When pets down dangerous substances: Some nontoxic food for thought
Your pet comes in licking his chops well before mealtime. Uh-oh. What has he gotten into?
Chances are, it's something that's not good for him. Last year, the Top 10 toxins ingested by pets were over-the-counter medications, medications prescribed for humans, insecticides, human foods that are toxic to pets, household items, veterinary medications, chocolate, plants, rodenticides and lawn and garden products.
If you find evidence or even suspect that your pet has swallowed something that could disagree with him in a serious or fatal way, the first thing to do is take a deep breath and remain calm. Then look for empty packaging or other clues as to what he might have eaten and how much.
Call the veterinarian to say that you're on your way with your pet, and why. Bring the empty or partially eaten containers, plant material or any type of label. It will help your veterinarian to know if that chocolate bar your dog ate is milk chocolate or 77 percent cocoa Belgian chocolate.
Maybe it's the middle of the night and you don't have a 24-hour veterinary hospital in your area. Call a pet poison hotline. Be prepared to describe packaging, labels or plant type and whether your dog or cat is conscious, alert, breathing normally and able to stand and walk.
Don't induce vomiting. It's not the best way to remove toxic substances from a pet's stomach, so toss out that old bottle of ipecac. Nobody recommends it anymore, for pets or kids. Instead, keep activated charcoal on hand. It acts like a sponge, absorbing what's in the stomach. Stick with plain activated charcoal, available from your drugstore or grocery store.
Toxins aren't always ingested by swallowing; some are absorbed through skin or fur. If your pet has a reaction to an insecticide or other substance, your first thought might be to bathe him to remove it, but it's smart to check with your veterinarian or the poison control hotline first. Some products become more toxic when they get wet. If you get the go-ahead to give a bath, brush your pet first to help remove the substance from the surface of the fur.
Learn about your local plants and their toxicity. Toxic plant lists don't always include regional plants. And know the origin of ornamental plants in your home or yard. Many beautiful but toxic plants come from South Africa.
Among the foods that can give pets a bellyache or worse are grapes and raisins, moldy walnuts and dairy products. Although not every dog reacts to grapes or raisins, aggressive treatment is recommended because the reaction can be severe -- renal failure -- or even fatal. Give activated charcoal immediately, and take your dog to the veterinarian right away. A good course of action is IV fluid therapy for at least 48 hours and careful monitoring of blood pressure, urine output and blood chemistry values for at least 72 hours to check for kidney failure.
Moldy foods cause a severe and potentially deadly neurologic syndrome. Signs -- including restlessness, panting, excessive salivation, tremors and seizures -- usually begin within 30 minutes of exposure. A dog doesn't even have to eat a moldy walnut; simply putting it in his mouth can cause problems. For the same reasons, toss the moldy cheese you found in the back of the refrigerator.
Lastly, in case you were wondering, wine and other alcoholic beverages are also toxic to dogs. So remember: It's a sin to let your dog dig zin.
Fur and feathers:
Can they get along?
Q: I have pet chickens, and I'm planning on getting a dog soon. Are there any breeds I should avoid? -- via Facebook
A: With a careful introduction and consistent training, many dogs can learn to get along with chickens, especially if they are pups when they first meet the birds. But not every dog will be a good fit. Consider a dog's heritage before deciding which one to get.
Guardian and working breeds such as Great Pyrenees or Doberman pinschers can learn to protect chickens, although they might at first think of them as toys or dinner.
Retrievers and spaniels are often attracted to birds, but they are usually trainable and friendly toward other animals.
A toy dog might seem like a natural, since many aren't much bigger than chickens themselves, but they have all the same instincts as larger dogs and need just as much training and supervision to make sure they don't go after your feathered friends.
One of the non-sporting breeds -- such as a miniature poodle, keeshond or Lhasa apso -- could be a good fit, but again, consider their original purpose. A Finnish spitz or shiba inu might be a little too interested in hunting chickens.
With training and supervision, herding breeds can learn to live amicably with chickens. Without it, they are just as likely to be aggressive toward chickens as any other dog.
On the better-avoided end of the spectrum are dogs with a predatory bent: the various spitz breeds such as Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes, sighthounds and terriers.
Consider your chickens, too. Breeds that do best with dogs include large, heavy birds such as buff Orpingtons, barred rocks, Hampshires and Ameraucanas. Small, lightweight or fluffy chickens such as bantams, Leghorns and silkies are at greater risk of injury. -- Mikkel Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Some overweight Labs
can blame their genes
-- Your Lab's desire to eat everything he sees may be hardwired, say researchers at Cambridge University. They screened more than 300 Labradors kept as pets or assistance dogs, seeking known obesity genes. A change in a gene known as POMC was strongly linked to weight, obesity and appetite in Labs and flat-coated Retrievers. The gene in question may be involved in how the brain recognizes hunger and the feeling of being full after eating. The results of the study were published in the journal Cell Metabolism. "About a quarter of pet Labradors carry this gene," lead researcher Dr. Eleanor Raffan told the BBC.
-- Pet dealers and retailers in New York state must now provide purchasers with written instructions on housing, feeding, handling, veterinary care, sanitation and other needs of small animals, reports the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The requirement applies to small mammals such as hamsters, chinchillas, guinea pigs, gerbils, rabbits, mice and ferrets, as well as small amphibians or reptiles -- think frogs, snakes and lizards. It does not include dogs, cats, birds, fish or feeder animals. The law appears to be the first of its kind in the country, according to the AVMA State Relations Department.
-- How do bacteria, viruses and parasites differ? Bacteria are microorganisms that exist everywhere -- on skin, on surfaces in the environment and inside the body. Most are helpful or harmless, but a tiny percentage cause serious illnesses. Antibiotics are effective against them, but bacteria are fighting back and becoming resistant. Viruses are unique organisms that possess genes, evolve and reproduce, but require a host cell to replicate. They attack various areas of the body and aren't affected by antibiotics, although some vaccines can help to prevent them. Parasites are microorganisms that rely on hosts to survive. They may or may not cause illness. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.