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Human Foods that Poison Pets

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 9:28:16 AM EST by Cam Day

Keeping your pet safe over Easter


Feeding pets food that we enjoy is not only wrong, it can also be fatal. There are some foodstuffs that humans relish which cause illness and death if eaten by pets.

Chocolate, macadamia nuts and onions are good examples. Each of these foods contains chemicals which rarely cause problems for humans, but for pets, these same chemicals can be deadly.

Chocolate Toxicity

Chocolate contains theobromine, a compound that is a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic.

darkchocWhen affected by an overdose of chocolate, a dog can become excited and hyperactive. Due to the diuretic effect, it may pass large volumes of urine and it will be unusually thirsty. Vomiting and diarrhoea are also common. The effect of theobromine on the heart is the most dangerous effect. Theobromine will either increase the dog's heart rate or may cause the heart to beat irregularly. Death is quite possible, especially with exercise.

After their pet has eaten a large quantity of chocolate, many pet owners assume their pet is unaffected. However, the signs of sickness may not be seen for several hours, with death following within twenty-four hours.

Cocoa powder and cooking chocolate are the most toxic forms. A 10-kilogram dog can be seriously affected if it eats a quarter of a 250gm packet of cocoa powder or half of a 250gm block of cooking chocolate. These forms of chocolate contain ten times more theobromine than milk chocolate. Thus, a chocolate mud cake could be a real heath risk for a small dog. Even licking a substantial part of the chocolate icing from a cake can make a dog unwell.

Semi-sweet chocolate and dark chocolate are the next most dangerous forms, with milk chocolate being the least dangerous. A dog needs to eat more than a 250gm block of milk chocolate to be affected. Obviously, the smaller the dog, the less it needs to eat.

Onion and Garlic Poisoning

Onions and garlic are other dangerous food ingredients that cause sickness in dogs, cats and also livestock. Onions and garlic contain the toxic ingredient thiosulphate. Onions are more of a danger.

Pets affected by onion toxicity will develop haemolytic anaemia, where the pet's red blood cells burst while circulating in its body. onionsandgarlic

When pets are first affected by onion poisoning, they show gastroenteritis, including vomiting and diarrhoea. The pets will show no interest in food and will be dull and weak. The red pigment from the burst blood cells appears in an affected animal's urine and it becomes breathless. The breathlessness occurs because the red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body are reduced in number.

The poisoning occurs a few days after the pet has eaten the onion. All forms of onion can be a problem including dehydrated onions, raw onions, cooked onions and table scraps containing cooked onions and/or garlic. Left over pizza, Chinese dishes and commercial baby food containing onion, sometimes fed as a supplement to young pets, can cause illness.


All forms of onion can be a problem including dehydrated onions, raw onions, cooked onions and table scraps containing cooked onions and/or garlic.


Onion poisoning can occur with a single ingestion of large quantities or with repeated meals containing small amounts of onion. A single meal of 600 to 800 grams of raw onion can be dangerous whereas a ten-kilogram dog, fed 150 grams of onion for several days, is also likely to develop anaemia. The condition improves once the dog is prevented from eating any further onion

While garlic also contains the toxic ingredient thiosulphate, it seems that garlic is less toxic and large amounts would need to be eaten to cause illness. In practical terms, garlic fed in the small amounts that owners often give their pets or in some pet foods is not a danger.

The Danger of Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are another concern. A recent paper written by Dr. Ross McKenzie, a Veterinary Pathologist with the Department of Primary Industries, points to the danger of raw and roasted macadamia nuts for pets.

bigstock_macadamia_nuts_3671798The toxic compound is unknown but the affect of macadamia nuts is to cause difficulties with movement. Dogs develop a tremor of the skeletal muscles, and weakness or paralysis of the hindquarters. Affected dogs are often unable to rise and are distressed, usually panting. Some affected dogs have swollen limbs and show pain when the limbs are manipulated. In some respects, the condition resembles that seen with tick paralysis.

Dogs have been affected by eating as few as six macadamia kernels (nuts without the shell) while others had eaten approximately forty kernels. Some dogs had also been given macadamia butter.

Luckily, the muscle weakness, while painful, seems to be of short duration and all dogs recovered from the toxicity. All dogs were taken to their veterinary surgeon.

