News & Information
After interviewing veterinary toxicologist Dr. John Tegzes earlier this week, I couldn’t help but ask him one more question that I’d been dying to bring up:
It’s been my observation that plenty of poisons tend to fly beneath most owners’ radars. While chocolate, pesticides and rat poison get prime billing, others receive short shrift from the public. Which toxins make your list of the least respected pet poisons out there?
Here are Dr. Tegzes’ picks and thoughts:
1. Human Medication
Dr. Tegzes: “Of all the pet poisonings called into poison centers, exposure to human medications consistently tops the list. I think this is because most people don’t believe that their dog or cat will eat a pill. If you’ve ever tried medicating your dog or cat yourself, you know well that they don’t like it! It can be a very frustrating experience for the owner and stressful for the pet.
“What’s somewhat surprising is that, if your pets see you popping a pill into your mouth and you accidentally drop it, they sometimes will race over and gobble it up before you have time to react. More commonly, dogs will find a prescription pill bottle, which makes a nice chew toy. If the dog happens to chew open the bottle, there are surprise treats inside.
“For some medications, even just one pill is enough to cause serious toxicity in a dog or cat. Medications designed to lower blood glucose in Type II diabetes, as well as those used to treat high
blood pressure, can have devastating results when inadvertently eaten by dogs.”
“Dogs will eat it if they find it! Depending on the amount ingested, dogs may become very agitated and hyperactive or, alternatively, they may become sedate. In either case, they need to be treated by a veterinarian who can administer a medication to hasten elimination of the toxin and other medications to counteract the adverse effects.
“The problem is that many pet owners are reluctant to tell a veterinarian that their dog got into some marijuana. But the reality is that the veterinarian’s focus is on the welfare and health of the dog, and getting treatment needs to be a priority.
“Even when owners are reluctant to confess to the dog’s exposure, the clinical signs that manifest can be very revealing. The classic one observed in most dogs after marijuana ingestion is dribbling urine.”
“Lilies cause almost the same disease in cats as grapes do in dogs. Any part of the flower or plant can be toxic to cats. There are even reports of cats becoming sick and dying from walking through pollen dropped by lilies and grooming it off their paws, or drinking water from a vase that contains lilies. If you live with a cat, don’t ever bring lilies into your home!”
4. Grapes and Raisins
“Reports of grape and raisin toxicity in dogs first appeared in the 1990s. Since then, there have been many confirmed cases, usually resulting in a dog’s demise. The exact toxin and mechanism of toxicity has not yet been determined, so diagnosis relies on an owner’s history of the exposure.
“I think that many, if not most, owners are still unaware that grapes and raisins are poisonous to dogs, partly because not every dog will get sick. And we can’t yet predict which dogs will and which dogs won’t get sick. Bottom line: Any grape or raisin exposure in a dog requires prompt veterinary care.”
“Aflatoxin is a mycotoxin that can occur in grains like corn. If corn is grown or stored in specific temperature and humidity ranges, a mold can grow in it. The mold then produces a toxin that stays in the kernels. Even if the mold goes away, the toxin itself may remain.
“Each year, there are outbreaks of aflatoxicosis associated with kibbled dog foods that contain corn. In this case, it’s not because the pet food manufacturers are doing anything wrong. Rather, it’s because these mycotoxins can be difficult to detect. And since they can occur sporadically in a batch of corn, they can still find their way into pet food, even if it’s properly tested before it’s used.”
“Onions and garlic belong to the genus Allium. These plants share a common toxic mechanism whereby they cause oxidative injury to cells — in particular, red blood cells. The sulfhydryl groups in hemoglobin are oxidized by sulfoxides that are present in all parts of the plant and bulbs.
“Cats have about twice as many sulfhydryl groups per hemoglobin molecule than dogs and other species, making them particularly sensitive to oxidative injury from Allium plants. Even a one-time small amount of garlic is enough to impair their ability to transport oxygen to tissues, causing injury to red blood cells that can last for months. In essence, it is a form of anemia in cats. If chronically exposed even to very low amounts over a long period of time, most cats will suffer signs of anemia.”
Tip of the month
Our Cat, Fellini, was regurgitating his food frequently right after eating. The vet told us to put his food dish on a higher surface. Instead of eating at floor level, this way his head and neck would be raised and the food would make it down to his stomach easier with the help of gravity. We tried it. He took to it right away and the regurgitating stopped immediately.
