Archive for the ‘Special Notices and Warnings!’ Category
Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
Parvovirus and Puppies
Spring is in full swing and summer is just around the corner, and so is parvo season. While it occurs all year round it is much worse in the warmer months. Parvo virus mostly affects puppies and young unvaccinated dogs. Since there are so many new strains that have mutated over the years even older dogs can get it. The virus showed up the 70’s and has spread worldwide since then. The way the virus is constructed makes it very hardy so it can live in almost any environment for a very long time. The virus is shed in great numbers by infected dogs (some of which do not show symptoms) so parvo is always being put back into the environment and it is EVERYWHERE. This means that parvo is in your house, it’s in your yard, it’s at the grocery store, and on the bottom of your shoes. You can try and disinfect the environment to decrease its numbers but you can never completely get rid of it.
Puppies are especially prone to parvo virus because their immune systems are still developing and they have had no previous exposure. Older dogs are less susceptible because at some point they have been exposed to it and their immune system have had a chance to react. Hopefully though they have been vaccinated for parvo so they will not get sick when they do encounter the virus. When a puppy is born they get colostrum from the mother’s milk. If the puppy was not a good nurser or if did not get mother’s milk after it was first born it is more susceptible to infection. The colostrum helps protect the puppies from viruses for a time but as the mother’s antibodies start to decline the puppy is now vulnerable to viruses. This is why we don’t start vaccines until they are 6-8 weeks old because their mother’s antibodies are still protecting them. Puppies need to start their vaccines at this age to help their immune system recognize and be able to mount a response against parvo. Until they have all boosters at 3-4 week intervals until they are 16-18 weeks old they can still get parvo and get very sick. Black and tan colored breeds are more susceptible to the virus and may require an additional booster to keep them protected.
Once the virus is in the body it attacks rapidly dividing cells like the lining of the intestine, bone marrow, and lymph cells. This means that the lining of the intestines are broken down causing anorexia, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea (usually with blood in it). As the lining of the intestines break down it allows the bacteria that normally lives in the intestine to get into the bloodstream and cause what is called sepsis. Sepsis will kill the puppy. The other part of the equation is the destruction of white blood cells; these cells help fight off infection so now the puppy has this nasty virus that is not only destroying it’s GI tract but it is killing the very cells that help fight off infection. Treatment is long and expensive and there is no guarantee that it will work. There is no medication that kills the virus so treatment is aimed at supporting their body while it slowly fights off the infection.
It is so much easier and cheaper to try and prevent an infection than treat it. While they are never 100% protected until they have had all their vaccines at the correct intervals, you can do a few things to decrease the chance of getting parvo. The first thing you can do is pick a puppy from a reputable breeder and not purchase one from a puppy mill or pet store. I can’t tell you how many people impulse by a puppy in a Walmart parking lot or pet store only to bring it home and it is sick. You should go see the environment that the puppy has been brought up in and see if the parents and the puppies, if old enough, have been vaccinated. If they cannot produce records from a veterinarian and there are multiple dogs and puppies running around in a dirty environment walk away! Some breeders will buy their own vaccines but if the vaccine has not been properly handled and kept at the right temperature it will not work.
Another great way to keep exposure to a minimum is to not take your puppy anywhere until it has had all of its vaccines. That means no fun trip to the pet supermarket or to the dog park. These places are hot beds of virus and you are just asking for it if you are taking your puppy out in public before they are fully vaccinated. Keep the puppy at home and don’t let other people bring dogs to your house unless they are fully vaccinated. It is also a good idea to make sure that all dogs that are in the household are fully vaccinated before any new dogs or puppies are introduced.
As with most things in life, a little preparation and education about what you are getting yourself into can prevent a very costly and deadly problem. If you are thinking about getting a new dog make sure you have familiarized yourself with the breed and with possible health problems. Any veterinarian worth their salt will be more than happy to sit down with you and educate you on what needs to be done and why. Then hopefully getting a new puppy will be a happy experience and not an expensive and even sad story that ends before it got a chance to begin.
M. H. Archer, DVM
Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
Exposure to toxins or unintended substances are a relatively common problem with household pets, both dogs and cats. To prevent exposures to chemicals, you should attempt to “animal-proof” your home. There are various products available at stores to secure cabinets and drawers. Websites and books also describe procedures to secure cabinets, outlets and doors. One major thing that should be done is to move toxic substances out of lower level cabinets or place cabinet locks on doors and drawers so that pets cannot get into these cabinets. Most animals typically will not get into items that taste bad, but antifreeze (with a sweet taste) and flavored medications will actually attract some pets to ingest them. Also, young animals are curious and may be more prone to get into things when bored.
