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Deciphering Pet Foods

We love our pets as much as we love our children and we want them to eat the best quality food possible. Does this mean that we should be cooking for our pets or buying them a raw or high-end diet? It is important to know that most pet food companies put a lot of research and effort into developing these diets specifically for dogs and cats. Their dietary requirements are different from ours and something as simple as excess nutrients can have an impact on a pet’s health.

Cat and dog looking for meat in the refrigerator

This is especially important with homemade diets and raw foods, where the diet is not scientifically calibrated for a pet. When making a homemade diet for a pet, it is not sufficient to feed them a portion of a protein, a carbohydrate, and a vegetable each day. The diets need to be much more balanced and orchestrated than that. Some examples: excess sodium may play a role in heart failure and cause the progression of renal disease; and excess calcium may cause skeletal disease or urinary bladder stones.  In large breed puppies, too much calcium can predispose to diseases like hip dysplasia. Magnesium, which is a nutrient we don’t traditionally think much about, can worsen feline lower urinary tract syndrome, which is an ailment many domestic cats struggle with. In general, the nutrients are more important than ingredients, despite the claims of the pet food companies that emphasize grain free, or no corn.

Corn is overall a great ingredient in pet food and it is low cost, making the foods more affordable. Corn provides good energy, fatty acids, and protein; it is a carbohydrate with the added power of vitamins and antioxidants because of the color (vs. rice with a general lack of color). There is no evidence that grains are bad for your pets. This is a marketing strategy employed by pet food companies that has become a fad in the pet food industry.  Ingredients such as cartilage, tendons   and ligaments count toward the protein level in pet foods, but they’re not good proteins.

The quality of the protein provided in the pet’s food is important. The higher the quality of the protein, the less of the actual protein you will need to include in the diet. For example, eggs offer a higher quality protein available to your pet than other products like wheat, rice or whole corn. Of the protein in an egg, your pet can use 94% of those proteins, compared to the amount in beef, chicken, or pork where only 74% of those meat’s proteins can be used. This does not mean chicken is a bad protein. It is still a great protein source, especially compared to something like rice, which only 64% of the protein is available to your pet. The quality of the protein is especially important in pets with kidney disease; the less protein volume a pet has, the less strain on those ailing kidneys.

Pet Food Labels:

When evaluating a pet food for your pet the first thing you want to look for on the bag is the AAFCO Statement.  Check for it to say “feeding test” vs. “formulated”.  Feeding test will indicate that the food was actually tested for a minimum of 6 months following requirements set by AAFCO before going on the shelf, whereas formulated indicates no testing was done. We are all in the habit of looking at the nutrition facts on our own food and the “guaranteed analysis” is the pet food equivalent, but it does not offer all of the same information. The analysis does not provide an actual percentage of a nutrient, just the minimum and maximum amount that could be found in that food.


Image Courtesy of Pup Culture MagazineImage Courtesy of Pup Culture Magazine

Here are some guidelines for how they label foods to give you more of an idea of the actual content of the diet.

  • If the food is called an “entree, dinner, formula”, 25-95% of that diet contains that ingredient. That is a large range! If the word “with” precedes an ingredient in the title, then only 3%-24% of the diet is made of that ingredient.
  • If a diet is turkey “flavor”, then 3% or less of the food in the bag is actual turkey.
  • If you are looking for a diet food, the label “light” has to follow AAFCO standards, “Lite” does not.
  • To label a diet as “organic” it must have a USDA organic seal on it which indicates that 95% or more of the ingredients are truly organic. The diet does not have to be 100% organic to obtain the label!
  • If a label says “organic ingredients” and does not have a seal visible on it, then that is not an organic diet.
  • The term “natural” on the label would indicate that there are no chemical alterations to the food. However, it is important to note that GMO ingredients are not restricted from a natural diet, only from organic diets.
  • If you are looking for a holistic diet, interestingly there is no legal definition, and this has no guarantee if you see it on a label.
  • If you are hoping for a diet labeled as “human grade” then the USDA must monitor the entire production process and no pet food at this time qualifies as human grade.

