Pet Education

For the Love of Kitties, Leave the Lilies Alone

By Joan Eve Quinn, HEALS Program Director

Who’s not thrilled to see happy flowers popping up their cheerful heads after a long, cold winter?  In particular, lovely-looking lilies start appearing everywhere at this time of year, both indoors and out, especially as the spring holidays approach. The Easter lily, an alluring trumpet-shaped flower with waxy white petals and a distinctive scent, is a perennial favorite. 

Cats and lilies don’t mix!

But these pretty plants can be fatal to felines. These flowers don’t come with warning labels–but maybe they should!  Who knows what might pique the interest of our feline friends? Kitties that are bored, curious or attracted to a different texture or unusual scent may be tempted to taste the new lily plant addition to the home.

Beauty can be dangerous

Easter lilies can cause acute kidney failure in cats, which is very serious! Some other lily culprits include:

  • Tiger Lily
  • Rubrum Lily
  • Stargazer Lily
  • Red or Wood Lily
  • Asiatic Lily
  • Japanese Show Lily
  • Day Lilies

Any Lilium or Hemerocallis species should be considered potentially poisonous to cats. Calla Lilies and Peace Lilies, which are common houseplants, can cause mouth and GI tract irritation. Lilies of the Valley, omnipresent outdoors in springtime, can cause heart arrhythmias.

A few other popular spring flowers that are dangerous to cats include daffodils, hyacinths, azaleas, and tulips.

Dog owners should be wary as well. “Dogs can have some gastrointestinal upset from ingesting lilies as well as some other flowers, but it won’t result in any fatal complications,” advises Dr. Jason Berg, board-certified veterinary neurologist/internist and HEALS Chairman of the Board.

Signs of lily toxicity in cats

Signs of poisoning develop quickly. Initial signs can appear within two hours of ingestion and include vomiting, refusal to eat, and lethargy.    

Initial symptoms may subside, but don’t be fooled. Cats will become symptomatic again within 24-96 hours as kidney failure develops. These later signs can include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Oral ulcers and uremic breath
  • Hypothermia
  • Increased respiration rate
  • Slowed heart rate

Life-saving veterinary treatment

The onset of kidney failure can be prevented with aggressive veterinary treatment within six hours of ingestion. Treatment includes inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal products. This therapy is followed up with intravenous fluids for at least two days. If medical treatment is delayed for longer than 18 hours, kidney failure will develop. If not treated, death will occur in as little as three to seven days. Lily toxicity is to be taken very seriously!

The safest bet

It’s best not to purchase lilies of any type indoors or outdoors if you own a cat. But even if you don’t purchase lilies, keep all flower arrangements out of the reach of curious kitties. If your me-ew likes to chew, try some fresh cat grass or catnip plants, which are available at most pet stores.   

If you think your cat may have gotten into a lily plant, seek emergency veterinary medical attention immediately!  Know where your nearest 24/7 veterinary clinic is located and keep the phone number handy. For further information on this subject, you can contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

Would you like to donate to help save animals? Guardian HEALS is one of the best, most effective animal charities to donate to. Your gift provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community. If you need help paying for dog or cat veterinary care, contact us at 914-996-0001 or email us at


