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Almost 70% percent of Americans celebrated Halloween in 2015 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Unfortunately, it is also a very busy time at Pet Poison Helpline. During the weeks surrounding Halloween, call volumes increase significantly, making it consistently one of our busiest weeks of the year. While most of the calls involve dogs of various breeds and sizes, other animals such as cats, ferrets, and pocket pets were also represented. Pet Poison Helpline is a 24-hour animal poison control service that assists pet owners, veterinarians and veterinary technicians who are treating potentially poisoned pets.
Chocolate: Of all candies, chocolate poses the biggest Halloween threat, especially to dogs. Many dogs are attracted to the deep, rich smell of chocolate, making it a significant threat for massive ingestion. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more poisonous it is. Methylxanthines, in particular theobromine and caffeine, are the dangerous chemicals in chocolate and they are more concentrated in darker chocolates. A single ounce of Baker’s chocolate can make a 50-pound dog very sick. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are less dangerous, but should still be kept out of the reach of pets. The onset of clinical signs is rapid, generally occurring between 1-4 hours and may include gastrointestinal upset (vomiting and diarrhea), CNS abnormalities (restlessness or agitation, ataxia muscle tremors, or seizures in severe cases), cardiovascular problems (tachycardia, cardiac arrhythmias, or hypertension), and PU/PD or urinary incontinence. Hyperthermia often occurs secondary to hyperactivity and muscle tremors. Death from respiratory failure, untreated cardiac arrhythmias, or prolonged seizure activity may occur with large ingestions.
Candy and sweets: Candy and other sweet foods – especially those containing xylitol, a 5 carbon sugar substitute – can be poisonous to pets. Large ingestions of sugary, high-fat candy and sweets may lead to pancreatitis. Most pet owners are surprised to learn that signs of pancreatitis such as anorexia, abdominal pain vomiting and diarrhea may not present for several days after ingestion. Xylitol, highly toxic to dogs, is found in seemingly every product from candies to gums to toothpaste and more. Ingestion of xylitol containing products results in a rapid onset of hypoglycemia (unless the product is more slowly digestible such as gum or hard candies) and acute hepatic necrosis leading to depression, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, ataxia, coagulopathies, and potentially death. It is important to note that other sugar free products such as aspartame, maltitol, and sorbitol do not result in a massive insulin release like xylitol does.
Raisins: Mini-boxes of raisins can be a healthy treat for trick-or-treaters, but they are extremely poisonous to dogs. Raisins are so dangerous that they deserve the same dog-proofing treatment as chocolate and xylitol – never feed to dogs, store in secure containers, and keep well out of their reach. The toxin associated with poisoning has not been identified and the mechanism of toxicity, including whether toxicity is dose related or idiosyncratic is unknown, making this a very frustrating poisoning to treat. Some dogs show no signs at all after ingestion, and some develop acute kidney injury. Vomiting, often whole or partially digested raisins, is the most consistent sing of poisoning followed by anorexia, lethargy, dehydration and death. Due to the presumed idiosyncratic nature, decontamination and treatment is currently recommended for all dogs ingesting raisins.
Glow sticks and glow jewelry: Most ‘glow sticks’ or glow in the dark jewelry contain dibutyl phthalate, an oily, chemiluminescent substance. Due to their curious nature, cats, in particular, often chew on glow sticks and jewelry. While not usually life-threatening, dibutyl phthalate can cause mouth pain and irritation, as well as profuse hypersalivation and foaming. The signs are selflimiting and oral irrigation followed by a small amount of a palatable liquid such as tuna water is all that is required. Pets ingesting glow sticks or glow jewelry should be evaluated in a dark room for evidence of the product on their hair coat. If present, it should be removed with a mild soap.
Candy wrappers and sticks: When curious pets get into candy, they are in danger of a life threatening bowel obstruction from lodged foil and cellophane wrappers, sticks, and other Halloween packaging pieces. X-rays are often helpful in the diagnosis, although sometimes an ultrasound may be necessary. Watch for vomiting, decreased appetite, not defecating, straining to defecate, or lethargy.
