How to avoid spending your money here during the holidays!
by: Penelope Graben, DVM
Our pets are creatures of habit when it comes to food and sudden diet changes can cause serious gastrointestinal upset. This is the season of overeating for humans, but it should not be for our pets. Is giving Fido his own holiday meal really worth the vomiting and diarrhea later anyway? A lot of serious (and expensive!) illnesses can be caused by giving our pets table food. Even a mild and easily treated case of gastroenteritis can be up to 5 days of vomiting and diarrhea- which is a whole lot of cleaning up and waking up in the middle of the night! Most people already know that chocolate is a no-go, but there are some other serious dietary faux-paws that need to be avoided.
No gravy, baby!
A single fatty meal (like pouring turkey drippings over kibble) can cause inflammation of the pancreas in dogs and cats. Many animals with pancreatitis need to be hospitalized and on a fluid drip for days. In some cases, an inflamed pancreas can even be fatal. We know how excited Buddy must get for gravy, but it’s not worth risking his life!
No Bones About It!
Bones are hard and sharp- neither of which are qualities appreciated by the thin and sensitive lining of stomachs and intestines. Bones can puncture the GI tract from within and cause an extremely painful and fatal condition called septic peritonitis.
Occasionally I’ll hear someone say, “But I thought bones couldn’t break if they weren’t cooked yet so they were safe to feed!”
This urban legend occasionally makes rounds, much to my confusion- if you’ve ever seen anyone wearing a cast, you know bones can be broken without cooking!
Grapes and raisins are very toxic to canine and feline kidneys! Even a few raisins can cause irreversible kidney failure in a small dog.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in many types of gum, dental hygiene products (sugar free gum, toothpaste, mouthwash), over the counter medications, deodorant, and some brands of common food products, such as bakery pastries, ketchup, and some brands of peanut butter. Be sure to read the ingredients list on anything you give your dog (or if your pup was naughty and chewed up something, look up the ingredients list before calling your veterinarian so they can properly advise you).
Xylitol can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure.
Even a small amount of xylitol can be fatal to dogs- and it has a wide range of absorption time. Toxic effects of xylitol can start within 15 minutes or take up to 12 hours after ingestion- signs to look out for include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and collapse. As of now, there is no data for xylitol toxicosis in cats, so we’re not sure how or if it affects them.
Don’t let your Buddy around your buds!
Marijuana is a plant that has both medicinal and recreational uses. THC is the psychoactive component (“fun” part), while CBD is the anxiety reducing, appetite increasing, more benign compound.
Regardless of it’s newfound legality or how your pet got into a stash- veterinarians don’t care how or why your pet had access to it. Don’t ever feel ashamed or embarrassed to inform your veterinarian that your pet got into marijuana- we see pets eating things like underwear, chocolate, and leftover chicken bones all the time. While it’s never ideal for your pet to eat something that could block it’s intestinal tract or be toxic, we understand that pets are mischievous and you are human. (I once had to take my dog to the teaching hospital in veterinary school because he ate the 24 chicken bones that I had tossed in the garbage can the night before. I never even considered that my perfectly behaved pooch would tip the trash over. Sometimes our pets act out of character when there’s something incredibly tempting, and sometimes we just plain-old forget to keep unsafe things out of their reach.)
It’s important to stress that we are not here to judge, but simply to assess your pet and provide a treatment plan to keep them comfortable or safe. Veterinarians’ only obligation to law enforcement is to report animal cruelty and neglect- and bringing your pet in to a hospital right after you saw them nibbling something they shouldn’t is neither of those!
So now that we have covered the anxiety inducing “Will I be in trouble if I call the vet?” question- onto what happens if your pet ingests it and how we will manage it!
Can I smoke marijuana around my pets?
We’d rather you didn’t. While the second hand smoke hasn’t been shown to be toxic, inhaling smoke isn’t good for anyone- human or animal! Do your pet a favor and keep the smoke outdoors or in a well ventilated area. While humans are able to consent to things that can damage their body, such as alcohol and cigarettes, our pets cannot consent to the harmful side effects. So while it’s unlikely to cause a toxicity issue, it can lead to chronic respiratory diseases later in life- such as asthma and bronchitis.
When do the signs of toxicity start? How much time do I have to make it to the vet?
Signs will start 30-90 minutes after ingestion. You definitely have enough time to get your critter to the clinic!
What are the signs? I didn’t see my pet eating anything, but my roommate is known for leaving things out, and when I came home from work, my pet was acting a little strange.
Clumsiness, lethargy, urine dribbling, tremors, and dilated pupils are all signs of marijuana toxicity. These signs can also be associated with other neurological disorders, such as herniated discs or seizures. A physical exam can help point us in the right direction as far as any diagnostic tests or treatment is concerned.
Alright, you saw your pet get into your stash and brought them in. Now what’s going to happen to them?
If you bring your pet to the vet within a half hour of them eating the plant, your vet will likely induce vomiting. If this is done soon enough, there may not need to be any other treatment. Sometimes they will still need supportive care even after vomiting, but the supportive care will be less intensive than a pet who digested everything they ate. It’s also dependent on their size and how much they ingested- a 5 pound Yorkshire terrier who ate several grams of substance will definitely need more care than a 100 pound Labrador that licked an ashtray clean.
After the half hour mark, the toxin has likely already made its way past the stomach and your pet will need supportive care. As the pets are often dribbling urine and too sedate to eat or drink, it’s important to keep them from getting dehydrated- IV fluids are great for this. Their slow heart rate and lethargy may also mean your pet can get hypothermic, or unable to keep themselves warm. At Park, we use a rubber “blanket” that circulates warm water to keep pets warm without the risk of skin burns that other heating devices can cause.
