Fido and Fireworks don’t mix!

posted on June 28, 2018 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

It’s the 4th of July again, and that means increased risks for our pets.  According to the ASPCA, nearly 1 in 5 pets go missing after being scared by loud noises such as fireworks.  PetAmberAlert.com notes that 30% more pets become lost between July 4-6th than any other time of the year.  Here are some tips to make the celebrations safe for everyone!

  1. Travel safely:  If you are taking a road trip with your pet, get your pet used to carrier/crates, and seat belts/harnesses in advance.  Do not leave your pet alone in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked.
  2. Stay cool:  Dogs and cats can’t sweat, but panting can cause them to get dehydrated.  Pets can get overheated quicker, so make sure there is access to plenty of fresh water and shade.  Check asphalt with your hand before going for walks to ensure it’s not too hot, and take walks near dawn/dusk to avoid mid day heat.
  3. Avoid human foods:  Barbecues and parties will often present many tempting foods to your pet.  Some human foods are not safe for consumption-alcohol, chocolate, onion, garlic, grapes, raisins, and the sugar substitute xylitol are all toxic to pets.  Some foods can cause inflammation of the GI tract and pancreas, especially fatty foods.  Other foods can pose a GI obstruction risk-fruit pits and corn cobs are two more notable examples.
  4. Keep windows secured:  Often during the summer months we have our windows open to let in the fresh air.  Make sure screens are in place and secured to avoid falls and escapes.
  5. Check harnesses, leashes, and collars:  Longer daylight hours and warmer weather often means longer walks and more outside time.  Make sure collars and harnesses fit to prevent escape.  Make sure ID tags and microchip information are current.
  6. Keep your pets at home:  Most pets get overwhelmed at parties and firework shows, so despite how well behaved they are or how much they love people, safe at home may be the best place for them during the festivities.
  7. If you’re hosting the party, keep an eye on exits.  With multiple people going in and out, pets can get lost in the chaos.  Think about putting pets in crates or a separate room, as they will keep them safely confined as well as give them a quiet place to feel safe.  Pet sitters or boarding facilities are another option.

Overall we hope you and your pet have a safe and happy 4th of July!

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Red, White, and Blue-Green Algae?!

posted on July 02, 2015 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

Summer heat makes you and your dog want to jump in the lake to cool off, but wait!  Are there hidden dangers lurking there?

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are microscopic bacteria found in freshwater lakes, ponds, streams, and swamps.  They “bloom” in mid to late summer months, especially in nutrient rich water.  Not all of these blooms are toxic, but without biochemical testing it is impossible to tell which are.

The toxins produced by the blooms can cause a variety of signs, depending on which toxins that particular bacteria produce.  It can cause liver disease, which may cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, blood in feces, black, tar-like stool, weakness, pale gums, jaundice (yellowing of gums, eyes, and skin), seizures, disorientation, confusion, coma, or shock.  Death can occur in a matter of days due to liver failure.

Some blue-green algae can produce even nastier toxins called anatoxins.  These cause issues with the neurologic system, and signs can include increased tear production, increased salivation, muscle tremors, muscle rigidity, paralysis, difficulty breathing, and/or blue gums and tongue.  Death can occur in minutes to hours after exposure to this toxin from blue-green algae.

There is not a specific antidote to the toxins from blue-green algae, but immediate veterinary care is very important.  Anti-seizure medication, oxygen, IV fluids, treatment of low proteins or low blood sugar, and other supportive measures are imperative to treatment.

If there is an algae scum on the water or the water has a “pea soup” look to it, stay clear, especially during the hot summer months.  If your pet is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, or if you suspect your pet has been exposed to blue-green algae, please contact us or an emergency veterinarian immediately.

April showers bring May flowers…which may be toxic!

posted on May 02, 2014 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

As the rains fall, we look forward to the spring flowers that will soon be blooming.  While their bright colors remind us of warmer days coming, they may pose a hazard to our pets.

There are a number of toxic spring flowers that are common in our yards this time of year.  These include things like daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, lily of the valley, rhododendrons, and azaleas.

Daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths are part of the same family and contain a chemical which can cause drooling, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, increased heart rate, abdominal cramping, abnormal breathing, or cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats or rhythm).  The bulb contains the highest concentration of this chemical, but all parts of the plant contain some, so if your pet has ingested a daffodil, tulip, or hyacinth veterinary attention should be sought.

Rhododendrons and azaleas are also from the same family.  These plants contain a chemical that is toxic to muscles in the body.  This leads to clinical signs such as drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, irregular heart rate and beat, low blood pressure, weakness, tremors, and depression.  In severe cases it can lead to blindness (usually temporary), seizures, and coma.  Prognosis is generally good with treatment, so if you see your pet ingest one of these plants or if you are concerned that your pet may have, please contact us.

Lily of the Valley also blooms this time of year, and is perhaps one of the more toxic plants talked about today.  Lily of the Valley is not a true lily, so it does not cause the kidney failure other lilies can (yes, most lilies are toxic).  Instead, it contains chemicals that affect the heart.  Signs of ingestion can start with vomiting or diarrhea, but progress to a slow heart rate, arrhythmias, seizures, and can be fatal if left untreated.  If your pet is showing these signs or you know they ingested lily of the valley, contact a veterinarian immediately.

These are just a small sample of common flowers that may be toxic to our furry friends.  Both Pet Poison Helpline and the ASPCA have excellent websites for checking if plants are toxic.  If there is any question whether your pet got into a toxic plant or if your pet is exhibiting any of the signs listed above, please contact us.

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My Pet’s Tummy is Upset

posted on March 06, 2014 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

The pet’s GI, or gastrointestinal, tract, is a word used to describe the tube that takes food from the mouth, to the stomach, intestines, and colon.  It may also include a number of organs that help with digestion of nutrients and removal of waste products, including the pancreas, liver, and kidneys, thyroid, and even the brain.  Given that most of the body is included in this list, it shouldn’t be a surprise that when a pet becomes ill, one of the many signs we might see can include the GI tract, such as vomiting.

Vomiting is a very common complaint in our pets.  You might think it means that there is something wrong with the GI tract itself, which may be true, but issues in many of the other organs of the can also lead to vomiting.  This is why we recommend an examination, take a thorough history of signs, appetite, exposure to other pets, toxins, foods, etc. and may recommend tests including blood work to look at organ function, for signs of infection or anemia, stool analysis to look at bacterial balance, and x-rays or ultrasound to look internally at the organs.

Just to give you an idea of things that can cause vomiting in a pet, here is a list.  It is by no means a complete list however, but does include some of the more common causes:

  • anxiety
  • nervous system dysfunction such as vestibular disease (vertigo), motion sickness, megaesophagus, or other motility issues within the GI tract
  • toxin exposure or ingestion
  • dietary indiscretion-this can range from eating something too rich or fatty which could lead to pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), to eating something that just doesn’t agree with the pet and causes gastroenteritis or colitis (inflammation of the GI tract or colon respectively), or eating something that is harmful to the pet (toxin, foreign material)
  • Hairballs and other foreign materials or blockages, also including intuscusseptions
  • Bacterial overgrowth or imbalance
  • Viral, bacterial, fungal, and other infections
  • Ulcers or too much stomach acids
  • Tumors
  • GDV (twisted stomach) or bloat (though sometimes the symptom of these are vomiting WITHOUT producing anything)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, dietary intolerance, allergies, or allergic reactions
  • Metabolic issues such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, Addison’s disease, or liver or kidney diseases

As you can see, there are quite a few reasons your pet may be vomiting, which is why we recommend coming in for an examination and testing as mentioned above.  Pending results of the preliminary testing, further testing to look at more specific causes may be recommended such as an ACTH stimulation test, urinalysis, fructosamine level, culture and sensitivity, biopsies, diet changes, allergy testing, barium series, or others.

By working together to determine the cause of the vomiting, we hope to be able to come up with a specific treatment plan to help your pet (and your carpets!) feel better.  Call us today if your pet is vomiting!