Winter Weather Warning: Antifreeze Dangers

By Joan Eve Quinn, Program Director Old man winter packs a punch of frigid weather risks for pets and antifreeze poisoning is among the worst of them. Guardian HEALS wants everyone to know that when a pet ingests antifreeze (ethylene glycol or EG) it’s a medical emergency that can result in acute kidney failure and death. “Time is of the essence! Antifreeze is rapidly absorbed in the pet’s body and causes irreversible damage in hours,” warns Dr. Jason Berg, HEALS Chairman of the Board. EG is a toxic chemical most commonly used in car radiators. However, it can also be found in some household items, including snow globes, eye masks, inks, and certain paints. Unfortunately, EG has a pleasantly sweet taste and may even create a warm feeling when it’s swallowed. Pets may be attracted to its flavor, because they’re curious, or if their water bowls are frozen over. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the first signs of antifreeze poisoning occur within 30 minutes to 12 hours and include:
  • “Walking drunk”
  • Drooling
  • Hyper-salivating
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Excessive thirst and urination
Twelve to 24 hours after a dog or cat has gotten into antifreeze, the initial signs appear to resolve, but underlying internal damage continues. Elevated heart rate, increase breathing effort, and dehydration may start to develop. In cats, the following stage occurs 12-24 hours after getting into antifreeze. In dogs, this stage occurs 36-72 hours after severe kidney failure secondary to calcium crystals forming in the kidneys. Severe lethargy, coma, depression, vomiting, seizures, drooling, and lack of appetite may occur, states the Pet Poison Helpline. Even a very small amount of antifreeze can be deadly. Because the first signs of toxicity appear to resolve after a while, this serious illness can initially be misdiagnosed or not taken seriously enough. According to MSPCA-Angell, cats are more susceptible than dogs. The minimum dose that’s lethal in cats is roughly 3 milliliters (mls) per pound body weight. For dogs, 9-14 mls per pound body weight may cause death. Fatality rates for EG intoxication reported by top veterinary schools range from 44–70% for dogs and 78-96% for cats, states MSPCA-Angell. Fortunately, you can protect your pets by taking the following steps: 
  • Close all antifreeze containers tightly and keep them out of sight.
  • Be aware of any spills, big or small, and clean them up promptly and completely.
  • Purchase pet-safe antifreeze, which is somewhat safer, but it’s still best to keep pets away from any and all chemicals.
  • Keep cats safely indoors!
  • Keep dogs on a leash or in a safely fenced-in area.
  • Be aware that pets can easily find antifreeze leaks in parking lots, driveways, and garages, on streets and curbs where cars are parked, and on farms and near garbage dumps.
  • Make sure outdoor pets always have non-frozen water available.
HEALS advises you to learn where your nearest 24/7 veterinary emergency facility is located and keep the phone number handy. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, seek veterinary medical attention immediately. For more information, you can call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. Guardian HEALS is one of the best animal charities to donate to. Your donation provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community.

Stay Safe on St. Patrick’s Day: Keep Alcohol Away from Animals!

By Joan Eve Quinn
HEALS Program Director

Four-leaf clovers, luck, and leprechauns lurk on the horizon as we march towards St. Patrick’s Day. A bright kelly-green break from the winter doldrums, parades, and parties are heading our way. For many, the cheerful celebrations historically include the alcoholic beverage of your choice. Party in style and with good sense!

While you’re looking for that pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow, be sure to keep your pets away from all alcoholic beverages. They can become seriously intoxicated and get very sick very fast from drinking even a small amount! This is called alcohol toxicity.

Alcohol toxicity can result from consuming many substances, including:

  • Ethanol (found in alcoholic beverages)
  • Cough syrup
  • Raw bread dough
  • Isopropanol (found in rubbing alcohol)
  • Methanol (found in windshield wiper fluid)

These alcohols are quickly absorbed in the pet’s body within 20-30 minutes. Such ingredients can even be absorbed through the skin of small pets when alcohol-based sprays are used.

Signs of illness caused by alcohol intoxication generally occur within just 30-60 minutes of intake and include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Ataxia (manifesting as a “drunken” gait)
  • Disorientation
  • Dull mental status
  • Difficulty breathing

In severe cases, the following serious conditions can occur:

  • Coma
  • Hypothermia
  • Seizures
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Death

Veterinary care must be sought immediately as a medical treatment for decontamination is usually only effective in the first 20-40 minutes after the alcohol is consumed. The good news is that prognosis can be very good with aggressive treatment, depending on the amount swallowed.

If you believe your pet has ingested alcohol, please seek veterinary emergency help right away. Know where your nearest 24/7 veterinary emergency clinic is located and keep the phone number handy. You may also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

This St. Patrick’s Day, kissing the Blarney Stone may not be practical for everyone. But kissing your pet is! Guardian HEALS wishes you a safe and happy celebration and may the luck of the Irish rise up to meet you.