Costumes: Many people dress their pets in a costume for parties and other special events. Ingestion of metallic beads, snaps or other small pieces, especially those that contain zinc or lead, can result in serious poisoning. If a pet has chewed or eaten part of the costume, radiographs may be helpful in determining whether metallic bodies are present in the stomach or intestines. Dying or coloring an animal’s hair coat is not recommended as some of these products can be very harmful to pets, even if it’s labeled non-toxic to humans.
Batteries: Halloween seems to be the time of year when there is an increase in the number of pets chewing on or swallowing batteries. Both dry cell batteries (acid or alkaline) and lithium disc batteries are toxic, but for different reasons. When dry cell batteries are chewed and the casing ruptured, acidic or alkaline material can leak from the battery and ulcerate exposed mucosal tissues. Lithium disc batteries contain no corrosive material, but are considered to be more harmful than dry cell batteries. Smaller lithium disk batteries are especially problematic, as they tend to stick in the esophagus and generate an electric current between mucosal tissues resulting in severe tissue damage and potential perforation. One small 3-volt lithium disc battery lodged in the esophagus can cause necrosis in as little as 15 minutes. Metals such as lead, mercury, zinc, and cobalt may be present in the casings and heavy metal toxicity may occur if batteries or pieces remain in the gastrointestinal tract for longer then a few days. Radiographs of the entire GIT (including the mouth pharynx, esophagus as well as the stomach and intestines) are very helpful in determining the battery location. Serial radiographs taken just a few hours apart may be needed to assess battery movement. Endoscopy or surgery may be required if the battery has not moved and appears to be lodged or stuck in the esophagus.
This Halloween, please help keep pets safe. The veterinary toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline suggest that it’s always easier, less expensive, and safer for a pet to be treated earlier, versus when it’s showing severe signs. Pet Poison Helpline is the most cost-effective animal poison control center in North America at only $49 per call, including unlimited follow-up consultations and a large staff of experts always available to assist you.
Resources: Pet Poison Helpline (PPH) is an Animal Poison Control that provides treatment advice and recommendations relating to exposures to potential dangerous plants, products, medications, and substances, to veterinarians, veterinary staff and pet owners 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please be aware there is a $49.00/per case consultation fee. Pet Poison Helpline is located in Bloomington, Minnesota. The Helpline number is 800-213-6680. For further information regarding services, visit the PPH website at www.petpoisonhelpline.com.
Pet Poison Helpline has an iPhone application with an extensive database of plants, chemicals, foods and drugs that are poisonous to pets. A powerful indexing feature allows users to search for toxins and includes full-color photos for identifying poisonous plants and substances. With a direct dial feature to Pet Poison Helpline, the app is called “Pet Poison Help,” and is available on iTunes.
Have you recently acquired a new best friend? If so, you’ve got a lot on your plate. One of the most important steps you can take with a new pup is getting a thorough checkup with a veterinarian.
Now, visiting the vet’s office can be stressful for both you and your dog. Fido might have a ruff time getting his temperature taken, while you may be experiencing some anxiety. Armed with this list, you can get the most out of your veterinarian’s expertise.
1. What do we need to do today?
Yes, I know. This seems like an obvious one! You brought your new dog to the vet for a checkup… Duh. But different dogs need different things! Your dog’s age, breed, lifestyle, and background (whether they came from a shelter, rescue, breeder or friend) has a huge effect on what vaccines, diagnostics and preventatives (more on that below) they need. Be sure to bring any and all health records your pup came with to help your veterinary team help you. All dogs should be vaccinated for rabies and contagious viruses like distemper and parvovirus, unless there is a documented medical reason (like vaccine reactions) otherwise.
2. When do I come back?
Rechecks are so easy to forget, but so important! Even if your furry baby gets a clean bill of health, they may need to come back for booster vaccinations to ensure they are fully protected from contagious diseases. If any medical issues are discovered, rechecks are a must. If you have the chance, schedule your next appointment before you leave the building.
3. When do the puppy play dates start?!
If you’ve never owned a dog before, you may have rushed off to the bark park or local dog friendly watering hole prior to your vet appointment. But dogs are susceptible to many contagious diseases and parasites, some of which can even be deadly! Your pup should only make furry friends once they are considered fully vaccinated and up to date on prevention by your veterinarian. Puppies especially shouldn’t even visit public places frequented by other dogs! Not to worry though– if you or your friends or family members have healthy, vaccinated pets, they are most likely safe to interact with your new pal.
