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Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.

Anatole France

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Common pet toxins


There is no place like home. However, our houses can be a haven for toxic items that can severely injure or even kill our pets. Some common food items, chemicals, and medications can all pose special problems if pets are allowed to eat them. The remainder of this article will look at some common household items that can be toxic to your pet. Some of the items
are well known toxins whereas other will be quite a surprise. Regardless, limiting your petís exposure to these items is the first and most important step to preventing accidental toxicosis.

1. Chocolate. We all have our craving now and then, but your petís should not be indulged with this one! Chocolate contains 2 ingredients that are toxic to pets - theobromine and caffeine (also making your coffee grounds toxic!). Bakers chocolate and dark chocolate have the greatest concentration of theobromine making it more likely to cause a severe reaction. However, milk chocolate and white chocolate can also cause illness depending on the size of your pet and how much they eat.
Signs of ingestion can include excitement, vomiting and diarrhea, seizures or tremors, cardiac irregularities, increased heart rate, and even death.

2. Tylenol, Aspirin, and other NSAIDs. Common over the counter or prescription pain medications found in the home can cause severe illness in animals. It is important to remember that medications like Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate contain aspirin or similar ingredients and should never be given to your pet without first consulting your veterinarian.

They can cause vomiting and diarrhea to severe gastric ulceration and internal bleeding. Tylenol can cause liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death. Less than one regular strength acetaminophen (Tylenol) tablet (325mg) can be dangerous to a cat weighing 7 pounds.

3. Grapes. The National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) has recently identified acute kidney failure in dogs that have ingested large quantities of grapes or raisins. The toxic agent has yet to be identified. Although many pets love them, considering the potential risk, these should not be intentionally fed to your pets.
Signs of kidney failure can include vomiting or drooling (nausea), increased drinking and urination (or a complete lack of urination), and lack of appetite.

Sometimes acute kidney disease can be treated with aggressive and expensive treatment and hospitalization, but death can also occur.

4. Onions. L arge quantities of onions have been shown to cause certain kinds of anemia and possibly a secondary renal failure in dogs and cats. Regardless of whether they are raw, cooked, or dehydrated, onions are toxic. Cats appear to be more sensitive to the effects of onions than dogs.
Signs of onion toxicity can be weakness, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea, increased respirations (breaths) and heart rates and pale gum colour. Onion toxicity can be fatal and eating onions over several days can be more difficult to treat.

5. Rat Bait/Poison. Remember, any household pest you eliminate with poisons becomes toxic to your PETS! Pets can accidentally become poisoned when they ingest rat bait or a rat who has ingested it.
Warfarin (coumadin) based rat baits work by destroying the bodyís ability to clot. Therefore animals that have ingested rat bait will typically bleed to
death. Signs typically take a few days to appear and can include lethargy, weakness, coughing, respiratory distress, nose bleeds, bloody urine, swollen or painful joints, and death. Fortunately, rat bait is one of the few toxins that have an ďantidote.Ē Prompt medical attention and supportive care can allow animals to survive. Even if you only suspect your pet could have ingested rat poison, contact your vet or emergency clinic immediately.  The sooner treatment is administered the better.

6. Antifreeze. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat; less than one tablespoon can be deadly to a 10-pound dog. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that will often be very inviting to pets. If left unattended with antifreeze, most animals will drink it readily. Antifreeze can cause
acute renal failure. Signs of the toxicity donít always become apparent right away so most animals that ingest antifreeze will die, which makes antifreeze one of the most threatening pet toxins. ďPet friendlyĒ antifreeze is available on the market.
Signs of antifreeze poisoning will vary depending on the stage of illness and can include ataxia (drunken-like behaviour), vomiting, lethargy, lack of appetite and increased urination followed by the inability to urinate.  If you suspect your pet has accidentally ingested antifreeze, seek medical attention IMMEDIATE L Y, because delaying treatment by even a few hours can be the difference between life and death.

7. Orgaphosphate (OP) containing pesticides. Many common pesticides contain OPs. Examples of chemicals within this family include Carbaryl (Sevin), Malathion, Diazinon, Terbufos, and Dichlorvos, among others. Some over the counter flea and tick medications that you can purchase at your local pet store are in this category, so I always recommend you get your flea treatment from your veterinarian. OP toxicity is very common due to the large number of items that fall within this list.
Signs of organophosphate toxicity can include increased salivation or vomiting, diarrhea, tearing eyes, constricted pupils, decreased heart rate, tremors, seizures, and possibly death. If you get your pet treated early and know what he has ingested, it is very helpful.  With supportive care in the hospital and early treatment your pet can make a complete recovery.

There are many other household items that can be toxic to pets. However, some are not.
I will note here that Fabreze Spray and Swiffer Wet Jet have both received a lot of negative press with respect to pet toxicity. The rumours involved with these products are false. Both appear to be safe to use around pets if the directions on the label are followed. The ASPCA's poison control center agrees and has not been able to confirm any cases of Febreze causing the death or serious injury of pets. Although they do recommend that with any cleaning product, that birds be removed from the room until the product application has dried and the area has been ventilated.

If your pet has ingested a toxin:
1. Call your veterinarian or the Poison Control Center immediately. 