Guardian HEALS is one of the best animal charities to donate to. Your donation provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community. If you need help to pay for dog or cat veterinary care, contact us at 914-996-0001 or email

Gift Your Pet Some Love – But Not Chocolate on Valentine’s Day!

By Joan Eve Quinn, Program Director

Valentine’s Day delivers a joyfully warm respite from the cold winter chill. It’s also a good excuse to binge on sweet treats–chocolate being among our favorites.

From tiny tasty truffles to tall table-top sculptures, who doesn’t wish they had some chocolate right now? But it has a dark side for our pets: Chocolate and many other candies can cause stomach discomfort at the very least and serious illness–and even death–at the very worst. Even some familiar flowers pose a risk.

To help keep pets safe this Valentine’s Day, Guardian HEALS issues this all-four-paws alert for some common products that may be harmful:

  • Chocolate: Yes, it’s delicious, but the problem is your pets may think so too. You’ve seen how persistent pets can be when they’re trying to raid the yummy stuff: Sneaking into closed rooms, knocking packages off counters, and ripping wrappings open. The amount and type of chocolate–in relation to your pet’s weight and general health condition–will determine if chocolate toxicity will develop. Chocolate can cause gastrointestinal upset as well as life-threatening heart arrhythmias.
  • Xylitol: A naturally occurring sugar alcohol, xylitol is found in many popular candies. For pets, ingestion of this ingredient can lead to life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and in the worst cases, liver failure. Dr. Jason Berg, board-certified veterinary neurologist/internist and HEALS Chairman of the Board, warns “Xylitol is a deadly product found in candy and common snacks that are often given to pets, such as peanut butter. Make sure you read all ingredients in snacks and food before you give it to your pets.”
  • Calorie-laden dinner: Fatty and rich foods are simply not good for pets. Fatty foods can cause pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to vomiting and diarrhea and, in some cases, very severe illness.
  • Flowers: Many types of flowers and other greenery are highly toxic to pets if ingested. Some of the most toxic examples include:
  • Lilies can cause kidney failure
  • Amaryllis can cause vomiting and depression
  • Tulip and narcissus bulbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation
  • Oleander can cause heart arrhythmias
  • Cyclamen can cause vomiting and death
  • Autumn crocus can cause multi-organ damage and death
  • Foreign bodies: You never know what’s going to look like a tempting toy or treat to your pet. Even Valentine’s Day detritus left lying around, like wrapping paper and ribbon, can potentially cause a problem. Foreign material can sometimes lodge in the gastrointestinal tract, causing life-threatening obstructions or perforations.

HEALS urges you to seek immediate veterinary attention if you suspect that your pet has eaten something that may be harmful. Know where your nearest 24/7 emergency veterinary hospital is located. Keep the phone number handy and call ahead.

Valentine’s Day should be like a walk in the dog park. So take this to heart: Keep the sugary treats well out of your pet’s reach. Let there be lots of head butts, tail wagging, kisses, love, and pet-safe goodies instead!

For more information, you can call ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 and research a comprehensive list of toxic plants at

Guardian HEALS is one of the best animal charities to donate to. Your donation provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community. If you need help to pay for dog or cat veterinary care, contact us at 914-996-0001 or email

Thinking About Buying Health Insurance For Your Pet?

By Joan Eve Quinn, Program Director

Guardian HEALS urges pet owners to consider purchasing health insurance for their furry family members. Having a pet health insurance policy in place to cover visits to your family veterinarian’s practice—and at advanced 24-hour specialty and emergency hospitals—can help tremendously in times of financial and emotional stress.   

