Pet Theft Awareness

Pet theft is nothing new. People have come up with sneaky ways to steal animals practically since the beginning of time. The pandemic has brought out the crazy, the devious and the heartless souls that opportunistically prey upon pet owners. These pet thieves have three secret weapons: your ignorance, your unwillingness and your perception.

Your Ignorance

Most pet parents pride themselves on their love and devotion to their companion pet, but actually often do little to find out the specific needs of the breed in which they have purchased/rescued. If you do not do your due diligence, you could end up with a pet that does not in any way suit your lifestyle. Not knowing what you are getting into contributes to high rates of pets ending up in shelters each year. Most pets enter shelters between the ages of 5 months and 3 years. Those are the early years of life.

A fair amount of research needs to be done to ensure the safety of the family as well as the needs of the pet. Pet owners cannot be fooled into believing that they are doing their pet or the community a great service by purchasing or rescuing a pet. If pet research is not done, a pet owner will not know what best suits the breed of pet they have brought home. Their pet might be prone to trying to get out of the house, if they are scared of the environment, feel the need to run away from the home, traumatized in the environment if it resembles or reminds them of their traumatic past, or want to find what they believe is safety elsewhere.

Aside from pet research that needs to be done, a pet parent must become more aware of their surroundings. Most humans are grievously distracted. Cell phones, stress, anxiety and fear of the everyday worries of life dominate our minds and make it difficult to be present in the moment and pay attention to what is going on around us; if we don’t pay attention, others will.

Your Unwillingness

The average pet owner is loving, caring and tries to do their best for their pet. Some pet owners’ habits, past experiences, and overall way they think about pet ownership, can easily lead to their pet ending up in the hands of people up to no good. An example of this, is a dog owner who insists on walking their dog wearing a very loose collar. A collar should be snug. If a dog becomes frightened, angry, or really curious, they could attempt to get out of the collar. If it is very loose (a collar that can fit more than two fingers under the collar while worn,) the dog will simply slip his head out of the collar. It is difficult to get a motivated dog back to safety. Many owners think that a snug collar hurts their dog, but they ignore the fact that the collar is a safety device and their dog can get out of one much easier than they think.

Something that is seen a lot are dog owners who refuse to walk their dogs on a leash. They don’t see the harm in letting them “have free time.” Well, that free time can easily lead to their dog running off and ending up in the hands of someone who has no intention of returning them. Again and again, pet parents go on a “walk around the neighborhood” and their curious dog wanders off without their consent. A nice stroll around the neighborhood can be done with the added safety of a leash attached to the collar.

Another example is a cat owner who doesn’t think it is necessary to have an ID tag on their cat because their cat is an “indoor cat.” It only takes one time for the door not to be pulled shut all the way or the garage door being up while the groceries are being brought in, and the cat slips out. Making sure the doors are closed during these simple tasks will ensure the family cat does not get out.

Your Perception

Pet owners often call their pets their children and often treat them as such… sort of. You wouldn’t allow your two-year-old to wander loose in your vehicle unrestrained and stick his head out of the window, but you let your dog do it. A parent of a three-year-old would never allow them to walk 30 feet behind them while they themselves were completely distracted, but that circumstance is alright for their dog. A parent of a five-year-old would never take their child to a park, let them just run and play and not watch closely to make sure they are safe. This scenario, however, seems to be perfectly ok for a dog. You also wouldn’t go out to check the mail 50+ feet away from your house with the door open if you had an adventurous 18-month-old crawling around looking for something to do. So, why do we do this with our pets? Our perception of our pets must change in order to keep them safe from thieves. We can teach ourselves to be more alert when we are with our pets so they we do not become targets for thieves.