4. What preventatives should we be using?
Preventative medicine is very important in the veterinary world, and it refers to medical care that prevents the spread of disease, rather than treating a disease after it has already become a problem. The cornerstones of preventative care for dogs are vaccinations and heartworm and parasite prevention. All dogs should be heartworm tested at least once yearly, and should get heartworm prevention year-round. Most dogs will also need flea prevention, and dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors should also use tick prevention, especially in areas with dangerous tick-borne diseases. Your veterinarian can help you choose the most cost effective and convenient preventative solutions for you.
5. When and why should I have my pup “fixed”?
Spaying and and neutering our canine family members is an important way we can keep them safe from disease and control the unwanted pet population. If you’re not familiar, spaying is the removal of female reproductive organs (ovaries and uterus), while neutering is the removal of the testicles. The ideal time to neuter or spay most puppies is 4-6 months, while behavioral issues and risk for mammary cancers can be avoided. However, older pets can avoid issues like infection of the uterus (pyometra, see above) and prostate enlargement if they are sterilized.
6. Could my dog be at risk for breed related disorders?
If you worked with a breeder before bringing your fur baby home, you may have some ideas about what to expect from your new pet. But whether your pup came with AKC papers or you have no idea what your mutt’s made of, it’s a good idea to consult with your vet about this so that you know what to expect– and what to expect to spend. Some dogs may require corrective or protective surgeries, while others are at higher risk for heart disease, bleeding disorders and other issues. Work with your veterinarian to figure out what to watch for and if any measures need to be taken now.
7. What should I be feeding?
This is a very pup-dependent requirement. In general, be sure to feed appropriately for your dog’s life stage and breed. Many diets are specific for puppies, large breed puppies, and working breeds. Some health issues can require modified or prescription diets which your veterinarian will recommend if necessary.
8. How much exercise does my dog need?
Whether you’re hoping your dog will become your running buddy or your fellow couch potato, each dog is different in how much exercise they need — and how much they’ll want! Breed can play a huge factor in energy level, tolerance for exercise as well as tendency to become overweight. Your pup’s age is also important to consider when making active plans. In general, young puppies and senior citizens should not take part in high impact strenuous exercise to protect their growth plates and joints unless cleared by your vet.
9. What can he or she chew on?
Dogs have a natural instinct to chew, but they can often get themselves into trouble by chewing on the wrong items. Your pooch should only have access to dog specific chew toys and bones. Avoid giving any animal bones that have been cooked as these can be very dangerous–your leftover baby-back ribs will just have to go into the trash! Human food in general can be very dangerous for dogs, and even poisonous. If your dog is a stronger chewer and enjoys destroying toys for fun, either limit his or her access to these toys or supervise playtime–or your vet may have to go in and retrieve a squeaker surgically someday!
10. How do I train a dog?
While most veterinarians don’t moonlight as dog trainers, we are all educated on animal behavior and can help guide you with training. Teaching your new or old dog new tricks can be overwhelming, but is essential if you and your best friend are going to have a happy life together. Some good rules of thumb are to employ positive reinforcement training, give your pooch consistent boundaries and a structured schedule, and patience patience patience! Your veterinarian is also a good resource if you’re having serious issues with training despite all your efforts. Behavioral issues and health problems can overlap more than you would think, and your vet can help you tell the difference.
Q. My vet won’t refill my dog’s heartworm medication if I don’t bring my dog in at least once a year. He says it’s for the good of my dog. I say it’s for the good of his bank account. Who’s right?
A. I have to side with your veterinarian on this one. Your vet would be doing your dog a disservice if he prescribed a medication to a pet he never saw. Your veterinarian also needs to follow both the law and the guidelines of ethical practice, both of which demand that prescriptions be written only for animals actively under his care — which they cannot be if they’re never in his exam room.
Prevention Is the Key to Good Health
Annual examinations (or at least twice-yearly for some pets) are the cornerstone of a good preventive care regimen, and preventive care is critical for your pet’s health. You may even save money when you can work with your veterinarian to tweak your pet’s care in order to prevent health problems from occurring (changing his diet, for example, to help prevent or reverse obesity), or to catch and treat illness earlier – hopefully before it can adversely impact your pet’s quality of life. The approval of another year’s worth of heartworm medication, as well as a review of all other medications, is part of that process.