Additional Resources:
AAFCO – Association of American Feed Control Officials
WSAVA – The World Small Animal Veterinary Association
Pet Nutrition Alliance – Optimal Nutrition for Every Pet

 

img_7371.jpegContributed by:

Dr. Destiny Coleman
(with her dog, Rex)
Associate Veterinarian

Keeping your Dog Active During Winter:

During the Winter months it’s easy to feel tired and a little blue because it’s so cold and the sun isn’t out as much. While we may be able to cope with the cold, our dogs have to rely on us to get them up and moving! There are plenty of indoor activities and remedies for the winter blues associated with the season. From doggie daycare to trick training sessions, rest-assured that your dog (and you) will keep yourselves active!

Brave the cold- take a nice walk outside!
A good amount of dogs will enjoy a nice walk in chilly weather. Although, please remember that the sidewalks are treated with salt and/or chemicals to help prevent any ice from forming, which can be harmful to your dog. Try booties to keep their paws safe, or rinse them off once you get home to stop irritation and keep them from ingesting any chemicals that may have been left behind. Lastly, if your dog has a short or thin coat of hair, consider having them wear a jacket or sweater.

Make meal time exciting!
There are many ways to stimulate your dog’s body and mind without having to venture out into the cold weather. You can try presenting the meals in a feeding toy instead of the usual food bowl. Studies have shown that dogs will enjoy their food more when they have to work for it. This will also help your dog eat slower, which improves digestion and nutrient absorption, and helps prevent some serious gastrointestinal conditions such as tummy aches, and bloat in larger dogs.

Young man playing with dog outdoors.

Giving treats can be exciting, too!
There are two easy ways to make giving your dog a treat more interesting: First, try using a treat-dispensing toy, similar to the one you would use for his meal time. Secondly, play a game of hide-and-seek. Keep your dog in one room while you hide treats in another. Then let him loose to find all the hidden treasures you’ve left! Make sure the treats are fairly obvious to find at first so he understands the game. The more he understands, the more difficult hiding places you can add.

Work on new tricks inside!
There are endless amounts of tricks and training exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home. Start with simple dog tricks such as “stay,” “shake,” or “sit,” and slowly work up to something more complex like “roll over.” These tricks will result in well-mannered behavior and help you bond with your dog. Tip: try to keep the dog training/trick sessions to about 15 minutes. This will help keep your dog’s attention, which will make sure everyone has a good time.

Back Panorama 2

Outdoor play area at Centreville Animal Hospital.

Consider day boarding!
If your job requires you to be out of the house for more than eight hours a day, or you can’t head home to let your dog out, Doggie Daycare would be a great option! Here at Centreville Animal Hospital, we offer excellent day boarding options. Your dog will be catered to and taken care of with the same love and attention we give to our own pets. With group or individual playtimes for at least an hour, and a minimum of four walks a day, you can be assured that your dog will be very active! And to give you peace of mind, we also send out daily photo updates to let you see just how happy your dog is! Plus, we have an indoor playroom for those cold, snowy days, and a treadmill, for those pups that need a little extra activity.

Play Area

Our indoor playroom at Centreville Animal Hospital.

Last, but not least- Stay Attentive!
While it’s good to keep your dog healthy and in shape, make sure to keep a close eye on them during Winter. Changes in your dogs daily routine because of the season may lead to weight gain or loss, so keep a close eye on their body conditions and talk to your veterinary care provider if you have any questions or concerns.

Stay active, and warm this Winter!

Additional Resources:
Hill’s Pet: www.hillspet.com/en/us/dog-care/play-exercise/keeping-dogs-active-in-winter
PetMD: www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/slideshows/ways-to-keep-your-dog-active-during-winter#

Lillian

Contributed by:
Lillian Forney, Boarding Attendant

Tips for Maintaining Your Pet’s Weight

Maintaining your pet’s weight is very important so that they can live a longer, healthy, and happy life. Without proper weight management your furry friends run the risk of possibly developing diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, lung disorders, high blood pressure, immune dysfunction, and cancerous tumors.  Here we’ve listed a few tips to help keep your pets happy and healthy by maintaining their weight!