Dognapping, up 250% since the beginning of the pandemic, and cat abductions have unfortunately become normal. What?!? Normal? How is that? It is true. People are used to posts about lost or stolen pets. With so many distracted people, it has made a common thief’s job easy. Thieves prey on distracted people and some of them do not mind a physical altercation. Here is a short list of the kind of people who are easy to steal from:

  • Pet parents who foolishly leave their pets in their vehicle while they (“run in for a minute”)
  • Pet parents who go into stores with pets in their purses and even in baskets that are not leashed
  • Those who allow their pets to wander free in their vehicle with the windows down
  • People who go check their mail or take the garbage out to the curb with the doors open
  • Pet parents who walk their dogs with their dog trailing behind them while they are distracted
  • Those believing their pets will obey them outside their home and don’t firmly grip on the lead
  • Pet owners who walk their dogs off leash
  • Those who go jogging with their dog off leash
  • Pet owners who do not watch their pets at dog parks or beaches
  • Any pet parent who looks like they are not paying attention to their surroundings

Each pet parent can and should take measure to make sure they are engaged and alert. Each family should also consider a plan that teaches each member of the family about pet safety as it pertains to their pets, proper handling, feeding and maintenance.

Can Dogs Eat Peanut Butter or Not?

Everybody wants to know if dogs can eat Peanut Butter. If you own a dog, you know that they are likely to consume just about anything, even things that are not edible at all. Both creamy and crunchy peanut butter seem to be fan favorites for most dogs. It is also a bit funny to watch them licking their chops to eat the sticky snack off of a spoon, out of a toy or mixed in to their food.

While there is no known research as to why dogs love peanut butter so much, we do know that they love protein and fat rich foods. Peanut butter, of course is very fatty and protein rich.

Here are answers to 5 Questions Asked About Dogs Eating Peanut Butter:

  1. Can dogs have peanut butter?

Actually, yes Just remember the peanut butter CANNOT have Xylitol in it. Make a habit out of reading the label to make sure there are just a few simple ingredients like peanuts, salt, and sugar. Sugar should not be the first ingredient. Peanut butter should only be an occasional treat for your dog, no matter the age.

  1. Is peanut butter good for dogs?

Peanut butter that does not have Xylitol in it is a nice once in a while treat for your dog, but it is exactly that, a treat. Peanut butter is extremely fatty. Even though it contains the right fats, just like in humans, too much fat can lead to problems. Dogs do not do well with high fat diets. In some parts of the world, like in European, Xylitol has been banned for use in sodas because of it acts like a strong laxative.

  1. What is Xylitol?  

Simply put, Xylitol is a sugar substitute or artificial sweetener. For humans, Xylitol can be a tasty ingredient in something like peanut butter, but it can be lethal for dogs. Dog owners should also beware of any variation of the letters ‘xyl’ in peanut butter or any other food your dog consumes. Xyl means Xylitol. Other ingredients to look for are Xylite, D-Xylitol, Anhydroxylitol, xylitylglucoside, and 1,4-Anhydro-D-xylitol among others. The strange words can be confusing. These ingredients are used in popular items such as barbecue sauces, chewing gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, pancake mixes, pudding and ketchup. That is another reason why allowing your dog to eat table food or counter surf can be harmful.

  1. What is the 10% Rule?

While many dog owners like giving their dogs treats as a reward for good behavior, going pee, poop, or for staying out of undesired areas of the house, this is not a healthy habit. Most veterinarians agree as a rule that treats, including peanut butter should be limited to no more than 10% of their daily calories to avoid an unbalanced diet and obesity. Being that peanut butter is fat rich, it is extremely high in calories. What seems like a small amount of peanut butter can easily be double or triple the calories of an actual meal for your pet.

  1. What do I do if my dog ingests Xylitol?

If your dog ingests Xylitol, they will become ill. Some symptoms are invisible while others let you know right away that something is wrong. If you suspect your dog has eaten Xylitol, go directly to a veterinary hospital. Some symptoms might not show for 12-24 hours and your dog should be monitored.

Get In Shape with Your Pet

Have you been keeping on track with your fitness goals for the year? It is well known that obesity is a major problem for the two-legged world, but did you know that it has also become a big problem in the four-legged world? Over 54% of dogs are overweight. Whether you and you pets need to lose weight, you might want to consider exercising with your pet. Getting fit is a great start for a healthy life style.

Most people can think of many ways they can exercise with their dogs. Walking is by far the perfect exercise. The benefits of walking are increased stamina, lower blood pressure, greater bone density, a stronger heart and lower risk of depression. There are many of the same benefits for dogs. Regular walking yields the same benefits for dogs and can also reduce nuisance behavior. Dogs that get more exercise are less likely chew, dig in areas of the house they are not supposed to or destroy items.

