Backyard Barbeque time!

posted on July 03, 2014 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

Ah summer.  Season of backyard get togethers, bonfires, and barbeques.  Everyone wants to sit back, relax, and enjoy, not worry about the pets.  Use these tips to make sure everyone has a relaxing, enjoyable, and safe summer!

Sunscreens and insect repellents are not all pet safe.  Some contain ingredients that may cause stomach upset such as vomiting and diarrhea, others contain products which may cause neurologic issues (dilated pupils, drunken walking, head tilt, incoordination, etc).  Make sure you are using a pet safe product or skip it all together.  However, do note that pets with thin hair or white hair can get sunburn, so make sure shade is available!

Everyone’s brought a dish to share, so we can share with the pet, right?  Wrong.  People foods may cause a variety of issues for pets.  Some cause an upset stomach, or gastroenteritis, which may cause vomiting and diarrhea, or pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas which may require hospitalization).  Others may be toxic to pets-grapes, raisins, alcohol, chocolate, onion, garlic, and avocado being some common ones.  Artificial sweeteners such as xylitol, which can be found in sugar free products like gums and candies, or in lower calorie foods as a sugar substitute, is also toxic to dogs.  Lastly, things like rib bones, chicken bones, and corn cobs can cause choking or obstruction hazards for pets and should not be given to them for chew toys or treats.

Lighter fluid and matches are both hazardous to pets if ingested.  Citronella is a respiratory irritant that can cause pneumonia, and can cause neurologic signs if ingested. Heat stroke can occur in pets, so provide plenty of clean water and shade.  Lastly, not all dogs know how to swim, so use caution around open water.

Hopefully with these safety tips everyone in the family can have a fun and enjoyable summer!

Homegrown Hazards

posted on July 02, 2013 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

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As July rolls around, many of us start to see fresh produce from our gardens.  Who doesn’t enjoy some fresh greens, or watching the fruits of our labors start to ripen into the produce we will pick next month.  While spending time in the garden is good for us, there are some hidden hazards to pets in there.

Many plants in the garden may be potentially poisonous to your pet, and any plant if eaten in large enough amounts can cause issues such as obstructions.  Most toxicities are mild and include gastrointestinal (GI) upset such as vomiting or diarrhea.  However, a few of the ones listed below may be more serious.  If your pet eats something out of your garden and you are not sure if it’s safe or not, please don’t hesitate to contact us.  Please note that this list is not a complete list, just a few of the more common potentially hazardous plants seen in gardens.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a part of the nightshade family, which contains a number of toxic plants.  Green tomatoes, leaves and stems, and flowers can all contain the toxin, though ripe tomatoes tend to have very little toxin left.  Signs of toxicity can include GI upset, increased salivation (drooling), cardiac effects, and nervous system signs including ataxia (walking uncoordinated like a drunk), dilated pupils, confusion, behavior changes, muscle weakness, tremors, and seizures.

Grapes

Grapes have been identified as the cause of acute renal (kidney) failure in dogs.  The exact mechanism is not understood at this time.  It is also not known if grapes are toxic to cats.  Signs can take 24 hours to develop, and may include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased or absent appetite, and changes in urine production.  Bloodwork may be necessary to see what the kidney values are, and fluids and hospitalization may be needed to help support the kidneys.  Often damage to the kidneys is not reversible and this toxicity could be fatal, so prevention is key.  Avoid grapes and raisins for any pets in the house, and keep outdoor pets away from grape vines if present in your yard.

Avocado

Avocados, while possessing a number of health benefits for humans, are actually toxic to pets.  They can cause tissue necrosis (tissue death), and can damage the heart muscles.  They are extremely toxic to pet birds (even a small amount usually is fatal).  Dogs and cats tend to develop GI signs, but may also develop symptoms of cardiac issues such as exercise intolerance, cough, wheezing or difficulty breathing, or collapse.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb is toxic to dogs and cats.  The leaves can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and irritation of the mouth (increased salivation or drooling, pawing at mouth).  The plant also contains something called oxalic acid, which can lead to formation of crystals in the urinary tract, and can cause damage to the kidneys, which, in severe cases, can even lead to kidney failure.  Fluid support for the kidneys is recommended and may require hospitalization.