RECS
Refrain:
Much like some of us, our pets will eat when they’re bored. Refraining from giving them 24/7 access to their food is always a good start. Keeping that in mind, it’s also a good idea to talk with your veterinarian so you know just how much to feed and what type of food would be best for your pet. It is also highly recommended to not feed them any table scraps. We all know it can be difficult to tell them no when they give you that look, but stay strong!

Exercise:
Exercise is very important for any pet. At least 30 minutes a day of active play will reduce the risk of weight gain and help them lose weight. Not only does exercise help maintain your pets weight it also has great health benefits that include, reducing the risk of heart disease, digestive issues, and the chances of urinary tract infections. If your furry friend is more active they also have less of a chance of developing depression, which means a longer, happier life span.

A Pitbull dog mid-air, running after its chew toy with its owner standing close by.

Counting Calories:
It might be a strange thing to consider, but keeping track of your pet’s calorie intake is actually a very huge help! Unfortunately, a lot of people forget to include treats in their counting. A lot of treats are high in calories so it is very important to factor those in and adjust your pet’s food intake accordingly so that they receive the correct amount of calories.

Schedule:
Having a set schedule for when your pet eats and exercises will not only be helpful for you, but will also benefit your pet greatly.  Make sure you feed your pet at the same time, in the same place every day to help establish healthy eating habits.

Additional Resources:

AAHA Weight Management Guidelines for Cats and Dogs– https://www.aaha.org/public_documents/professional/guidelines/weight_management_guidelines.pdf

ASPCA Dog Nutrition Tips– https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-nutrition-tips

ASCPA Cat Nutrition Tips– https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/cat-nutrition-tips

AVMA 7 Things to do to Keep your Pet Healthy– https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/pet-health.aspx

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 9.09.42 PMContributed by:
Samantha Sims, 
Client Care Specialist

The Dangers of Xylitol Ingestion in Dogs

Some pet owners rely on the presumption that what is safe for humans to ingest is also safe for their pets, however that’s just not always true. Xylitol, a substance found in many everyday products is safe for human consumption, but it can be harmful and potentially life-threatening to dogs.

Xylitol is Toxic to Dogs

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol sweetener commonly used in sugar-free gum and candies, toothpaste, chewable vitamins, baked goods and even peanut butter. The compound doesn’t affect glucose levels in people, but when ingested by dogs it can cause a dangerous surge in insulin. In as little as 15 minutes it can cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar (insulin shock/hypoglycemia), seizures, and severe liver damage. Signs of xylitol poisoning include weakness, lethargy, loss of coordination, collapse, and seizures. These symptoms can develop within 30 minutes of ingestion, and require immediate veterinary treatment. Just three grams of xylitol, or 6 pieces of xylitol containing gum, can kill a 65-pound dog.

Common Products Containing Xylitol
Here are a few of the more popular brands that contain xylitol…

  • Orbitzylitol
  • Trident
  • Nuts ’N More
  • Krush Nutrition
  • Xylimax
  • Xylishield
  • Spry Mints
  • Spry Chewing Gum
  • Xlear Nasal Spray
  • Nicorette Gum
  • Xylichew Gum
  • IceBreakers
  • Ricochet 

Treatment for Xylitol Poisoning

If you suspect your dog has ingested a product containing Xylitol, call your veterinarian immediately; The amount of Xylitol ingestion is often difficult to determine because the level of sweetener varies greatly by manufacturer and product. Treatment typically consists of induced vomiting, 24-hour hospitalization, and administration of IV fluids containing glucose to stabilize blood sugar levels. Liver levels are also monitored and tested every few hours until they have normalized.

Prevention is Key

The number of products containing Xylitol has been growing steadily over the years and so has the number of reported cases of animal poisonings. You may be watching your diet by eating Xylitol sweetened products, but you should also be watching your dog to ensure that they don’t ingest any Xylitol containing products. Make sure to check your food’s labels and keep Xylitol containing products where dogs can’t access them.