A pet health insurance plan can be especially valuable in multi-pet households. Certain specialized procedures and therapies, such as orthopedic surgeries and chemotherapy treatments to fight cancer, tend to be quite expensive. In many cases, the insurance company reimburses you for a large percentage of the costs as determined by your plan’s coverage allowances. Usually, pet owners pay the veterinary practice fist and subsequently receive reimbursement from the insurance company.     

We recommend buying a policy early in your pet’s life to maximize the benefits you’ll receive. As pets age, benefits often decrease and pre-existing conditions may be excluded. A good approach would be to discuss the topic with your primary care veterinarian during your new pet’s first wellness visit.

HEALS Chief Executive Officer, Bernadette Vinci, MS, LHEP, urges pet owners to buy insurance if they can afford it, but she also offers a less costly alternative. “If you can’t afford the premiums, you can start a pet savings account with automatic deductions from your paycheck if you’re currently employed. But that can be somewhat risky since you never know when a pet will become ill or injured and those veterinary bills can quickly mount up. So insurance gives you better peace of mind,” she added.   

 The marketplace offers a broad array of pet health insurance policies. Quite a few websites allow you to compare coverage and pricing across a wide range of plans. Research and compare carefully; coverage options and out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles, premiums, and co-pays, vary greatly and exclusions may apply.  

If you need help to pay for dog or cat veterinary services–or for any other type of pet–insurance can make it possible for your animal companion to receive appropriate treatment and supportive care. To help you decide whether pet health insurance is right for you—and for buying advice—here’s an article from trusted, unbiased Consumer Reports: 

Guardian HEALS is one of the best animal charities to donate to. Your donation provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community.


–  What you need to think about before making that forever purchase – 

(Brewster, NY)  How much is that doggy in the window? What could be a better holiday gift–a puppy or a kitty cat!  Dr. Jason Berg, DMV, DACVIM, Chairman of the Board of of Guardian HEALS, and founder of Guardian Veterinary Specialists in Brewster NY, feels strongly that that people who are thinking of getting a pet for the holidays need to put time into this decision before deciding to add a furry friend to the family. This is a huge holiday gift purchase as well as a financial and emotional commitment for up to twenty years.  
Dr. Berg says move slowly and think about the following:
  • Are you and/or your family ready for a pet? 
  • What age dog is best for you and/or the family
  • Depending on the size of your apartment or house what size dog would be most appropriate?
  • Is there a backyard or will the dog need to be walked?
  • Is adoption, breeder or local pet store the way to go?
  • What are the financial implications that are involved with pet ownership?
  • What is involved in preparing for a new pet and taking care of a pet in the long term
  • Who will be responsible for pet care/walks/feeding during the day?
  • What are the pros and cons of purchasing a pet insurance plan?  
  • No one ever wants anything to go wrong with their new family member, but it happens – when to seek emergency veterinary care. 
  • Be aware of the signs of parvovirus, a serious disease that can affect puppies. 
  • Traveling with pets or boarding them – how to decide, prepare and prevent contagious diseases. 
“There is nothing better than adding a dog or cat to our lives, but there are so many people out there who are dealing with emotional and financial distress,” says Dr. Berg. “Guardian HEALS was founded because many people can’t afford the veterinary care and the financial surprises of having a pet.  But, oftentimes, it’s a surprise because instead of researching the responsibilities of pet ownership, it may be a spontaneous purchase or adoption and people may not realize this is a long-term commitment.” 
Guardian HEALS  is a new nonprofit organization dedicated to saving pets’ lives by helping owners pay for essential veterinary care when they can’t afford it. 

Guardian HEALS, a charitable 501c3 organization, was established in 2020 with the mission to end economic euthanasia and animal surrender due to an inability to pay.  HEALS endeavors to keep pet owners who qualify for financial assistance and their pets together longer so they can enjoy a better quality of life. The non-profit was started because of a universal love of animals and an appreciation of the special sustaining bond that develops between pets and their owners.  Guardian HEALS will be working with veterinary partners in New York – Bronx, Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange and Dutchess Counties; Connecticut – Fairfield County and New Jersey – Bergen County.  For more info. go to