at bay.

Invest in a HEPA filter

A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestance) filter can help to remove those tiny particles that trigger allergies from the air. While a HEPA filter can be used for the whole house, a smaller standalone filter may be more beneficial if you’re looking to focus on keeping one specific room allergen-free (like, your cat’s favorite hiding spot under the couch).

Keep it clean

Owners living with allergies should be prepared to do a little housework. In order to keep your space clean, you should regularly vacuum (using an allergen-proof vacuum bag or a vacuum with a HEPA filter), wipe down walls where your pets tend to lean against, dust, change your furnace filters, and change both your and your pet’s bedding. And if you’re up for a little remodeling, consider changing out carpeted floors for hard-surfaced flooring instead. Carpeted floors trap more allergens than wood, linoleum, or tile, and ditching the carpet may help reduce your allergies (and cleaning to-do list) significantly.

Wash up

While bathing your pet regularly does help to ease allergy symptoms, the effects of a bath only last for a day or two and aren’t quite worth the trouble. Instead, make sure to wash your hands frequently (especially after touching your pet) for continuous cleanliness. Also worth a try are anti-allergen pet wipes. Giving your pet a daily wipedown is much easier than coaxing your cat into the bathtub any day.


Many over-the-counter medications can help allergy sufferers with milder symptoms cuddle with their pet in peace. For more severe symptoms, talk to your doctor or allergist to see if a prescription medication is right for you.

Give it a shot

Allergy vaccines, also known as immunotherapy, help your body develop antibodies to protect against allergens. They can even help you develop immunity over time (lots of time). In order to build up complete immunity, it can take up to a year of weekly injections, followed by 3-5 years of monthly shots. Decide if you have enough time for these appointments before committing to this decision.

Stay away from the litter box

Pet dander is found in urine, so the litter box is a playground for allergens and should be avoided by allergy sufferers at all costs (conveniently giving you the perfect excuse to make someone else do the scooping).

Posted in Cats, Dogs | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Fat Cat No More: Helping Your Kitty Lose Weight


Have you noticed there’s a bit more of your cat to love lately? You’re not alone: according to a 2013 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 30% of cats in America are overweight, and 27% are obese. Housecats tend to lead very comfortable lives, with easily accessible food and rooms filled with places they love to nap. This surplus of food and rest can lead kitties to put on a little extra weight, which can be harder for them to lose since, unlike dogs, most cats can’t go on daily walks or take trips to the park. But fear not: feline weight loss far from impossible. Here are some simple tips and tricks from PetMD and Everyday Health that will help your cat slim down in no time!

Stop “free choice” feeding

Many cat owners employ the “free choice” method of feeding, which means that food is always available in a cat’s bowl so they can eat whenever they want throughout the day. However, this unstructured feeding can sometimes lead owners to feed cats more than they realize and cats to overeat. Instead, try feeding your cat 2-4 smaller meals throughout the day, and make sure you’re feeding your cat the appropriate amount of food for its size. Discuss with your veterinarian to figure out whether this method would benefit your cat and, if so, exactly how much you should be feeding him or her. And keep in mind that transitioning from free choice feeding to a structured schedule may cause some distress for cats who are used to having food available 24/7.

Cut carbs

Cats don’t have Amylase, the enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates in other animals, like dogs and humans. This means that when a cat eats carbs, it’s much harder for their bodies to digest their food efficiently. Since many mass-produced cat foods are loaded with carbs, it’s easy for a cat to pack on weight from eating them. Try switching to a high-protein diet — cats’ bodies are made to take in protein, so they are able to digest foods with meat in them much more easily than carbs.

Give fewer treats

We know, we know! Most cat owners love to reward their feline friends with a treat now and then, but most treats are loaded with carbs and sugars, which aren’t doing anything for your cat’s figure. When you want to show your cat some love, trying giving them small pieces of cooked chicken or fish instead. 

Get a cat tower

Cats love to climb, and the addition of a multi-story cat tower to your home will give them a place to do it (without ruining your curtains)! You can buy a cat tower, or you can even make your own out of cardboard boxes. For some extra encouragement, try placing small treats on the tower to motivate your kitty to climb.

Round up some toys

You can head to the store to buy some toys for your cat, but you’ll find that many cats will be happy to play with whatever you can find around the house — empty boxes, paper sacks, ping pong balls, even crumpled-up receipts can get your cat up and moving! Avoid toys that go on your hands or fingers, this can cause your cat to mistake your hand for a toy. The best toys are those that can be climbed in, tossed or chased. But if you still feel like buying your cat a present, many retailers sell multi-use wands that come with different toy attachments. It’s a versatile item that will keep your cat entertained. But be sure to let your cat “capture” their toy to keep them from becoming frustrated! 

Send them hunting for treats

Place treats throughout the house to keep your cat on the move. And for cleverer cats, try a puzzle toy that will require a little extra work from your cat to get the treats inside.

Find a friend

Nobody likes losing weight alone — adding a second cat to the mix can help motivate yours to exercise! Along with the added benefits of companionship, adding another cat to your home can help to keep both animals playful and active. The Animal Rescue League has many fabulous felines waiting for their forever home. Stop by today, or take a look at our website to see if any of our adoptables would be a good fit for your home. If you aren’t in the Des Moines area, check out your local shelter to find your cat’s new chum.