I know many people accept the need for that first heartworm test, but balk at subsequent ones. They argue that they’ve given the medications as prescribed and their pets should be heartworm-free. Problem is, we’re only human. Studies show that not all pets get all their heartworm preventive doses, leaving room for infection. Your veterinarian needs to make sure your pet isn’t carrying these parasites despite your best intentions. That means you’ll need to take him in for a heartworm test at regular intervals.
Finally, there’s the question of where you buy your medications. These days it’s relatively easy to buy prescription medications from questionable Internet suppliers. The temptation to do so can be very strong, especially when money is tight. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against such purchases, noting that these operations may be selling expired, counterfeit or contaminated drugs. Not good! Work with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is taking the right medications and that you’re getting them from a reliable supplier.
In the interests of your pet’s health and your bank account, may I suggest a compromise? Schedule that all-important wellness check, and then ask your veterinarian about cost-saving options, such as price matching (some vets do), or writing a prescription for a reputable local or online pharmacy. Even better, your veterinarian may offer competitive prices through an Internet shopping portal.
The bottom line is this: Don’t skip that yearly visit. You’ll be doing your dog — and your wallet — a favor.
You know you need a dog first aid kit for hikes or camping trips you take with your canine, but do you know what should be in it? In this short video, Dr. Sarah Wooten covers basic first aid supplies — like butterfly bandages, tweezers and a muzzle — and how best to store them.
Before you go out with your pet on such an adventure, read up on basic first aid procedures, including when to induce vomiting and when not to. And, of course, if your dog has special needs, consult with your veterinarian for recommendations about additional supplies.
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Do you have a dog who likes to alert bark inside the house or out in the yard? He may benefit from learning the “look” game. This great training rewards your dog for performing a more acceptable behavior instead of barking when he sees his usual triggers — perhaps people approaching or dogs walking past. In this game, you calmly say the word “look” to bring attention to the stimulus, then teach him that the sight or sound he normally barks at is his cue to remain quiet for a treat or reward.
The game is free of punishment. Punishing a dog for barking is never recommended, as punishment can often increase anxiety and aggression, inhibiting the bark temporarily without resolving the root emotion causing the territorial barking. Check out trainer Mikkel Becker’s advice for teaching the “look” game in the video below.
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Those that provide Anesthesia Free Dentistry or No Anesthesia Dentistry (NAD) would like you to believe by removing visible tartar from the teeth they are improving oral health. This is just not the case and the AVDC wants you to consider the following reasons not to choose an anesthesia free dental for your pet:
Scaling (scraping surface of the tooth with an instrument) the plaque and tartar from the outside surfaces of the teeth does not remove the plaque and bacteria from beneath your pet’s gumline and does not decrease the risk of your pet getting periodontal disease. Consider this, the same level of “gross” build up you see on your pet’s teeth, is also thriving beneath their gumline where you can’t see it or the damage it’s doing. Cleaning and scaling below the gum line is most important because it’s where periodontal disease is most active. This can’t be done without anesthesia.
Anesthesia free dental cleanings require your pet to be restrained while the visible tartar is removed. In some cases this is stressful and painful. It is not fair to put your beloved dog or cat through the process without anesthesia.
There are few visible signs of periodontal infection before it has progressed too far to treat and save teeth. Anesthesia is needed to best evaluate periodontal disease with the help of a dental probe and x-ray examination to truly sense what is going on below the gumline.
A thorough oral health exam can’t be done on a dog or cat that is awake. During a thorough oral health exam, all surfaces of your pet’s mouth are evaluated and radiographs are taken. This allows a veterinarian to identify painful problems including broken teeth, periodontal disease or even oral tumors. An oral health exam and x-rays can’t be done on an awake pet.
Teeth that have been scaled and not polished are a prime breeding ground for more bacteria growth which perpetuates oral disease.
Anesthesia free dental cleanings provide no benefit to your pet and do not prevent periodontal disease at any level. In fact, it gives you a false sense of security as a pet owner that because the teeth look whiter that they are healthier.
The costs of anesthesia free dental cleanings are cheap to begin with. The ultimate costs to both your wallet, and pet’s dental health, are far more of an expense.
Thinking about pet insurance? Look over the options of companies and use the questions provided to help you choose the best insurance for you and your pet.