If walking doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can take to the trails. The ups, downs, twists and turns of hiking trails can be great exercise. Safety is first, so make sure you go with someone or at least let someone know where you are. Make sure you do not go when it is too hot. It is not safe to walk your dog, regardless of age, on trails when it is very hot. Dirt, sand and especially rocks can heat up to temperatures well over 100 degrees. Your dog’s paw pads can easily burn. Consider the wildlife. Some trails have a lot of wildlife that your dog might want to chase after. Owners of reactive dogs should choose their trail wisely. Also, be mindful of mother nature. You and your pup can experience everything from wet slippery slopes from a fresh rain that can cause a fall, burrs found on the ground that can embed in your dog’s skin, uneven terrain and many other things. You might need booties

Whether walking or hiking, you can incorporate exercises. Here are 10 you can try:

  • Take a few steps, tell your dog to sit while your do a few squats, repeat.
  • While your dog goes pee, stand on one leg to practice your balance.
  • Lunge walk while your dog walks on the path.
  • Dance or run around a tree while your dog tries to catch you.
  • Walk backward on your walk (checking the ground first.)
  • Alter your walk route to incorporate hills. Practice the ‘wait’ command while at lights or intersections.
  • Ask your dog to ‘sit’ while you do leg lifts.
  • Tell your dog to ‘sit,’ then ‘down’ while you do planks.
  • Tell your dog to ‘lay down (or ‘down’’) while you do push ups or tricep dips on a bench.

If you are a water person, get your dog into the pool. Make sure your dog has a life jacket on so that as he plays, he will not swallow water from dipping his head under the while playing with toys. You can clip a long leash to your dog’s life vest and let your dog paddle around. Swim with your dog. See if she will follow you while you swim. Call your dog to the stairs of the pool to teach her how to get out of the pool if she needs to. Most dogs cannot get out of the side of the pool. Use the ‘come’ command.

If you have the space, try dock diving. Throw your dog’s toy into your pool or off the end of the dock (in safe water) so they will chase, jump in, retrieve and bring back their toy. If your dog doesn’t get the concept of the game, you might have to demonstrate by tossing the toy in and you jumping in after it to retrieve and bring it back. Again, a safety jacket should still be used.

For the adventurer, paddle boarding and kayaking are also perfectly fun exercises for you and your dog. Practice first on land and then the water. This could be challenging for dogs who are water lovers. They will need to be trained not to jump in every chance they get. This is the perfect time to work on the ‘sit,’ ‘stay/wait,’ ‘heal’ and come commands.

Do I really need to brush my pet’s teeth?

Does your dog’s breath smell like death? Does your cat drop food out of her mouth when eating? These are classic signs that your pet’s teeth might be in poor condition. Now that Pet Dental Month has come to a close, now is the perfect time to get started.

Since the onset of Covid-19, we more of us are at home working. This has given us time to see and sometimes smell what is going on in our pet’s mouth. For some of us, it has been a rather rude and smelly awakening. Pet parents around the world are starting to realize their pets need their teeth brushed!

In a recent Q & A with Dr. Dia McPherson-Hurt from Tuskawilla Oaks Animal Hospital in Oviedo, we had to get the skinny on just how important it is for pet parents to pay attention to and take preventative measures to make sure their pet’s teeth are in good condition.

WPPC: When should pet owners begin attempting to brush their pet’s teeth?

Dr. McPherson-Hurt: I recommend starting this process when puppies or kittens are young and still have their baby teeth, typically between 10-13 weeks old.  This is an ideal period of time to expose our young pets to new things like other animals, people, car rides, etc. without them becoming fearful.  So although they will lose their baby teeth, it’s still a good time to get them acclimated to brushing their teeth as well.

WPPC: How often should pet owners brush their pet’s teeth and is that a different answer for different kinds of pets?

Dr. McPherson-Hurt: I will speak on dogs and cats because that is what I primarily work with although every animal needs dental care, from guinea pigs to horses.  All animals are capable of developing dental disease, even our wildlife in zoos and in the their natural environment.   This is why dental care is one of the primary concerns for zoo/exotic veterinarians.