Onion and Garlic

Onions and garlics both belong to the same family and both can cause negative effects on pets.  These plants can cause red blood cell issues such as hemolysis (break down of red blood cells), Heinz body formations (abnormalities in red blood cell structure), agglutination (clumping of red blood cells), methemoglobinemia (methemoglobin is a form of hemoglobin that is NOT able to carry oxygen, reducing the red blood cell’s ability to function correctly), and hemoglobinuria (red blood cell breakdown products being passed in the urine).  This may look like pale gums, bruising, weakness, difficulty breathing, urinating “blood” (very dark urine), or collapse.  In addition to anemia, pets may develop GI signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite.  Bloodwork and supportive care such as fluids, supportive feeding, hospitalization, and possibly even blood transfusions may be necessary.

The ASPCA has a good website for checking if plants are toxic and what signs to watch for, and you can always give us or a pet poison helpline a call.  Hopefully together we can help keep pets safe so everyone can enjoy summer!

How to Keep the Holidays Happy (and pets safe)

posted on December 02, 2012 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time, and we here at Heritage Animal Hospital would like to help you keep it that way.  There are a number of items that can be found this time of year that can be harmful to your pets.  Items ranging from chocolate, alcohol, macadamia nuts, scented candles, tinsel and ribbons, antifreeze, and a number of plants can all pose threats to animals.  If you feel your pet may have gotten into any of these items, or is showing any of the signs listed below, please contact a veterinarian immediately.

Chocolate can be toxic to animals if it is eaten.  Signs of ingestion can include vomiting and diarrhea, increased urination, increased activity, and racing heartbeat.  Cookies and candies are a common source of chocolate, as are drinks such as hot cocoa.

Alcohol is toxic to animals, usually in smaller amounts than people would think.  Signs of intoxication include drowsiness, an ataxic walk (meaning un-coordinated, like a drunk person) and can progress to coma and respiratory rate depression, which can cause death.  The signs of antifreeze ingestion mimic alcohol intoxication, and are rapidly fatal, so if your pet is showing these signs, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs.  Common in cookies and candies, these nuts can cause signs of weakness, muscle tremors, depression, vomiting, and ataxic walk.

In general, it is best to not give your pet any human foods during the holidays due to potential toxicities or stomach upset from foods their systems are not used to.  Raisins, grapes, garlic, onions, and other common ingredients may also be toxic to your pet.

Scented candles can pose a threat to some of our smaller animals such as birds and sugar gliders.  Strong odors from candles and other objects can cause respiratory distress, which can manifest as things such as increased respiratory rate, coughing, sneezing, and increased respiratory effort and noise.  Also, leaving candles lit where a pet could knock it over or singe whiskers can pose a serious burn risk for your pet or even your house.

Poinsettias, lilies, holly, mistletoe and other plants can be toxic if ingested, especially to cats.  Signs can include things such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and changes in urination.

Ribbons and tinsel may catch your cat’s eye as a good toy, but can be very dangerous if ingested.  String like material tends to get stuck in the gastrointestinal tract and as the intestines try to continue to move it through, they will saw against the foreign material and can cause a leak in the intestinal wall.  The foreign material can also cause a blockage in the intestinal tract.  Signs of foreign body ingestion can include lack of appetite, vomiting, straining to defecate or diarrhea, and lethargy.

Christmas trees can pose additional risks as well.  Water from the Christmas tree can have additives in it that may be harmful to your pet ranging from stomach upset from sugar water to toxicity from fertilizers.  In addition, glass ornaments can cause potential problems if played with either when ingested or by causing wounds to paws and face.  Also, electrical wires can pose dangers to pets if they chew on them.  Lastly, make sure your tree is firmly anchored, especially if you have curious cats that like to climb.

Please limit your pet’s access to these potentially harmful items, and please call a veterinarian if your pet is showing any of the above signs or if you feel your pet may have gotten into something it shouldn’t have.  Together we can help keep your pet safe during the holiday season and into the new year!

Happy Holidays from Heritage Animal Hospital!

Posted in: Toxicity