Prevention is the best remedy and “animal-proofing” your house will decrease the chance of exposure to toxins. You can also move items except for medications that are taken daily to inaccessible places such as high shelves or out of the lowest cabinets to decrease exposure risk. Consider putting chemicals like antifreeze, motor oils, herbicides, household insecticides and rodenticides in a garage or outbuilding to which the animals do not have access. However, if your pet does get exposed to something, take your pet to your local veterinarian for monitoring and treatment. There are also various animal poison control lines including the Pet Poison Helpline (affiliated with the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota) and the National Animal Poison Control Center through the College of Veterinary Medicine in Illinois. The Pet Poison Helpline can be reached at 1-800-213-6680 for a $39 consultation fee with unlimited follow-up calls by you and/or your veterinarian while the National Animal Poison Control Center can be reached at 1-(888) 426-4435 for a $65 consultation fee. If you have already called one of these hotlines when you take your pet to your local veterinarian, make sure you give the case number so that you will not be charged again if your veterinarian does use either of these services for a consultation.
According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the most common calls about unintentional exposures are for human medications or vitamin/supplements (48.5%), human foods that are toxic to pets (16%), insecticides (7.5%) and rodenticides (6.5%). This list makes up over 75% of the calls that the Pet Poison Helpline received last year. In addition to these exposures, pets are susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning and exposure to toxic houseplants. The following paragraphs discuss each of these toxins in brief. Hopefully, this information can help you avoid an unintentional exposure to a food product or a life-threatening toxicity. If an exposure does occur, make sure to take the medication, supplement or a sample of the ingested item with you when you seek veterinary care.
For medicines and supplements or vitamins, the best way to prevent exposure is to keep these items in high cabinets or areas where pets cannot get to them. Some pets can jump onto or stand on their back legs to reach counter-tops or tables, so avoid leaving medications out in the open. You can ask your pharmacist for childproof caps for any prescription medications, which decreases the likelihood of unintentional exposures by children and pets. When it comes to some vitamins, remember that many, especially children’s vitamins and some pet supplements may be flavored to be sweet. This may attract your pet should they get access to the bottle, so make sure to put vitamins in an area your pet cannot reach. Exposure to excess vitamins can be dangerous when these supplements contain iron, zinc or vitamins such as D and E, all of which can be stored by the body. Medications are also sometimes accidentally ingested by pets. Due to the number of prescriptions, the Pet Poison Helpline identified one of the most common medication group that dogs ingest as antidepressants. Many of these are SSRIs (also known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) and may lead to seizures or be life-threatening if taken at a high enough dosages. If your pet is suffering from behavior problems such as separation anxiety or seizures and gets exposed to an antidepressant, please take both the medication the pet ingested and the prescription for your pet’s condition when you seek care. The dose of your medication may not be dangerous on its own, but if combined with a medication for a behavioral disorders in your pet, it could become life-threatening as many of these medications work in similar ways in the body. Common over the counter medications can also be dangerous. Please be aware that common “pain” medications like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be very dangerous to cats or dogs when ingested. Therefore, a pet should be taken in for treatment as soon as possible with exposure to these common human medications, even at low doses. Unlike people, dogs and cats lack the enzymes needed to process these medications fully and toxicity can occur rapidly.
Human food: In addition to these common medications, some foods can be unsafe for consumption by pets. Most people have heard of chocolate foods being dangerous to dogs (and cats). Dark chocolate or bakers chocolate is the most dangerous. An exposed pet should be taken to the veterinarian quickly in response to eating even a small portion of a these chocolates. Call your veterinarian about milk chocolates or any other chocolate exposure to determine if the amount ingested is likely to cause a problem and do it as soon as you know an ingestion has occurred. In some cases, decontamination (removal of the dangerous food) can be done with few side effects, while the toxicity reaction could be very expensive to monitor and treat. Some other dangerous items include diet products, grapes and seasonings or vegetables. Sugarless gum and diet products should also not ever be given to dogs because they may contain xylitol. This sweetener can quickly result in a diabetic coma in dogs, from a drop in the dog’s blood sugar. Also be aware that grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in some dogs. Garlic, leeks, chives and onions also should not be given to dogs due to their ability to damage red blood cells which carry oxygen to tissues. Other foods to be avoided include nuts in general – especially macadamia nuts in dogs.
When it comes to your animal receiving table scraps or human foods, be aware that portion sizes we typically eat are going to be too large for your pet’s smaller body size. Take for example a 75 lb lab, he should only get half as much of a lean meat or safe snack as a human. A shi tzu or other small dog should receive less than one-tenth of what you would eat of meat or a snack. Avoid giving pets fatty meats or foods that are very greasy as this can sometimes lead to pancreatitis.
Insecticides are commonly used to protect food, eliminate insect pests and keep our properties safe for pets and children. However, many of these products, even those we use on our pets (topical flea and tick medications), can be very dangerous if ingested. Always keep your flea and tick medications in a place where pets and children cannot reach them. The most dangerous of these insecticides are a group called organophosphates. If at all possible, organophosphate use should be avoided on your property and near your pets and children. I would suggest using fipronil, or pyrethrin or permethrin insecticides as they are less dangerous to pets and you. Organophosphates are so dangerous because they undergo a process of “aging” after ingestion and therefore their toxicity can last much longer than other insecticides. Any pet recently treated with a topical flea (and/or tick) medication should be taken to a veterinarian if they should start shaking, exhibiting abnormal behavior or stop responding normally to you. Cats are especially susceptible to these products when ingested so make sure that you do not use dog products on any of your cats. If you do suspect toxic reaction to a product, take the package you used or the container for an environmental insecticide with you to the veterinary clinic.
Although it is tempting to buy the generic brands of flea and tick medication because it is typically half the price of your veterinary brand of Comfortis (spinosad) or Frontline (or its generic Fiproguard), be aware that these cheaper products may contain organophosphates. Unfortunately, the $10 you save on the product may cost an expensive veterinary bill and potentially your cat or dog his life. I have personally seen this happen when pets have licked off part of these products off after treatment and the resultant seizures could not be controlled, leading to death of a beloved family pet.
Rodenticides are sometimes necessary to control rats or mice, especially on farms. However, the risk of toxicity is present from both a pet ingesting the product and from relay toxicity. Relay toxicity is when the pet eats a rodent that has been exposed to a rodenticide and the pet experiences toxicity from eating the rodent. This is more common in cats due to their relatively small body size compared to the rodents. Rodenticides have various methods of action, including thinning the blood (prevention of blood clotting); therefore they should be used with care around pets. There are other ways to handle rodents which include sticky (glue) traps, catch and release traps (for those who want to relocate rodents) and the traditional bait-snapping traps. With all of these traps, there is a small risk of injury to a pet, but the likelihood of severe toxicity is not possible.
Other possible toxins or exposures include gases and plant exposures
Most of our household pets are much smaller than we are and can experience toxicity from gas exposure more quickly than we can. They are closer to the ground, have a smaller body size with a higher breathing rate and so can quickly become intoxicated by gases such as carbon monoxide in an enclosed space such as a garage. Wood burning stoves with inadequate venting can also release carbon monoxide inside the home. The best way to avoid exposure is to never run a gasoline motor or gas operated appliance in a garage or other enclosed space. You can pick up a carbon monoxide detector at your local hardware store for less than $50 and it will protect the whole family. If you suspect your pet has been exposed, remove him from the area immediately to fresh air and check for breathing problems, disorientation or behavioral problems. If these do not improve quickly or they worsen, immediate medical attention by a veterinarian is necessary, including oxygen administration.
Finally, we sometimes unwittingly expose our pets to toxic plants by having them in our house. While we are likely to enjoy the plants for their scent, appearance and oxygen creation, our pets sometimes like to taste them as well. If you have pets that don’t ingest plants, congratulations; otherwise be aware of seasonal plants such as lilies around Easter or poinsettia or mistletoe in the winter because they are toxic and can lead to renal failure in cats (lilies) or irritation of the mouth, vomiting and salivation in dogs and cats (poinsettia). The following is an abridged list of houseplants that may cause toxicity in pets.
|Common Name||Latin Name|
|Apricot kernels (seeds)||Prunus armeniaca|
|Calla Lily||Calla palustrus|
|Cathedral bell||Kalanchoe spp.|
|Chinese Evergreen||Aglaonema spp.|
|Crocus (Autumn)||Colchicum autumnale|
|Dumb Cane||Dieffenbachia spp.|
|Elephant’s Ear||Colocasia antiquorum|
|English Ivy||Hedera helix|
|Fishtail Palm||Caryota spp.|
|Holly Berries||Ilex aquifolium|
|Jerusalem Cherry||Solanum pseudocapsicum|
|Mountain laurel||Kalmia spp.|
|Ranunculus (buttercups)||Ranunculus spp.|
|Rosary Pea||Abrus precatorius|
|Schefflera shrubs||Schefflera actinophylla|
|Spath/ Peace Lilies||Spathiphyllum spp.|
For more information on these or other potentially toxic plants or exposures, you can use the alphabetical reference provided at the Pet Poison Helpline site: www.petpoisonhelpline.com
Best of luck in keeping your pets safe.