As far as our small companion animals are concerned, daily brushing is the gold standard but I have found that at least 3 times a week may be sufficient for those of us who may forget to do it daily (like me!)  I always remind owners to compare themselves to their pets.  Humans are supposed to brush twice a day every day to have optimum oral health so imagine if we never brushed and how disgusting our mouths would get.  All of us would have really bad dental disease and would be in a significant amount of pain.  I recommend trying different flavors of toothpaste to see which one your pet likes the best.  There are minty flavors but there are also meaty flavors like chicken or fish for our feline friends.  I know that sounds gross for toothpaste but the point of the paste is to remove bacteria from the surface of the tooth, not necessarily “fresh breath” that we look for as humans.  Focus on the outer portions of the teeth and be gentle when brushing. Most pets are not going to allow you to brush the inner or occlusal surfaces.   You can use a regular toothbrush or a “baby toothbrush” (the rubber ones you put on your finger).  The toothpaste should be fluoride free and foam free since our pets can’t spit it out.  Dental treats, chews, and water additives may be beneficial as well.

WPPC: What is the long term effect of not brushing your pet’s teeth?

Dr. McPherson-Hurt: Horrible dental disease which can lead to pain, tooth loss, abscesses and the possibility of oral bacteria spreading to other places in the body.  Even when owners take really good care of their pets teeth we usually still clean their teeth periodically.  Sometimes there is dental disease below the gum line at the root that you can’t see just by looking at the teeth superficially.  A dental prophylaxis every few years is a good idea to get a full picture of your pet’s oral health.  This is done under a safe anesthetic protocol tailored to your pet.  Dental x-rays are taken to assess for any changes with the roots of the teeth. We check for any oral masses or abnormalities and then the teeth are scaled and polished just like when a person goes to the dentist.  If a good dental regimen has happened at home the hope is that no teeth will need to be extracted, BUT if there is a significant amount of bone loss causing a loose tooth then it’s best to remove the diseased tooth.

We do NOT recommend anesthesia free dentals for several reasons.  Please visit the website of the American Veterinary Dental College to learn more about why anesthesia free dentals are NOT advised at  This website also has other resources for owners about dental health for pets.

It is clear that pet parents must be proactive in the dental health of their cherished pets. Each February, Winter Park Pet Concierge tries to lend a helping hand to local veterinary hospitals, groomers and play camps by donating toothbrushes so that they can be given out pet parents. It is one way that we contribute to the communities we serve.

Can Senior Dogs Get Alzheimer’s?

One of the most common questions owners ask veterinarians about their senior dogs is “Can senior dogs get Alzheimer’s?” You may have noticed that your senior dog has started slowing down, or that she seems disoriented and anxious. Some of this is normal aging, but your dog could also have the canine equivalent of Alzheimer’s: Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS).


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6 Reasons to Keep Your Dog on a Leash

We’ve seen them. You know who I’m talking about. It’s your happy-go-lucky neighbors who don’t seem to feel it is necessary to keep their dog on a leash while his dog. Their dog struts down the street without a care in the world peeing here and there. All you want is to go on a peaceful walk, but the two dogs’ eyes meet and it’s on. The dogs stare each other down while posturing, barking and growling starts before the owner even notices.
This scenario plays out on a daily basis again and again. The end of the story ranges from scare to fights, bites and costly trips to the vet and even the hospital. Why does it have to get to this? It doesn’t. Dog ownership holds great responsibility that stretches far beyond feeding and yearly vet visits. Here are 6 reasons you might want to keep your dog on a leash when out on a walk.

#1 Lower the Risks, Maximize Safety

No matter where you live, there are distractions all around. Whether in the backwoods of Montana or a large metropolitan city like Los Angeles, there are plenty of things to catch the attention of not just our dogs, but us as well. Traffic, lights, wild life, farm or road equipment, free roaming domestic animals or even feral animals are chief distractors. Being aware of things that can easily be a risk to your specific dog will increase the level of safety. If you know that your dog is spooked by the air brakes on the garbage truck, then maybe a walk before or after your garbage has been picked up would be helpful. If your dog is afraid of thunder, it would be prudent (if possible) to go for a walk prior to bad weather setting in and providing safe spaces in the home for them to go to feel safe.

#2 Unpredictable Circumstances

Knowing where you are going to take your dog for a walk is good, but owners have to know that anything can change your plan for you. If a dog becomes excited, angry or scared by a car that backfires, children that suddenly enter the scene running up to you, a neighborhood dog or squirrels running around in the grass, they could simply run off, give chase in pursuit of something desired or engage in a fight.