Getting Kitty into the carrier
Set your pet carrier on its bottom end so the "door" is facing the ceiling. Open the door as far as it will go. Then scoop up your hopefully unsuspecting kitty with a clean bath towel, wrapping kitty's legs into the towel. Letting gravity do all the work, plop kitty right down vertically into the carrier. Voila! Works like a charm. No stuffing kitty in sideways, no scratching, no escapes, no trauma. Talk soothingly throughout and move swiftly to minimize kitty's time in the dreaded carrier.
Emergency Readiness Plan for You and Your Pets
When disaster strikes, you must be your own first responder. The right tools and the right plan can make a big difference.
1. Create an emergency contact list. Start with friends or family members who live nearby and can reach you or your pets quickly. Make sure they have keys, necessary codes or other information to access your home, grab the pets and evacuate. "For every Plan A, I have a Plan E," de Pablo says. "Most Plan A's don't happen, so Plan C has to be just as good."
2. Make an emergency kit. Fill a backpack with at least two weeks' worth of food for your pets and plan for at least a gallon of water per day, per pet. If your animal eats wet food, then it will consume less water. Since de Pablo's pets are on a raw diet, she keeps freeze-dried food handy.
3. Try camping, or at least learn a few skills. "Hotels frequently change their policies during emergencies, so I have a camping kit to set up wherever I want," she says. If you lack that wilderness gene, stop by an outdoor shop for primers on purifying water or other survival skills. While you are there, stock up on a few tools, plates and a utility knife.
4. Practice makes perfect. Take a weekend and rehearse your emergency evacuation plan. It should include finding alternate exit routes for your neighborhood, just in case a downed tree or other issue creates an obstacle.
5. Take a certification course. For the best experience in planning for a disaster, de Pablo suggests learning from the experts. Sign up for a FEMA certification course or join your county emergency response team. It's one way to guarantee that you have first-hand info.
6. Invest in sturdy pet carriers. Whether your pet goes to a relative or an emergency shelter, it needs a safe place to stay, says Toni McNulty, team lead for animals in disaster with HumanityRoad.org (@Redcrossdog on Twitter), a nonprofit organization that uses social media to fill the communications gap between those affected by disaster and those responding to disaster. Try a collapsible crate that is large enough to hold food and water bowls, and allows your pet to stand and turn around. "Get it ahead of time and let your pet get used to it. Mark with contact information. If your pet winds up in an emergency shelter, that contact information is necessary." It also helps to include a few favorite toys or bedding.
7. Stock the basics in an emergency bag. Be sure to include a leash (for dogs and cats), a collar with identification information, a harness and a muzzle, even if your pet is the sweetest in the land. "If an animal rescue person tries to pick up your pet, you don't want your pet biting," McNulty says. "Pets pick up stress, just like people in an emergency, and they can behave in a way that they normally don't."
8. Carry copies of documentation. Grab a waterproof container and use it to hold copies of your pet's vital information, McNulty says. The container should hold pictures of your pet, as well as a list of medications, allergies, vaccination records, a rabies certificate, and disaster contacts — inside and outside of the disaster area. When Johnnie Richey was killed in the May 22 tornado in Missouri, his 9-year-old cocker spaniel was eventually reunited with the owner's sister, Kerri Simms. "Even though her brother is gone, she could retrieve his pet and have a little bit of her brother through that pet," McNulty says. "That's why it's so important that you have pictures and out-of-area contacts."
9. Carry photos that show you with your pet. To alleviate any confusion when it's time to recover your pet from an emergency facility, be sure to carry photos that show you and your pet together. McNulty says to attach those photos as proof of ownership on your pet's crate.
10. Don't wait for the second or third warning. If you live in an area that's known for weather emergencies, act as soon as you hear a warning, McNulty says. "When pets sense urgency, they hide and you lose valuable time trying to find them," she says. Keep leashes, collars and crates ready at a moment's notice, particularly if you live in a mobile home or vulnerable structure.
It also helps to bookmark a few key websites and Twitter addresses. Here are a few worth noting:
FEMA: For information regarding pets, check out the FEMA.org site before and during an emergency. (@FEMA on Twitter)
Pet-friendly lodging: In addition to checking HumanityRoad.org for frequent updates, McNulty often recommends Petswelcome.com and BringFido.com because these sites list hotels
that accept multiple pets, exotic animals, birds and gerbils. But keep in mind that rules may change during emergencies.
The Red Cross: Although the Red Cross does not accept pets during emergencies, it's important to bookmark the site for evacuation information regarding your area.