Additional Resources

ASPCA Animal Poison Control: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control

National Center for Biotechnology Information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

zach_buchanan

 

Contributed by: Zach Buchanan, Veterinary Assistant (pictured with his pug Katie)

 

Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving for All

cateatFor most of us, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season… a
time filled with family, friends, and lots of food. While we enjoy this special time of year, we need to pay special attention to make sure our non-human family members stay safe. Some often over looked hazards are actually very easily preventable just by remembering that it’s best to keep your pet’s diet as normal as possible- no matter how tempting it is to share! The following are a few of the ASPCA’s Thanksgiving safety tips to help keep our pets happy and healthy while we feast:


Talkin’ Turkey
: If you decide to feed your pet a small bite of turkey, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. Don’t offer them raw or undercooked turkey which could contain salmonella bacteria. Do not give your pet the left over carcass either–the bones can be problematic for the digestive tract.

 

No Bread Dough: Don’t spoil your pet’s holiday by giving them access to raw yeast bread dough. When a dog or cat ingests raw bread dough, the yeast continues to convert the sugars in the dough to carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. This can result in bloated drunken pets, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring hospitalization.

 

 

 

Don’t Let Them Eat Cake: If you plan to make Thanksgiving desserts, be sure that your pets keep their noses out of the batter, especially if it includes raw eggs—they could contain salmonella bacteria that may lead to food poisoning.

 


A Feast Fit for a King:
 While your family enjoys a special meal, give your cat and dog a small feast of their own. Offer them some made-for-pets chew bones or stuff their usual dinner—perhaps with a few added tidbits of turkey (cooked and boneless), vegetables (try sweet potato or green beans) and dribbles of gravy—inside a food puzzle toy. They’ll be happily occupied for awhile, working hard to extract their dinner from the toy.

Making sure you pet doesn’t get access to anything unhealthy from the table is important, but don’t forget about your trash! Sometimes our pets figure out that the best way to get what they want is to get it themselves… straight from the trashcan! If you know you have a trash-curious pet, make sure you keep your bin behind closed doors, or tightly sealed at all times to prevent an unwanted trip to the emergency room. Some of the most hazardous Thanksgiving items often found in the trash (and hopefully not your pet) include: the yummy string that goes around the turkey legs, discarded skin & bones, and fatty grizzle. The potential problems caused by “garbage gut” include gastroenteritis (e.g., vomiting, diarrheaabdominal pain), Pancreatitis (severe inflammation of the pancreas), a gastrointestinal obstruction, or even tremors or seizures.

We all want the best for our pets, and ensuring their health and safety this Thanksgiving will give us something to be thankful for all year long.  For more information and helpful tips from the ASPCA, visit Thanksgiving Safety Tips.

 

For additional resources visit:

Thanksgiving Safety Tips:
https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/thanksgiving-safety-tips

Information about Symptoms:
www.pethealthnetwork.com/symptoms

lindsBlog written by:

Lindsey Vance, Client Care Specialist with her dog Hazel

 

 

Caring For Our Senior Pets

Beautiful portrait of an old Dog on the beach

We are constantly reminded that one year of our pet’s life is equivalent to roughly seven human years, six for larger breeds. As your pet ages they need even more care and attention which is why it’s up to us to modify their veterinary care to keep them happy and healthy in their golden years.

Step-up Vet Visits to Twice a Year

A great way to contribute to your senior pet’s good health is by scheduling regular preventative exams. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends senior pets see their vet every 6 months for a checkup. By visiting your veterinarian twice a year, they are able to identify signs of geriatric diseases earlier, including:

  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease

Screenings Uncover Hidden Diseases Early

Along with their increasing age come many diseases that commonly affect older pets so regular health screenings are key to catching them in the earlier stages. Proper veterinary care can then help alleviate symptoms and slow progression. Health screenings can also help identify diseases that often go undetected in the earliest stages, such as heart, kidney and liver disease.

Health screenings for a senior pet should occur twice a year and include:

  • Chemistry (kidney, liver, and pancreas markers and electrolyte values)
  • Complete blood cell count (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets)
  • Thyroid hormone levels
  • Urinalysis
  • Pro-BNP (indicator of heart disease-NEW TEST!)

Identifying these diseases and starting treatment sooner will extend our pet’s lifespan, often times by many months to years.

Black mixed breed dog. Mix of flatcoated and labrador retriever. Studio shot. Isolated on grey background.