#3 Unknown Dangers

Let’s face it, dogs can be very curious. Those who are food driven can pick up on the scent of tasty morsels dropped by strangers and want to give it a try. Others must investigate what dog has visited a particular tree or patch of grass and spend time sniffing. Grass grazers often graze on other plants and foliage as well. This could be unhealthy and toxic.
Dogs also each one another’s poop (YUCK!) and many are lovers of cat poop. A dog that consumes the poop of a dog with a compromised immune system could easily catch something.

#4 All Dogs are Not Friendly

Just because you have a fun loving dog doesn’t mean that other people do. A dog off leash that wanders over to make friends with another dog could be met with an angry bite. It is never a good idea to assume that just because a dog looks friendly it is. Having your dog on a leash gives you more control in case your dog gets scared, but.

#5 You Could Lose Your Dog

When dogs are excited, angry or scared, many of them lose their natural self-preservation skills and will run into the street, fight another dog (even though this might be out of character) or completely disregard their owner’s commands. The commands “stop, sit, come, out and leave it,” often fall on deaf ears when their emotions run high. A dog running away is not the only way a dog owner could lose their dog. Injuries sustained from being hit by a car could result in the loss of the dog’s life. A dog running around could easily be either stolen or picked up and taken to a shelter. Dogs can travel great distances in a short period of time. If they are taken to a shelter outside of the area the owners think they are in, they could be adopted out or euthanized. Also, if a dog gets into a fight with another dog, it could lead to an investigation that could result in the dog being put down.

#6 People are entitled to walk peacefully without having to deal with your dog.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is a dog lover. A lot people hate dogs. In many cultures, it is believed that dogs are to be kept outside and not domesticated. Some just aren’t tolerant of wet noses and shedding dog hair; while still others are terrified of them. It is also worth noting that many people are simply allergic to dogs. Exposure to them can cause a variety of reactions from itchy skin and difficulty breathing to full cardiac arrest. People with severe allergies normally carry an EpiPen (Epinephrine auto-injector).
In order to assure the greatest safety to your dogs, walk them on a leash until there is a safe place, such as your own fenced in property or an off leash dog park.


3 Reasons Your Local Professional Pet Sitter is Your Best Pet-Care Option

Small Business Saturday®, created in 2010 by American Express, is celebrated each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (and the day after Black Friday) to encourage consumers to support their local small businesses. While this event likely makes you think of local boutiques, neighborhood restaurants or independently-owned jewelry or home décor shops, there’s another business you shouldn’t overlook when you focus on shopping local—your local professional pet-sitting business.

While the growing need for pet-care services has prompted many tech companies and venture capitalists to enter the industry in recent years and launch large pet-sitter directories, don’t let the click and select convenience of the online sites and apps overshadow the benefits of selecting and supporting a local professional pet-sitting business established in your community.

While some apps and sites offer on-demand pet sits and dog walks, there are many advantages to taking the time to seek out—and book—the services of a local professional pet-sitting business:

  1. You are able to avoid the middle man. When you use your local professional pet-sitting business, you are able to contact the pet-sitting business owner directly and book your services through him or her. You also handle payment directly through the business (versus a third-party site) so this gives you more flexibility in payment options, depending upon the pet sitter’s policies.
  2. Your pet-care provider will have insurance customized to his or her specific business needs. While some online pet-sitter directories may provide insurance for pet-sitting visits booked through the site, using a local professional pet-sitting business—that maintains its own pet-sitter insurance—allows you to confirm that the pet sitter has insurance specific to his or her business and the services offered.  It’s important to note that the insurance coverage offered by some of the pet-sitter directory sites and apps require a large deductible to be paid by the pet owner should an issue occur.  When using your local professional pet sitter, you are able to ask for proof of insurance and confirm that the business has an insurance policy that is customized for pet sitting. This ensures that your pet (and home) are covered should an accident occur during the pet-sitting assignment.
  3. You put more money into your local economy.  While apps and online pet-sitter booking sites may offer a convenient online payment option, most sites and apps keep a portion of the payment, with pet sitters able to keep only around 80 percent of what the client pays. Working directly with a local professional pet-sitting business allows you to fully contribute to your local economy, with your entire payment for pet-sitting fees going to a local business owner—who in turn, is likely supporting other local businesses. It’s a win-win!

