And Gina Spadafori
The best way to save your pet from an accidental poisoning is to know which items are poisonous and to keep those out of your pet's reach.
What do you need to know? We touched base with Dr. Steven Hansen of the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center to find out.
Some poisonings are a result of something an animal gets into, like a household product. But a surprising number of cases come from something intentionally given to an animal by an owner who's trying to help. The classic example of the latter is when an elderly cat is given an extra-strength acetaminophen for arthritis. The owner is trying to help, but unfortunately, even one capsule of this common human medicine can kill a cat.
Dogs can figure out their way into trouble that their owners never envisioned. This includes opening cabinets to get cleaning products and counter-surfing to reach food items and pill vials. You need to realize that pets are basically like toddlers who can open any child-proof container, and you should take similar precautions:
-- Keep products such as medications, harmful foods and cleaning products in a secure cabinet above countertop height.
-- Use a kitchen garbage can with a lid.
-- Always read labels, especially on flea and tick products, and on lawn and garden products. Store out of reach in a high cupboard, not under the sink.
-- Be familiar with the plants in and around your home, and have only nontoxic plants.
-- Never give any medication or supplement to your pet unless recommended or approved by your veterinarian.
Many toxic substances aren't well-known to dog owners. For example, don't let your dog have significant amounts of raisins or grapes, macadamia nuts, moldy cheese, chocolate, onions, garlic or anything made with xylitol, which is a deadly ingredient for pets. If xylitol is in something in your home, your dog needs to be protected from it.
Once the preventive measures are in place, you need to know the signs of poisoning. Many (but not all) substances first cause stomach upset, including vomiting and diarrhea. It's not fun, but vomit must be examined for evidence of chewed packaging, plants, food, pills or other important clues.
Many poisonings progress to weakness and depression or nervous stimulation, including tremors and seizures. Pets may stop eating and drinking, or may drink excessive amounts, which could suggest liver or kidney involvement. Rapid or slow breathing, with changes in tongue and gum color -- from pink to white, blue or brown -- is important.
If you suspect poisoning, stay calm. Panicking will not help your pet and may waste precious time. If your pet is not showing any serious signs of illness described above, contact your regular veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) to determine if your pet needs to be seen, or if treatment needs to be given at home before you head to the veterinarian.
If your pet is having difficulty breathing, is having seizures, is bleeding or is unconscious, go to your regular veterinarian or an emergency clinic immediately. Take any evidence including chewed containers and labels and even vomit. This information is key to helping your veterinarian save your pet.
Be sure to always have the numbers of your pet's regular veterinarian, your local veterinary emergency clinic and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. It could save your pet's life.
Do compact fluorescent bulbs
Q: I read on the Internet that the compact fluorescent light bulbs they're pushing so hard are one of the reasons for feather-picking in parrots. Can you comment? -- via email
A: I asked board-certified avian specialist Dr. Brian Speer (my "Birds for Dummies" co-author) for help with this one. He says bird owners can probably keep using these bulbs if they choose to.
"Although there is a different flicker frequency that birds see as compared to ourselves, there is no confirmed direct causation between feather-damaging behavior and fluorescent lighting," says Speer, who owns the Medical Center for Birds, a birds-only practice in the Northern California town of Oakley.
He doesn't rule out CFLs completely, however, at least as a contributory factor to the problem. Feather-picking is a complex behavior, he stresses.
"This type of light may function as a stressor, and it is possible that some stressors may trigger anxiety," says Speer. "Anxiety may be addressed by displacement behavioral activities, and of these, feather damage could be seen.
"But this is a bit of a simplistic 'cause and effect' assumption for a problem that more often than not is multifactorial in nature," he says.
Stopping feather-picking, in other words, will remain a difficult road for many bird owners, with a lot of strategies employed along the way to find the magic ingredients to the cure -- if it can be found at all.
Best bet for a fix to feather-picking? Work with an avian veterinarian to figure out the cause or causes, which can vary from bird to bird. -- Gina Spadafori
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Touchy cats can be
trained to chill
-- Every cat lover has had the experience of a cat who, while being petted, bites or scratches "without warning." In fact, there is almost always some warning, but a key bit of body language was missed or ignored. You can tell when you're getting close to the line by watching your cat's tail. When a cat has had just about enough, his tail will start twitching.
With sensitive cats or cats you've just met, restrict your caresses to behind the ears, under the chin or at the base of the tail. You can reform hair-trigger cats by watching for the first sign of a tail twitch. When you get that first early warning sign, stop petting and allow him to calm down or to leave if he wants. Over time, you'll build up your cat's tolerance for petting.
-- Children run less risk of being sensitive to allergens if there is a dog in the house in the early years of their lives. Recent studies give weight to the theory that growing up with a pet trains the immune system to be less sensitive to potential triggers for allergies such as asthma, eczema and hay fever.
-- A "three dog night" was once described by comedian Johnny Carson as a "bad night for a tree." But the term originates with the Inuit tribes of Alaska, who measured nocturnal temperatures based on how many of their sled dogs they needed to serve as bed warmers. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.