Maintain Mobility and Exercise

Your pet may be slowing down with age, but it doesn’t mean they can’t still go on daily walks with you. Mobility and exercise are critical to keeping your senior pet healthy. One of the most common ailments for our senior pets is arthritis, causing discomfort leading to a decreased quality of life and enjoyment of every day activities. There are several treatments for arthritis including:

  • Joint supplements (glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Prescription pain control
  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture

Your veterinarian can help implement a treatment plan to control your pet’s discomfort and improve their quality of life that suits your family and lifestyle.

Enjoy Each Day

Aging is a privilege denied to many so monitor your senior pet’s health carefully, and schedule regular check-ups with your vet. Snuggle up, go for a leisurely walk and appreciate the time you have together.

More Information:

AVMA: https://www.avma.org/Caring-for-an-Older-Pet-FAQs.aspx

American Association of Feline Practitioners: http://aafp.com/senior-care-guidelines.aspx

American Animal Hospital Association: https://www.aaha.org/resources/senior_care.aspx

Destiny Coleman PhotoContributed by Destiny Coleman, V.M.D.

First Aid Kit for Pets

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Animal injuries can occur at any time, and generally occur when least expected (like when you are away from home), so it’s best to prepare ahead of time. Keeping a pet First Aid kit handy — at home and in your car — is a great way to ease the stress of dealing with health issues that occur, wherever you may be. Below is a list of recommended information and items to include.

Important Phone Numbers:

  • Phone number for your veterinarian
  • Phone number for the nearest emergency veterinary clinic (along with directions!)
  • Phone number for a poison control hotline (such as the ASPCA poison control center, which can be reached at 1-800-426-4435)
  • Copy of your pet’s vaccination certificate for proof of vaccines in case an emergency treatment is needed
  • Current photo of your pet (in case he/she gets lost)

Pet-Specific Supplies:

  • Self-cling bandage (bandage that stretches and sticks to itself but not to fur, such as VetWrap, which is available at pet stores)
  • Muzzle or roll of gauze for making a muzzle to prevent biting (don’t use this if your pet is vomiting, choking, coughing, or otherwise having difficulty breathing)
  • Nylon leash

Basic First Aid Supplies:

  • Absorbent gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Non-prescription antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Cotton balls or swabs
  • Disposable gloves
  • Gauze rolls
  • Hot/cold compress
  • Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting — but do this only when directed by a veterinarian or poison control expert)
  • Petroleum jelly (to lubricate a thermometer)
  • Rectal thermometer
  • Scissors with blunt ends
  • Sterile non-stick gauze pads for bandages
  • Sterile saline (sold at pharmacies, or you can use contact lens solution)
  • Styptic powder or sticks, Kwik Stop, or cornstarch
  • Tweezers

Other Useful Items:

  • A pillowcase (to confine your cat for treatment)
  • A pet carrier
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl — only use when directed by a veterinarian)
  • Ear cleaning solution
  • Emergency blanket
  • Gatorade or Pedialyte (for rehydrating)
  • Karo syrup (for diabetic pets who may have low blood sugar)
  • Nail clippers
  • Penlight or flashlight
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Tongue depressors (for a makeshift splint)
  • Towels

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Taking a Heart Rate or Pulse

Knowing how to check vital signs is also important in the case of an emergency. The heartbeat of a dog or cat can be felt at about the point where the left elbow touches the chest. Place your hand over this area and count the heartbeats while keeping time on a phone or stopwatch.

Pulses can also be felt with a light touch on the inner thigh, approximately halfway between the front and back of the leg, just below the wrist on the front legs or just below the ankle of the rear legs.

Normal Heart and Pulse Rates at Rest

Small breed dogs (under 30 pounds): 100–160 beats per minute
Medium to large breed dogs (over 30 pounds): 60–100 beats per minute
Puppy (until 1 year old): 120–160 beats per minute
Cats: 130–220 beats per minute

Normal Breathing Rates

Dogs: 10–30 breaths per minute and up to 200 pants per minute
Cats: 20–30 breaths per minute. (Note: panting in a cat can be a sign of serious illness and requires immediate veterinary attention)

Normal Temperatures

Dogs: 100°–102.5°F
Cats: 100°–102.5°F

You can learn more about this topic from the sources below, or contact your veterinarian for advice if your pet has special needs.

LEARN MORE:

American Red Cross Smartphone App for Pet First Aid: www.redcross.org/mobile-apps/pet-first-aid-app

AVMA Pet First Aid Information: www.avma.org/public/EmergencyCare/Pages/First-Aid-Tips-for-Pet-Owners.aspx

Humane Society First Aid Kit: www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pet_first_aid_kit.html

janelle_Charlie

 

Contributed by Janelle Powell, Office Manager (with Charlie)

Internal Parasites: You Should Know if Your Pet Has Them

Tick-borne disease agents, intestinal parasites, heartworms . . . these hideous pests are just some of the parasites that can infect our pets, inflicting discomfort, pain, and possibly dangerous illness. Parasites are located nearly everywhere in the environment, so there are many different ways your pet can get infected. Something as simple as eating grass or licking paws after a walk outdoors poses a potential risk of your pet picking up a parasite. So what do you do? Prevention is key.

How Pets Get Infected

Dogs, cats, and other mammals can be exposed to parasites in various ways, starting at birth. These are just some of the most common sources of exposure:

  • Puppies can be infected from their mother during pregnancy or nursing.
  • Parasite eggs present in soil can get into our homes on the soles of our shoes.
  • Potting soil purchased for indoor plants can host parasite eggs.
  • Cats and dogs can contract parasites from ingesting rodents, fleas, or other insects.

Parasites such as the worms that infect dogs—including roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms—live in the intestines, so that’s the first place your vet will look for them. They only shed eggs intermittently, so pets with parasites can have a “healthy” stool sample that doesn’t reveal any evidence of parasites. If left unchecked, parasites can stay undetected for a long time. It is crucial to test for parasites at least once a year and to give your pet a monthly heartworm preventive that also treats and controls intestinal parasites. Puppies and kittens should always be dewormed.

Symptoms of Infection

It is very important to know whether any of your pets may be carrying parasites. This is not only to avoid illness in your pet, but also to avoid transmission to family members. As carriers of zoonotic disease (disease that can be passed to humans from animals), parasites can cause serious problems in people, such as blindness—especially in children (roundworms), and migration under the skin (hookworms). Below are some of the symptoms to look out for in your pet:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • weight loss
  • coughing
  • anemia

Heartworm Disease

Heartworms are a type of internal parasite that lives in the major blood vessels of the lungs. Their name comes from the fact that in severe cases they can migrate to the heart. Heartworms are transmitted to animals by mosquitoes, making heartworm disease endemic in this area (it is always present in our local environment due to our climate and wildlife). Dogs are especially at risk because they frequently encounter mosquitoes outdoors, but animals that stay inside (inside cats and dogs) can also be infected. As most of us know from our own experience, mosquitoes can easily get inside our homes. Currently, there is no feline heartworm treatment available, and treatment in dogs can be quite costly. Heartworms are fatal if not detected before they enter the advanced stages of the disease.

Treatment and Prevention

In the case of many kinds of worms, treatment is given orally (by mouth) or in a shot. Many of these drugs are considered “broad-spectrum” because they’re effective in treating a wide range of parasites, including worms that live in the gut. This is the case for many monthly heartworm preventatives, which contain medication that helps prevent the more common intestinal parasites. Keeping your environment free of dirt, feces, and vermin is another important step in prevention parasites from affecting you and you pets. Standing water outside your home (such as in a bird bath) can attract mosquitoes to come lay their eggs, so eliminating those sources is important.

All pets are at risk of exposure to internal parasites, but there are measures we can take to help protect them, and us. Contact your veterinarian to discuss an individualized parasite prevention program tailored to your own pet’s needs.