Take the time to “shop local” for your pet-care needs.

With more pet-care options than ever before, it’s more important than ever that pet owners devote time for their search to find the perfect professional pet sitter for their pets. The peace of mind that comes from using a professional pet-sitting business that is insured, bonded and can offer proof of a clear criminal history is priceless.  Plus, seeking out the services of a local professional pet-sitting business ensures you are utilizing the services of a local professional that is rooted in your community, involved in local pet-related efforts and is contributing to your local economy.

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Disaster Preparedness Day: Are you prepared?

When making a family disaster plan, it is important that your plan include every member of your household, including your pets. A well thought out plan can save lives. We all know that the best planning takes place before a disaster or emergency happens. Responding to a disaster or emergency while it is happening can only cause chaos, frustration and could lead to injury and loss of life. Here are the top five things you must to in order to be ready for a disaster or every day emergency:

1. Properly ID Your Pets

While a new trend is taking place among pet owners to allow their pets to forego using collars and ID tags because they are microchipped, this could become problematic if you have an emergency. If separated during an emergency, you have a greater chance of being reunited with your pet/s if they are wearing ID tags with up-to-date information such as your phone number, and the phone number of a pet sitter or friend who knows your pet.

2. Make a Pet Emergency Preparedness Kit

Include the following items:

food and water medicines and records litter box, scoop and bags
carrier and leashes pet photos with descriptions notes and vet contact*
pet bed and toys list of known pet friendly lodging your pet

*Be sure that your notes about your pet/s includes their feeding and medication routine and any behavior issues.

3. Make a List of Safe Places to Take Your Pet

Most pet owners are not aware that even though they need to evacuate, their pets cannot come with them to a local or state run or Red Cross disaster shelter due to health and safety regulations. Preparing a list of pet friendly hotels, motels and inns as well as veterinarians and boarding facilities ahead of time will increase the chances of you finding a safe place for your pet. Don’t forget to ask how many pets you can bring and what size they can be.

4. Heed Warnings from the Local Weather Advisory and First Responders

Be sure to follow instructions during a disaster. Ignoring weather advisories or instructions from law enforcement or other first responders can put you and your pet/s in harm’s way. Having an emergency radio (often given free by local utility companies) can be helpful to keep abreast of changing conditions.

5. Communication is Everything!

It is important to communicate during disasters or every day emergencies. Here are ways you can communicate:

  • Keep your phones charged in case the power goes out and you need to use your phone.
  • Leave a rescue sticker in the front window of your home to let rescue workers know there are pets inside.
  • If you need to evacuate, write ‘EVACUATED’ across your stickers so rescue workers try to find your pet.


What’s With All That Scratching!

Have you noticed your dog or cat scratching their ears, chewing at their tail or licking their paws more than they normally do lately? Yep, it is allergy season and for some pets, this is the start of the season of misery. All climates have allergens and they are usually harmless to most pets, but for dogs with allergies, their bodies have a severe reaction to them.

Humans’ allergies typically engage the respiratory system, but dogs and cats allergies normally present as skin irritations or inflammations, otherwise known as allergic dermatitis. The skin can become dry and itchy. Hot spots can develop when an uncomfortable pet continues to scratch and bite at their skin. They become red, sensitive to touch, the hair can become very thin or fall out all together and open soars can develop. Allergens can be problematic when ingested, inhaled or contact a dog’s skin. Dogs and cats can sometimes cough, sneeze, and have watery eyes and a runny nose very much like a small child with a cold.

Does your dog or cat scratch at their ears, shake their head a lot of have hair thinning around the ears? Well there is usually a reason. The ears can become problematic for a pet with allergies. The ear canal (more often in dogs than cats) can become itchy, inflamed or develop a yeast or bacterial infection. Some pet owners complain that their pet/s have generalized redness around the eyes, nose, chin and paws.

Dogs and cats share many of the same allergy symptoms:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Itchy back or base of tail
  • Paw chewing/swollen paws
  • Itchy, sometimes infected ears
  • Snoring caused by an inflamed throat
  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting