1) In last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, Helpful Buckeye discussed some of the problems that can happen when a dog chews on and swallows an object that wasn't intended to be swallowed. In addition to the physical blockage that can occur in the digestive tract from some of these objects, there can also be severe inflammatory and traumatic changes that must be dealt with.
The final concern about these foreign objects would be if the object contains a toxic substance that might cause damage to the digestive system or an illness to your pet. The most common toxic substance to be encountered by your pets when they swallow certain inedible objects is lead. Lead poisoning is mainly seen in dogs since cats are much more discriminating in their eating habits and rarely chew on non-food objects. As you learned from last week's column, dogs will chew on and frequently swallow just about anything they can fit into their mouths. The main sources of lead are lead-based paints that were so commonly used in houses built before 1950 as well as the lead water pipes also used in those homes. The federal government has since restricted the use of lead in most paints, but even the painted walls and outside wooden siding left over from those days becomes a problem especially in urban areas where renovations are taking place. It's easy for a dog to chew on old wooden siding and lead pipes, in addition to drinking water that is flowing through those lead pipes. Other sources of lead are batteries (including those from vehicles), fishing sinkers, drapery weights, linoleum, certain greases, lead shot (for a shot gun), the inside of golf balls, and certain types of roofing shingles.
Lead is absorbed into the blood from the digestive system and from there makes its way to the soft tissues and eventually the bones. The first signs of illness from lead poisoning usually are related to the gastrointestinal system: vomiting, abdominal pain, tense abdomen, diarrhea or constipation, and loss of appetite. Anemia can also be present at this time, along with other blood abnormalities. After a few days, if the source of lead is still present, the dog can begin to show some neurological signs, such as: barking at the air or inanimate objects, crying, roaming aimlessly, anxiety, jaw champing, excess salivation, blindness, muscle spasms, and convulsions. In dogs, rabies, distemper, and certain forms of hepatitis may appear similar to lead poisoning. This X-Ray of a bald eagle shows a lead pellet and some of the resulting lead deposits in the bones.
Obviously, the initial digestive signs are very generalized and could be mistaken for many other causes. That's a good reason for making a very thorough diagnostic evaluation if a dog continues to show those signs for longer than 24 hours. Various blood tests, including blood lead levels, would help in making an early diagnosis. Also, X-Rays would be extremely helpful in determining if there is any lead visible in the digestive tract. The main reason an early diagnosis of lead poisoning is advantageous is that once the neurological signs show up, the prognosis, or outlook, is decidedly less optimistic.
The main goal of therapy for lead poisoning is to remove the lead from the digestive system and the rest of the body as soon as possible. Sometimes, induced vomiting will work if the object is still in the stomach. In addition, the administration of cathartics that move material quickly through the bowel may be beneficial. At times, surgery might even be necessary in order to remove the offending lead object from the stomach or intestine. A secondary role of therapy is to aid in the removal of lead from the tissues by way of certain chemicals, called chelating agents. These medicines actually chemically bind the lead and help it to be excreted in the urine of the dog. The one problem with these chelating agents is that they also have some side effects of their own, namely vomiting and loss of appetite. Obviously, the sooner the lead poisoning is diagnosed, the sooner the dog can be treated, which then would lead to a more likely recovery. Dogs will often show a dramatic recovery upon removal of the offending lead object and administration of one of the chelating agents.
2) This is the perfect spot to introduce the ASPCA's list of the most common pet poisons for 2009.
Top 10 Pet Poisons of 2009
With various dangers lurking in corners and cabinets, the home can be a minefield of poisons for our pets. In 2009, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, IL, handled more than 140,000 cases of pets exposed to toxic substances, many of which included everyday household products. Don’t leave it up to Fido or Fluffy to keep themselves safe. Below is a list of the top 10 pet poisons that affected our furry friends in 2009.
Human Medications For several years, human medications have been number one on the ASPCA’s list of common hazards, and 2009 was no exception. Last year, the ASPCA managed 45,816 calls involving prescription and over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the floor, so it’s essential to keep meds tucked away in hard-to-reach cabinets.
Insecticides In our effort to battle home invasions by unwelcome pests, we often unwittingly put our furry friends at risk. In 2009, our toxicologists fielded 29,020 calls related to insecticides. One of the most common incidents involved the misuse of flea and tick products—such as applying the wrong topical treatment to the wrong species. Thus, it’s always important to talk to your pet’s veterinarian before beginning any flea and tick control program.
People Food People food like grapes, raisins, avocado and products containing xylitol, like gum, can seriously disable our furry friends, and accounted for more than 17,453 cases in 2009. One of the worst offenders—chocolate—contains large amounts of methylxanthines, which, if ingested in significant amounts, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures.
Plants Common houseplants were the subject of 7,858 calls to APCC in 2009. Varieties such as azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera are often found in homes and can be harmful to pets. Lilies are especially toxic to cats, and can cause life-threatening kidney failure even in small amounts.
Veterinary Medications Even though veterinary medications are intended for pets, they’re often misapplied or improperly dispensed by well-meaning pet parents. In 2009, the ASPCA managed 7,680 cases involving animal-related preparations such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heartworm preventatives, de-wormers, antibiotics, vaccines and nutritional supplements.
Rodenticides Last year, the ASPCA received 6,639 calls about pets who had accidentally ingested rat and mouse poisons. Many baits used to attract rodents contain inactive ingredients that are attractive to pets as well. Depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestions can lead to potentially life-threatening problems for pets including bleeding, seizures or kidney damage.
Household Cleaners Everybody knows that household cleaning supplies can be toxic to adults and children, but few take precautions to protect their pets from common agents such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants. Last year, the ASPCA received 4,143 calls related to household cleaners. These products, when inhaled by our furry friends, can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract.
Heavy Metals It’s not too much loud music that constitutes our next pet poison offender. Instead, it’s heavy metals such as lead, zinc and mercury, which accounted for 3,304 cases of pet poisonings in 2009. Lead is especially pernicious, and pets are exposed to it through many sources, including consumer products, paint chips, linoleum, and lead dust produced when surfaces in older homes are scraped or sanded.
Garden Products It may keep your grass green, but certain types of fertilizer and garden products can cause problems for outdoor cats and dogs. Last year, the ASPCA fielded 2,329 calls related to fertilizer exposure, which can cause severe gastric upset and possibly gastrointestinal obstruction.
Chemical Hazards In 2009, the ASPCA handled approximately 2,175 cases of pet exposure to chemical hazards. A category on the rise, chemical hazards—found in ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals—form a substantial danger to pets. Substances in this group can cause gastrointestinal upset, depression, respiratory difficulties and chemical burns.
1) As Helpful Buckeye suggested in a column before the holidays, puppies and kittens should not be given as gifts for 2 reasons: There is simply too much going on around the holidays for any kind of decent adjustment being made by the new pet to the surroundings and you just never are quite sure if the recipient of the gift is as eager for the pet as you were to give it. Now, in the New York City area, the dogs and cats that were given as gifts are starting to show up at pet shelters: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/01/14/after-holidays-gifted-animals-winding-up-in-shelters/ and...there is every reason to suspect it is this way across the country. Think twice before doing this next holiday season!
6) According to a recent poll taken by Petplace.com, you might be surprised by how many pet owners will call home to let their pets hear their voice.
When you are away, do you ever call your answering machine so your dog can hear your voice?
Yes, all the time 34%
Yes, occasionally 42%
No, never 24%
So...76% of you dog lovers call your dogs! That is very cool! (BTW - 65% of cat owners called their cats).
The Ohio State Buckeye men's basketball team has beaten 3 consecutive Top 25 teams in the past 8 days. We should be moving back into the Top 25 this week.
Benjamin Disraeli, (1804-1881) British statesman and author, said, "As a general rule, the most successful person in life is the one who has the best information." Hopefully, Helpful Buckeye has provided you with the best information in order to be successful with your pets!
~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~