More Information:

Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC): http://www.petsandparasites.org/about-capc/

CAPC brochure: http://www.petsandparasites.org/images/uploads/documents/CAPC_ParaBro_1.11_LR.pdf

Cesar Milan: http://www.cesarsway.com/Heartgard/Intestinal-Parasites

CAH Blog: Parasites: The Hidden Intruders

Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/animals.html

 

Contributed by Dr. Marsha Pollock, DVM

 

Some Surprisingly Toxic Substances for Pets

This week is National Poison Prevention Week, which makes it a great time to look at some of the preventable toxicities that we are increasingly seeing in our animal patients. Many of us know how dangerous chocolate, raisins, grapes, certain plants, human medications, fertilizers, and pest control products can be to our pets, but do you know that your favorite chewing gum can be deadly to a dog? Do you know that visits of pets to veterinarians around the United States are increasing due to medical marijuana and legalized recreational usage?

This blog focuses on two fairly new and growing toxicities seen by veterinarians today: xylitol poisoning and marijuana toxicity.

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Xylitol Poisoning

Xylitol poisoning is one that our practice has seen twice in the last year. A naturally occurring alcohol, xylitol is found in most plant material, including many fruits and vegetables. It is widely used as a sugar substitute and is used in sugar-free chewing gums, mints, and other candies. Xylitol is also added to many oral healthcare products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash, to help prevent tooth decay and dry mouth.

The problem with xylitol is that a very small amount can be very toxic to some animals. What it does is cause a sudden release of the hormone insulin, which in turn causes a rapid drop in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), which can be very dangerous. Signs of hypoglycemia can develop within 30 minutes of ingestion, or may be delayed up to 12 to18 hours if the xylitol is in a material that slows its absorption (such as gum products).

Signs of Xylitol Poisoning

  • vomiting
  • weakness
  • ataxia (uncoordinated movements)
  • depression
  • seizures
  • severe cases can lead to coma, liver dysfunction and/or failure, and death

Treatment and Prognosis

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has ingested a product containing xylitol. Dogs are the primary victims of this toxicity and specialists suspect this is because cats are typically pickier about what they eat. (It is suspected that ferrets may show the same clinical toxicities as dogs do with xylitol.)

Each animal may react differently, so treatment and prognosis are highly variable and depend on how much xylitol was ingested. The first thing your veterinarian is likely to do is test blood glucose level. After that, the course of action is very dependent on how your pet is doing. If the animal’s blood sugar is low, intravenous fluids containing glucose will be given. Your pet will likely be hospitalized, further lab tests will be run, and treatment will depend on the lab results.

shutterstock_92582179_smallMarijuana Toxicity

The second toxicity that is being seen around the United States with increasing frequency is marijuana poisoning. Dogs and cats can be poisoned by marijuana from second-hand smoke exposure or from direct ingestion of marijuana or baked foods laced with THC (pot brownies, pot butter, etc.). Most cases of marijuana toxicity we see in pets are not the result of inhalation, but are from ingestion of the marijuana itself. Clinical signs can usually be seen within three hours.

Signs of Mild Marijuana Toxicity

  • lethargy
  • altered response to visual or verbal stimuli
  • red eyes, dilated pupils
  • other behavior changes

Signs of Severe Marijuana Toxicity

  • uncoordinated movement (ataxia)
  • slow heart rate (bradycardia)
  • drooling (pytalism)
  • vomiting (emesis)
  • anorexia
  • urinary incontinence
  • diarrhea
  • vocalization
  • coma and death are possible in severe cases

Treatment

A pet suspected of ingesting marijuana should be examined by a veterinarian. After lab work is done, treatment may include inducing vomiting (depending on the time of ingestion), an activated charcoal treatment, intravenous fluids, or hospitalization, as needed.

Avoiding Toxicity

Ensuring your pet never suffers from one of these toxicities is pretty easy and straightforward since both of these substances are easy to identify and to keep away from pets. Knowing they can be very harmful to your pet is the first step. To learn more about other substances that are toxic to your pets, read these other blog posts: Making Your Garden Safe for Pets, No Halloween Candy for Pets!, 911 for Pets: Recognizing an Emergency, and Your Pets Don’t Know What’s Bad for Them.

Additional Resources:

Pet Poison Helpline: 800-213-6680 or petpoisonhelpline.com

ASPCA: www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control

dr-pierce

 

Contributed by Dr. Rhonda Pierce

Member: American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Northern Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), DC Academy, Ultrasound Society

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