2. If possible, have handy the label to what you think your pet has ingested.
3. Do not induce vomiting in your pet until you have spoken to your veterinarian to be sure it is safe to do so.
4. DO NOT induce vomiting in your pet if they are in any kind of distress. Take to your veterinarian immediately.
5. If your veterinarian says to induce vomiting, you may use:

  • Syrup of ipecac (0.5 - 1.0 ml's per pound; wait for 20 minutes)

  • Hydrogen peroxide (0.5 - 1.0 ml's per pound; repeat in 10 minutes if no vomiting occurs).

  • Concentrated solutions of salt in tepid water - roughly 1 teaspoon of salt per cup of tepid water.

If no vomiting occurs within 15 minutes - administer again, repeating the same dosage.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not hesitate to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions regarding your pet.



Hot Weather Hazards

As the weather warms up, you need to recall the potential dangers that heat can pose to your pet. The two most common problems are sunburn and heatstroke.

Many people are surprised to learn that cats and dogs can become sunburned, especially on exposed skin surfaces such as the tips of the ears and the nose, or any areas where the fur is thin. Light colored or hairless pets are obviously more susceptible than darker colored animals. A pet that has recently been treated to a short summer haircut will also have an increased risk of being harmed by the sunís ultraviolet rays.

The best advice is to keep your pet out of the sun during peak hours. If this isnít possible, consider applying a small amount of a high SPF sunscreen to your petís nose and the tip of his ears (because your pet is likely to lick the sunscreen, choose a formula that is safe for babies). This will minimize the skin damage that could eventually lead to skin cancer. If you notice small sores on your pet around the nose or ears that donít seem to be healing, contact us. These could be an early indication of treatable skin cancer.

Heatstroke can occur if your pet is confined in an outdoor area without any access to shade or water, or if your pet exercises too vigorously or for too long a time. However, it is more common to see pets suffering from heatstroke after being left in a parked car. Many people mistakenly assume that if they leave the windows partially open, providing ventilation, that this will be adequate for their pet. It is not Ė in the summer months, a parked car can heat up extremely quickly, even when the outdoor temperature is comfortable.

Heat stroke is a threat to humans, but is more of a problem to our companion animals. Not only do dogs and cats wear a permanent fur coat, they also are also unable to sweat, further impairing their ability to control their body temperature in hot weather. The smaller the body size, the more rapidly heat stroke can develop. A small pet can develop heatstroke within minutes of being confined in an enclosed car in the sun. The risk of heatstroke increases in old or young animals, or in animals with health concerns, especially if they have heart or lung problems.

Early signs of heat stroke include panting, drooling, vomiting and/or diarrhea. These symptoms can rapidly progress to seizures, collapse, and eventually death. The damage that can occur to internal organs may be irreversible. 

Prevent heat stroke in your pet by following these guidelines:

  • In the summer, leave your pet at home in a cool spot if at all possible.
  • If your pet must travel with you, park your car in the shade, keep the windows open, and do not leave the pet alone in the car for more than 15 minutes.  If you canít find a place to park in the shade, do not leave the pet in the car.
  • Donít over-exercise your pet on very hot days.
  • Make sure that shade and water are available to your pet at all times.
  • If your pet is tied up outdoors, make sure that the rope or chain cannot get tangled around any objects, thus preventing your pet from getting into a shady spot.


Author Unknown

I am your dog, and I have a little something I'd like to whisper in your ear. I know that you humans lead busy lives. Some have to work, some have children to raise. It always seems like you are running here and there, often much too fast, often never noticing the truly grand things in life. Look down at me now, while you sit there at your computer. See the way my dark brown eyes look at yours? They are slightly cloudy now. That comes with age. The gray hairs are beginning to ring my soft muzzle. You smile at me; I see love in your eyes. What do you see in mine? Do you see a spirit? A soul inside, who loves you as no other could in the world? A spirit that would forgive all trespasses of prior wrong doing for just a simple moment of your time? That is all I ask. To slow down, if even for a few minutes to be with me. So many times you have been saddened by the words you read on that screen, of other of my kind, passing. Sometimes we die young and oh so quickly, sometimes so suddenly it wrenches your heart out of your throat. Sometimes, we age so slowly before your eyes that you may not even seem to know until the very end, when we look at you with grizzled muzzles and cataract clouded eyes. Still the love is always there, even when we must take that long sleep, to run free in a distant land. I may not be here tomorrow; I may not be here next week. Someday you will shed the water from your eyes, that humans have when deep grief fills their souls, and you will be angry at yourself that you did not have just "One more day" with me. Because I love you so, your sorrow touches my spirit and grieves me. We have NOW, together. So, come, sit down here next to me on the floor, and look deep into my eyes. What do you see?
If you look hard and deep enough we will talk, you and I, heart to heart. Come to me not as "alpha" or as "trainer" or even "Mom or Dad," come to me as a living soul and stroke my fur and let us look deep into one another's eyes, and talk. I may tell you something about the fun of chasing a tennis ball, or I may tell you something profound about myself, or even life in general. You decided to have me in your life because you wanted a soul to share such things with. Someone very different from you, and here I am. I am a dog, but I am alive. I feel emotion, I feel physical senses, and I can revel in the differences of our spirits and souls. I do not think of you as a "Dog on two feet" -- I know what you are. You are human, in all your quirkiness, and I love you still. Now, come sit with me, on the floor. Enter my world, and let time slow down if only for 15 minutes. Look deep into my eyes, and whisper to my ears. Speak with your heart, with your joy and I will know your
true self. We may not have tomorrow, and life is oh so very short.