Pet owners should not assume that human food is always safe for pets. When it comes to chocolate, onions, garlic and macadamia nuts, such foods should be given in only small quantities, or not at all. Be sure that your pets can't get into your stash of chocolates, that food scraps are disposed of carefully to prevent onion and garlic toxicity and that your dog is prevented from picking up macadamia nuts if you have a tree in your garden.

For those with an interest in toxic plants and their effects on animals, the book Poisonous Plants: A Field Guide by RM Dowling and RA McKenzie is available from the Department of Primary Industries in Queensland, Australia.

For another related article be sure to read Food Fads on www.pethealth.com.au.


Review Questions

1. What is the most poisonous type of chocolate?
2. What is the main ingredient in chocolate that causes problems with cats and dogs?
3. When a pet eats onion or garlic, what is one of the first signs of poisoning?
4. What are the effects of a macadamia nut on pets?

Lions and tigers and panthers... oh my!

Posted: Friday, October 12, 2012 at 5:25:19 PM EST by Cam Day

The Family Cat

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Many of us share our lives with teeth-endowed, flesh-eating, nocturnal, carnivorous predators and think nothing of it. These lethal killing machines prowl through our suburbs, steal through our houses after dark and, aghast, all too regularly launch ferociously onto our beds at night. There they snuggle under the sheets and purr contentedly.

The family cat is our domesticated member of the Cat Family and Tiddles is closely related to tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards and many other fascinating felines such as the lesser-known kodkod and the margay cat. 

So what's the difference between these species?  Do you know the difference between a leopard, a panther and a jaguar for instance? 

Australasia and Antarctica are the only continents that do not have a natural population of cats in some form. This is a shame. I would love to have a black panther patrolling my backyard.

Those animals we commonly refer to as the 'big cats' are the tiger, lion, jaguar, and leopard.

Do you know the difference between a leopard, a panther and a jaguar?

The tiger, with its striking tricolour coat of chestnut, black and white is the largest of the big cats A Siberian tiger  is the largest representative of the cat family and can weigh more than 300kg with the Indian tiger being smaller but about the same size as a big lion at 250kg.  The Siberian tiger has been hunted to near extinction as, in the past, its body parts were used for medicinal purposes and for cooking.  

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Tigers are solitary hunters but they are not very efficient with only ten percent of their rushes resulting in a kill. They should learn from one of my big cats - 100% of his rushes to the food bowl are effective. 

The lion, also referred to as the king of the beasts, was once found in Africa, Europe Iran and India, but is now almost exclusively limited to Africa due to the movement of humans into savannah lands. Lions weigh up to 250kg and are unusual in the cat family as they exist in groups (prides) containing up to thirty members.  Most cats lead a more solitary existence. The characteristic mane of an adult lion is well known and many modern domestic cats have been bred with manes to mimic the lion. One of our cats has a very attractive ruff or mane and a lion's demeanour to go with it!! 

The jaguar and the leopard are closely related and look quite similar but they live in different parts of the world. Both species evolved from a common ancestor but the jaguar (Panthera onca) is now only found in the American continent and the leopard (Panthera pardus) is found throughout Africa, India, and southern Asia .  

The jaguar, weighing up to a maximum of 150kg, is somewhat larger than the leopard that weighs up to 90 kg but their size depends on the habitat they are occupying.

Their coats show subtle differences. The coats of both are well known for their attractive 'spots' or rosettes but the jaguar's rosettes are larger and have a black central spot that is not present in the leopard. Jaguars are also stockier with shorter legs.

The term black panther generally refers to a leopard that is black in colour.  In a litter of leopards, some will be of normal appearance but occasionally some are black. Colouring of this type is called melanism and it does occur in jaguars, but less commonly.  Black jaguars are also referred to as black panthers but further confusion occurs because the puma is also sometimes called a panther. There is something magical and mysterious about the black panther that appeals to many folk and is the reason that black cats are so popular as pets and are the subjects of much mystique.  

Bengal_Green_eyes-200w-SMLThe leopard has occasionally earned a fearsome reputation as a man-eater. There is a famous portrayal by author Jim Corbett of an infamous man-eating Indian leopard. He describes his campaign to hunt the fearsome Rudraprayag leopard of northwest India that acquired a taste for human flesh, even killing a man in his own house and carrying him four miles through dense scrub. This leopard killed 125 humans from 1918 to 1926 before Corbett finally hunted him down. 

The Cheetah is generally similar in coat appearance to the leopard and jaguar but is a lot smaller, weighing up to 60 kg. It is easy to recognise due to its long legs and black 'tear tracks' below its eyes. The tear tracks are sad metaphors because the cheetah has the lowest genetic diversity of any mammal and is thus endangered. If given a tissue graft, the graft is usually universally accepted without rejection because of the similarity of genetic material.  This lack of genetic diversity makes the remaining cheetah population extremely vulnerable to disease and environmental changes. 

Cheetahs are renown for their speed and, at 110km/hr are the fastest of land animals. 

Some cats are rarely heard of. The kodkod is a small South American cat that weighs from two to three kilograms, about the size of a small pet cat. It has a coat that resembles a spotted tabby but has disproportionately long claws. Little else is know about this cat.  

Another rare puss-cat is the margay cat. This striking-looking cat, weighing three to five kilograms, is the same size as an average house cat. It resembles a small ocelot and has large, attractive spots with pale interiors and black edges. Its attractive coat has caused its demise as it was favoured by furriers of the past. It is a tree-dwelling cat and has the agility of a monkey and is unique in that it can rotate its back feet through an angle of 180 degrees and can even run underneath branches.  

Cats are fascinating creatures and wonderful pets - but I still want a black panther in my back yard.

Fun Fact about Cats

Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 5:00:45 PM EST by Cam Day

Ten Fun Facts about Cats

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  1. A group of cats is called a 'clowder'.
    (Ed.  I am sure that's a condensation of 'crowd', 'clawed' and 'louder'  - which fully describes the turmoils of owning a group of cats.

    A cat vet friend says 'Owning more than 4 cats means you have a mental disorder'!  We have 4 cats - am I on the edge of insanity?
    )
     
  2. In Ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped as Gods, and punishment was severe for injuring a cat in any way.
    (Ed. OK so I live in Egypt because our cats are worshipped as gods. And my cats punish me if I hurt them in any way.)
     
  3. Cats' paw pads are as remarkable as their coats: the same pigments that determine the colour of a cat's coat also determines the colour of their paw pads. 
    (Ed. Really? Where did that come from? Must look at the colour of my cat's paws when I get home. So, do tortoiseshell cats have multi-coloured paws? Cat owners - inspect your cat's paws and leave a note in the Comments. I want to know if this is true!)
     Bengal_Green_eyes-200w-SML
  4. Domestic cats aren't the only purring felines. Cheetahs, Pumas, Ocelots and even Tigers purr. Lions, Panthers, Jaguars and Leopards do not purr.
    (Ed. Yeh ok. But why doesn't my cat purr when I want to hug him? Oh - of course he's a Panther, Jaguar or Leopard. Now I'm worried!)

  5. Ever notice your cat pull its lips back (without hissing) and opens its mouth slightly? That's called the 'Flehmen Response' and happens when your cat wants to examine a scent more closely.
    (This is often seen in non-desexed cats when detecting the scent of a mate. Occurs in many other animals including the Giraffe and Rhino. Occur with my cat when he is going to bite me.)
     
  6. When a cat rubs against you, it is marking you. A cat has scent glands either side of its face - the cat uses these glands to mark its territory.
    (There are several pheromones in a cat's facial rubbings. One is the main ingredient of Feliway.)
     
  7. Whiskers are very important for cats that hunt. Whiskers allow the cat to identify precisely where their prey is so they can attack more efficiently.
    (Ed. So Desmond, my Rag Devil, uses his whiskers to determine where I am so he can attack me with more precision - is that's what's happening?)
     
  8. A mother cat commonly chews her kittens' whiskers off.
    (Ed.  Who says so?  Never heard of that!  Cat breeders please advise - or is that the cat version of the 'hair of the dog that bit you'?)
     
  9. Kittens generally have 26 teeth while adult cats have 30.
    (Ed. Simple science!  Adult cats need more teeth to bite their owners. Thus it's evolution at its best. )
     
  10. A cat has between 230 - 250 bones in its body, compared to the 206 bones a human has.
    (Ed. So where are the extra 40 or so bones?  Are you sure the researcher didn't measure a cat that had just eaten a mouse?)
 

Oh Yuk!

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 12:24:32 PM EST by Cam Day

When dogs eat bad things...

You don't really want to read this! Dogs really do some revolting things occasionally but when your dog eats its own droppings, it can really make your stomach turn - especially when it wants to come and greet you afterwards with that oh-so-lovely Fetid Fido grin.

I am sure you do not want any more gory details, but some dogs eat their droppings when their produce has matured on the ground for a little while. Some eat them while they are factory fresh and steaming and others prefer the offerings of other animals, especially cattle, horses, cats and kangaroos.

Just to prove there is a word for everything - the term for this charming behaviour is coprophagia.

What are the solutions?

Firstly, ensure your dog has no medical reason for its wayward behaviours. Ask your veterinarian to test your dog's stool for parasites of any type. Your veterinarian may also wish to test the functioning of your dog's pancreas.

Put Pooch onto a highly digestible and nutritionally balanced diet to eliminate any chance that a dietary problem is the cause.

The digestibility will ensure that it can extract as many nutrients as possible from the food presented and will reduce the volume of faeces produced.

The faeces will also be consistent in form and nature. Lastly, such a diet will ensure that no dietary deficiency is causing the coprophagia.

If your dog has a dietary allergy causing bowel irritation, then this may lead to coprophagia too. Therefore, to normalise bowel function even further, it is also a good idea to feed your dog a restricted protein or hypoallergenic diet. These diets contain protein sources that are not commonly used in dog food.

A suitable diet to achieve all the above is available from your veterinarian.

Behavioural Remedies

Having eliminated any medical cause, now turn to behavioural therapy.

Bored dogs that live in small backyards and have dull lifestyles often practice coprophagia. Such dogs need the No Bored Dogs Routine technique to blow away boredom.

To keep a dog on its toes and to provide brain work, a Kong Toy is perfect. These pyramid shaped balls bounce unpredictably and are great for aerobic exercise.

When you have finished playing with your dog, you can place some food treats in the hole in the middle of the Kong and leave it with your dog. Pooch will then spend quite some time exercising its brain and working out how to get the food out of the hole.

Training the dog not to eat its own produce, or those of others, can be done in a variety of ways, but, how can you train the dog if you do not know when it is going to gobble the googlies?

Try to make the passage of your dog's own googlies more predictable.

Generally your dog will want to soil within an hour or so of eating. If possible, restrict it to one meal a day. Conveniently time the meal so that an hour afterwards you can watch the dog closely. Perhaps you will need to keep the dog inside the house so that you will know when it wants to go out.

Try to catch the soiling behaviour so that you can either praise the leaving-it-where-it-is behaviour or softly discipline the google-gobbling behaviour

When motions are produced, praise the leaving behaviour. Use a technique I call the A Good Dog Routine for this. Wait till your dog passes its offering, then,in a kind voice say 'leave'. Wait for about five seconds, and if Pooch does 'leave it' call him or her to you and liberally praise this sequence of good behaviours.

The above method is the preferable one. However, occasionally, disciplining googly gobbling is necessary. The method is similar to the last but with a different emphasis. It is a process I call the ABad Dog, Good Dog Routine.

Timing is critical. Wait until Pooch goes to take a mouthful. Then, in a very stern voice, shout 'Leave'. The voice should be as sudden as a gun shot and be stern enough to distract and punish the dog. Wait for five seconds to see if you have had effect. Call the dog to you, make it Sit and Stay, and then praise this alternative good dog behaviour.

Usually, the 'Bad Dog Good Dog Routine' is replaced in time with the 'Good Dog Routine' as the dog learns and punishment is no longer needed.

A process I call the 'Stool Pigeon' approach can be tried too. This is a form of 'self-discipline'. Leave a tasty-looking stool in an obvious spot but cover the stool with a hot sauce or a bittering spray such as Bitravet (available from veterinary surgeons). It is even better if the sauce or Bitravet is injected into the stool so your dog cannot smell the additives.

Lastly, a product called Wild Forage (available from our office) is also useful. When added to the dog's diet this often helps to control coprophagia.


If you need help with this problem, feel free to book a consultation with Dr Cam - he's seen this many times before!

Caring for Your Pets at Holiday Time

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 1:58:49 PM EST by Cam Day

Holidays are complicated when you have pets. What are you going to do with them? Do you take your pets with you or leave them behind? This car is packed for a good time

There are many effective and easy remedies you can choose when it comes to who should care for your pets when you are away on holiday.

I am sure you won't practice what some irresponsible holiday makers do. Some find a pet too much inconvenience and think nothing of  dumping their cat or dog before they go away.

Certainly leaving your pets unattended at home is also not an option. Such lonely animals often escape when the boredom of solitude hits. These stray pets often suffer injuries from accidents and they can become lost.

Of course most people are very responsible and want to ensure their pets are safe while they are away.

Can you take your pet with you?

Many folk couldn't bear to be without their pets when they go off for some rest and recreation. If you can take your pets with you then they will enjoy the change in routine as much as you.

Be careful if you are going camping and save embarrassment.  Many camping grounds are National Parks where pets are totally prohibited.

Look for a book produced by  Life - Be In It called Holidaying with your Dogs.  It lists a variety of camping grounds and accommodation alternatives which allow dogs.

There are also many farm-stay organisations which are very happy to allow you to take your pets.

Boarding Your Pet

If you are intending to book your dog or cat into a boarding kennel, then ensure you do so months before. Many boarding kennels and catteries book out for the Christmas and Easter holidays months in advance. Other holiday periods are almost as bad.

I always advise pet owners to view their pet's potential accommodation to ensure the facilities are clean and well managed. Boarding kennel owners are usually happy with this but you may have to arrange the visit with them beforehand. In a boarding kennel, there are certain times of the day when the owners cannot allow visitors through due to the potential of noise from the dogs barking and the disturbance visitors may cause to other scheduled duties.

If a kennel owner flatly refuses, then I would go elsewhere.

Home Visit Services

Several organisations offer a home visit service for pets. With such services, the pets are left at home and the care-giver visits during the day to feed and exercise the pets. They will water your plants and also provide other services. For pets with the right temperament, this is a good alternative.

However, be aware that your pet will still be alone for most of the day and many pets will not tolerate this. If your pet is very attached to you it may not be content if you are gone for a long period. Another alternative may be better.

House Sitters

Many folk will have a house-sitter stay in their home when they are away.  The pet stays in its home environment and that can be a very effective remedy.

The pets often enjoy the new face and the small change in routine.

Naturally, the house-sitter needs to have good credentials. I have friends who do this and it seems to work very well for the home owner and the house sitter.

A Holiday With Relatives

Alternatively, having your pets cared for at the home of a friend or relative is a good idea.

If this is your preference, check that the fences will prevent your pet escaping.

Why not take your pet to visit this friend a few times before the holiday so it can acquaint itself with their house and garden?

Identification is Vital

Lastly, no matter the system of care you use when you are on holiday, be sure to fully identify your pet with tags or a microchip. Should your pet roam while you are away, identification will assist in its return to you otherwise, you may never see it again.

Holiday Health Care

Remember that your pet will need to have its vaccinations up to date before being admitted into the kennels. For your pet's protection, its vaccinations should be given at least 10 days before the date of boarding as the vaccines won't cause immunity immediately.

While your veterinarian will advise more fully, a C5 vaccine covers your dog for both of the germs that can cause Canine Cough and those that cause Distemper, Parvovirus and Canine Hepatitis virus. Canine Cough is a contagious upper respiratory condition that can be a problem wherever dogs group together - especially in kennels.

For cats, the F3 vaccine is the minimum needed but you may also like to ask your vet about some of the new vaccines that are now available for diseases such feline leukaemia and feline AIDS.

This is also a good time to have your dog or cat wormed with an all-wormer tablet and to check that their heartworm preventative is up to date.

There are many alternatives for your dog's heartworm preventative, but my advice is to consider the Once-A-Year Heartworm Injection which you can have done at the same time that you have your pet's annual vaccinations.

Don't forget a bath or at least a good flea treatment is essential and if your pet is on medication of any sort, for example for arthritis or anxiety disorders, now is a good time to ensure you are well stocked with medication.

With a little forethought, you and your pets will have a happy holiday and you won't be dogged by the hassles that hound many others.

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