Depending on the amount ingested, some pets may become comatose from marijuana toxicity. This is a medical emergency that needs intensive monitoring and supportive care to keep your pet alive during the coma. This is a rare occurrence, but a very serious one!
So to recap- depending on how long ago the ingestion was, vomiting may or may not be induced. Afterwards, we’ll set them up with an IV catheter, fluids, and a warming cage to keep them comfortable. Generally, pets can be discharged within one or two days and get back to their normal lives.
Can marijuana be used medicinally in pets?
All of the toxin talk from above is specific to the THC component. A lot of people are curious about the CBD component’s effects on animals in regards to seizure control, pain management, and cancer treatment. The American Veterinary Medical Association is supportive of research to find out if there are any helpful properties of this component, and if so, how to use them to help pets best. We stick with evidence based medicine for our recommendations here, so it’s not something we can prescribe as a treatment. However, if you’re passionate about this and dead-set on giving it to Fido or Fluffy, come talk to us. We can help with teaching you how to assess pain scores at home to determine the usefulness of the product, as well as looking for a source of product that doesn’t contain any of the toxic THC.
Penelope Graben, DVM
Park Animal Hospital
Las Vegas, NV
Management of Dogs with Noise Phobias
Does your dog start pacing and trembling when storm clouds start rolling in? Do they cower and hide when the kids down the street start to set off bottle rockets for the Fourth of July or New Years? A phobia is defined as a fear that’s more exaggerated than the proposed threat. We know that thunder and fireworks outdoors aren’t going to hurt your dog that spends most of their days stretched out on the couch in the creature comforts of air conditioning- but your dog doesn’t know that!
Remember that this is an emotional event for your pet, and not a bad behavior. Bad behavior, such as knocking the trash can over or barking at the UPS truck, can be modified. Emotions are not something we can train our pets to feel differently. Do not yell or punish your pet when they are fearful. This will only confuse them and exacerbate their fears.
Allow your dog to hide in safe places in the house. If your dog feels most comfortable in the closet, bathtub, or on a bookshelf after he removes all of the books (or is that just my dog?), allow them to stay where they feel comfortable. Do not force them out of their comfort zone. If this is a predictable place, make sure it’s safe for them (ie. taking shaving razors from bathtubs). You can make it more comfortable for them too! Put their favorite toy and old blankets in the area you know they like to hide. This gives them comfortable smells and objects to be around. Do not force them to confront their fear by leaving a comfortable area.
On the flip side, DO restrict access to doors that lead outside or gates that leave the yard if your pet is known for attempting escape when in fear. Make sure they are in a secure area. Holidays with fireworks are the most common times that people lose their pets!
Regardless if your pet tends to have a Houdini streak or not, be sure they are microchipped and wearing a collar with an identifying tag. Sometimes fear can cause pets to act out in ways they normally wouldn’t. A microchip will ensure that if your pet is found and taken to a shelter or veterinarian, they can be scanned and returned to you. This is a good reminder to make sure that your pet’s chip is associated with your correct phone number and address, in case those have changed since the chip was implanted.
To reduce your pet’s fear of what’s going on outdoors, whether that be fireworks or thunderstorms, you can make these simple modifications:
- “Black Out” Curtains: These can block all light (minimizes the flashing stimulus of fireworks or lightning) and their thick fabric can also help reduce sound
- White noise: Background noise in the house can help disguise what’s happening outdoors. You can use a white noise app on a phone, the TV (maybe not the movie Scarface though), or just play some music.
- Pheromone diffusers or collars: Feliway is a more well known feline pheromone that is used in vet hospitals to calm cats down. Sentry is a company that now produces similar products for dogs! These can come in the forms of plug-in diffusers or as collars
- Crate training: This ONLY works if your pet is already crate trained! Think of crates as your dog’s personal space. Dogs get their tendency to enjoy small and dark spaces from their wolf ancestors. Having a space that is never invaded by other pets or people is a refuge for many dogs. As any human introvert can tell you, having a regular space to retreat to where no one comes uninvited is a necessary part of managing anxiety. Dogs that are crate trained come to appreciate their “me space” and may choose to spend time in their crate during stressful events. This should be not only allowed, but encouraged.
And finally, about the “easy fix”- aka anxiolytic drugs.
Anxiolytic drugs are a wonderful tool to use in managing short term fearful situations in our pets. However, there is no such thing as a magic pill that will cure your dog’s fear altogether. Most drugs need to be given 1-2 hours prior to the fearful stimulus in addition to following the tips above.
You CANNOT toss a pill to your dog one hour after fireworks have started and expect to take them on a walk!
If you think your pet could benefit from drugs to reduce their anxiety during stressful events, we recommend giving them the drug on a day you can monitor them when nothing stressful is happening before using it on the big day. This ensures you can see how they will react to the medication without additional stimulus- it may be that your pet is more or less sensitive to the medication than other dogs and the dose may need to be adjusted. You can test your dog’s sensitivity to the medication by playing a youtube video of fireworks or a storm 1-2 hours after giving the medication and gauging their response. After about a minute, you’ll probably have a good idea of how your pet will react during an actual storm or fireworks. You can then stop playing the video and let them sleep off the rest of their medication and rest comfortably knowing that you and your pet are prepared to handle the real deal.
Do you have any questions? Have you tried doing all of these things and are still struggling with your pet being destructive when they’re afraid?
Please give us a call and schedule a consult with one of our veterinarians. We will be happy to guide you to the next step of behavioral modification and drug therapy.
Penelope Graben, DVM
Park Animal Hospital
Las Vegas, NV