Posted in Cats | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Happy Valentine’s Day! DIY Heart Toys

group 2Valentine’s Day is almost here, and since our pets can’t enjoy a dozen roses or a box of chocolates, it’s time to get a little crafty. Show some love for your four-legged friends with this easy (no-sew) DIY heart toy! Courtesy of

What you’ll need:

  • Fleece (1 yard makes 3-4 toys)
  • Scissors
  • Sharpie/Marker
  • Heart Stencil (or a steady hand)
  1. Fold your fleece in half to create two layers.
  2. Using a sharpie or marker, trace a heart with a stencil (or freehand it!) onto the fleece. heart 1
  3. Keeping the two layers together, cut the fabric into a circle about 2 inches around the outside of the heart (to leave room for tying knots). circle
  4. Cut two slits on the edge of the heart, then tie the two pieces together. Double-knot it to make sure it’s secure.
  5. Repeat until most of the heart is tied, leaving a small hole. heart 4
  6. Fill the heart using your extra fleece as stuffing. Make sure to use long, wide strips rather than tiny pieces.
  7. Finish tying until the heart is sealed. 
  8. Trim the edges of the ties.
  9. Present your gift to your fluffy Valentine! final
Posted in Cats, DIY, Dogs, Holiday | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Litter-ary Club Meets for the Final Time this Semester

On Tuesday, the Animal Rescue League’s Litter-ary Club had their last biweekly visit of the semester. Litter-ary Club is made up of students from Amos Hiatt Middle School in Des Moines.

During visits, the group practices reading reading books out loud to our adoptable animals. The program helps kids improve their reading skills by giving them a non-judgmental listener. The animals don’t care if the students slip up on a word here and there — they are just happy to have some company!

For their final meeting, the Litter-ary Club students took a trip out to the barn to meet with and read to the horses. The club typically practices their skills in the main building of ARL, but had a special day on Tuesday to wrap up a great semester!

Posted in Barn Animals, Cats, Dogs, Schools | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Top 10 Winter Weather Pet Tips


It’s that time of year again. We can’t keep the snow and freezing temps away, but we can share some simple advice to keep you and your furry ones comfortable during the chilly season. Here are our top 10 winter weather pet tips:

  1. Keep pets hydrated. Provide fresh, unfrozen water at all times.
  2. Take shorter walks. Allow dogs the opportunity to get daily exercise in the winter. This might mean taking 2-3 shorter walks versus 1 long daily walk.
  3. Wipe off your dog’s paws after walks OR invest in a pair of doggie booties, if your pup will tolerate them. The booties not only protect the dog’s paws from the cold but they also keep paws clean from antifreeze, rock salt, and other dangerous chemicals that can be picked up from the ground.
  4. Keep pets indoors as much as possible but if they must be outdoors, provide warm, accessible shelter from the elements. Remember that an acceptable shelter means that it should provide  protection from the elements and your pet should be able to move comfortably and lay down in it. If you have more than one dog outside, make sure that their shelter will accommodate both at the same time. An outdoor heating pad or a space heater is a great way to be sure your dog stays warm and cozy, but ultimately, when temperatures drop it’s best to let your four-legged friend inside.
  5. In extremely cold weather, go outdoors with your pet — when you are ready to go back inside, your pet is probably ready as well.
  6. Give cats a warm comfy bed by a window. Cats love to look out windows, but they can get chilly in the winter. Make sure your cat stays warm by adding a few extra blankets.
  7. Groom cautiously. Dogs need longer hair in the winter to stay warm. Pay attention to your dog’s coat: fur that is too long can get tangled, become harder to brush, and make it tough for them to see.
  8. Invest in a sweater for short-haired dogs. This will help them stay warm in the chilly weather — and they’ll look cute too!
  9. Keep pets ID’d and microchipped in case they get lost. Dogs and cats depend on their sense of smell to find their way back home, but a fresh snowfall can restrict their senses. A pet ID and microchip will increase the odds of your furry family member returning home.
  10. Cats and dogs get cabin fever too! Give them fun indoor activities that stimulate their mind while they are cooped up without much physical exercise during the winter months.

We hope these tips will make the next few months go by a little faster for you and your pets. Warm wishes!

Posted in Cats, Dogs, Holiday | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Homemade Dog Treats

What better way to encourage your furry friend with positive reinforcement than to bake a fresh batch of homemade dog treats? These treats are a hit at the ARL and we’re sure your pup will love them too! For peanut butter-loving pooches, you can substitute the beef bouillon and cheese with one cup of peanut butter. Have fun baking!

Prep time: 30 minutes                   Cook time: 30 minutes                   Makes 3 dozen

blog dog treats


·         1 cup rolled oats ·         2 teaspoons beef bouillon                        granules
·         1/3 cup margarine ·         ½ cup milk
·         1 cup boiling water ·         1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
·         ¾ cup cornmeal ·         1 egg, beaten
·         2 teaspoons white sugar ·         3 cups whole wheat flour

What You Will Need:

  • 1 mixing bowl
  • liquid measuring cup
  • dry measuring cups
  • rubber spatula
  • 3+ cookie sheets
  • sealable storage containers


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, margarine, and boiling water. Let stand 10 minutes. Grease cookie sheets.

2. Thoroughly stir in cornmeal, sugar, bouillon, milk, Cheddar cheese, and egg. Mix in flour, 1 cup at a time, until a stiff dough has formed.


3. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface, mixing in additional flour as necessary until dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Roll or pat out dough to 1/2″ thickness. Cut with cookie cutter (We prefer bone-shaped), and place 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.


4. Bake 35 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Cool before serving. Store in a loosely covered container.


What we did with our treats:

After the aroma of freshly baked dog treats (which actually smell just like homemade bread) filled the shelter, we tested the goodies on the toughest critics.





The reviews were so good, we decided to bag up the remaining two dozen treats to go home with adopted dogs.


Posted in DIY, Dogs | Tagged , | Leave a comment