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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?

Keeping Pets Safe from household chemicals

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 11:57:30 AM EST by Cam Day

Household Poisons That Can Kill Your Cat

Curiosity killed the cat they say!

A wise sage probably coined this cliché to describe the sensitivity of cats to poisons around the home. Cats are much more susceptible to poisons than are dogs so this article contains some timely warnings about cats and poisons that affect them.

Pain Killers - A Feline's Foe

The common painkillers Paracetamol and Aspirin are wonderful drugs for your own pain and discomfort,  but when it comes your cat, they are extremely dangerous.

Kitten_BurmeseThese drugs are all too commonly given to cats by their owners.  They are incorrectly used as a home remedy for many feline illnesses. This is an extremely dangerous practice and can result in the death of the pet.

Paracetamol causes extreme breathlessness by dangerously altering the red blood cells. It changes the red pigment of the blood (haemoglobin) into a compound known as methaemoglobin. This substance does not carry oxygen and results in the animal's gums and lips turning blue. Fluid-like swelling occurs around the face and the cat is lethargic and gasping for breath.

Aspirin is also a danger. It causes intense irritation of the intestines and a lose of appetite, vomiting and depression. The cat is not able to balance or stand. Its head may be wobbling or swaying from side to side.

These drugs are dangerous and you should not give them to your cat - unless your veterinarian advises that you do so.  

Other human medications that you should keep away from your cat include any containing phenylbutazone, indomethacin, ibuprofen, naproxen, acetominophen and codeine

Household Horrors

Many household substances can seriously affect cats too.

Any tar derivatives such as Creosote and some tar-based shampoos are dangerous.  Creosote is extremely corrosive and is toxic to cats. By  being absorbed through its skin, a cat easily takes creosote into its body. A cat may also try to lick creosote from its body, thus ingesting the tar through its mouth.

Tar derivatives cause a violent gastroenteritis in cats, with severe abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.  Tar is a therapeutic agent used in some dog shampoos. Ensure any shampoo used on your cat is 'feline friendly' - read the label!

Household chemicals such as turpentine, kerosene and petrol can make a cat very ill.  These products are still sometimes incorrectly  used as a bushie's remedy for ticks and fleas. This is dangerous and you should keep these products away from your cat.woman_with_cat_200

Even if you wash it off, your cat will still readily absorb turpentine through its skin. It causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and nervous signs, such as restlessness and hyperexcitability.

Use Insecticides with Caution

Be careful when washing cats in insecticide.  Many insecticides on the market that are designed to kill fleas and ticks are quite safe when used on dogs but are deadly to cats. Insecticides containing organo-phosphate chemicals such as dichlorvos, diazinon and coumaphos are still available as dog washes but they are lethal for cats. The labels contain warnings against their use in cats, but many people forget to read the instructions!

The use of these types of insecticides is reducing in favour of the newer and kinder insecticides that are now commonly available through your veterinarian and pet shop.

Chlorinated hydrocarbons such as aldrin, DDT, dieldrin and lindane are especially dangerous in cats. These compounds are seldom used nowadays, but, while they are well controlled, some rural properties still have such preparations in storage.

Accidental poisoning with any of these insecticides can produce vomiting, diarrhoea, salivation, muscle   tremors and convulsions.

Caution When Renovating

With many glorious Colonial and Queenslander houses being restored nowadays, poisoning from lead-based paint is still a problem. The main difficulty occurs when you sand the lead paint. The lead dust on the ground is picked up on your cat's feet or fur and your cat could ingest enough to make it sick.

Lead causes extreme hyperexcitability. Your cat will hysterically rush around the house in an uncoordinated fashion. It will show paralysis or muscle weakness and convulsions are common. You may also notice gastrointestinal signs such as  loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea or constipation.

If you suspect your cat has been poisoned, your best remedy is an emergency visit to your veterinarian. Be careful because a cat that is in convulsions or that is fitting is very dangerous and difficult to handle. It will not recognize you as its owner and you are likely to get bitten or scratched severely. Place your cat in a cardboard box or cat carry cage, ring your veterinarian and proceed with cautious haste. If you know what substance poisoned your cat, take a sample of it to your veterinarian.

Crucial care for curious cats

Posted: Friday, November 2, 2012 at 1:45:05 PM EST by Cam Day

Smitten with Kittens

Smitten with KittensThey are cute, cuddly, fuzzy, furry little buzz-balls. Kittens are a delight and a joy, but they do need proper care. As there are lots of kittens around at the moment, let's go through the basics of kitten care to make sure you're doing all that is necessary for your purring puss. Each topic listed, will be dealt with in this column in greater detail over the next few weeks.

Vaccinations

Your kitten should be vaccinated against the disease Feline Enteritis, and for infections caused by the Feline Rhinotracheitis virus and the Feline Calicivirus. The latter two infections cause Cat Flu. You can also have it vaccinated against Feline Leukaemia.

The first injections are due at six to eight weeks of age. I recommend that it be done again at three months of age, and that the cat flu vaccinations be repeated, again, at four months of age.

Vaccination schedules vary considerably, so please seek the advice of your veterinarian.

Worming

It is common for a kitten to be infected with hookworms and roundworms. These worms are dangerous and can cause bowel disease, anaemia and even death. Tapeworms can also be a problem and, although these worms are not usually as dangerous, your kitten is better off without them.

Your veterinarian will advise on a reliable wormer, but I advise using a medication that includes the word allwormer. This word shows that the medication will deal with all worms that your kitten can suffer from.

Reinfestation with worms is common. Therefore, I suggest you worm your kitten every two weeks until it is three months of age, then every month until it is six months of age and after that every three months.

Heartworm

We now recognise heartworm disease as a problem for cats. It is extremely difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat. If you want to do the best for your kitten, then you should put him or her onto a monthly heartworm preventive.

Ask your veterinarian to discuss this with you when you have your kitten vaccinated.

Coat Care

Regular brushing of your kitten's coat will not only keep it looking slick but will also prevent tangles developing if it has long hair. For Persians and similarSmitten with Kittens long haired cats, daily brushing is essential.

Personally, I use a Zoom Groom to keep my cats' coats looking good. A Zoom Groom is a nylon grooming mitt with soft, gentle teeth that will massage your cat's coat and remove dead hair and tangles. Zoom Grooms are available from veterinarians and pet shops.

Skin infections are sometimes a problem in young kittens, especially the fungal infection Ringworm. Watch for any areas of baldness or broken hair and especially if you can see a 'cigarette ash' like dandruff in the kitten's coat.

The ferocious and fearsome Aussie Flea will get your kitten hopping mad. Be sure to use a reliable flea control preparation. There are many suitable products and Advantage and Frontline can be used on kittens, but check with your veterinarian first.

Litter Tray Training

Although you may want your kitten to soil outside, it is still important that you train your kitten to use a litter tray from the start. Most responsible cat owners curfew their cats at night to prevent wildlife predation and to keep their cats safe from other evils. When inside at night, your cat will obviously need a litter tray to prevent any wee problem.

For the privacy conscious puss, you can buy litter tray hutches shop to conceal the tray.

Diet

Your kitten will be reliant on you for all the food it eats. That's a big responsibility, so you need to ensure you are feeding your cat a balanced diet.

I suggest you base the cat's diet on a reliable brand of dry or canned cat food with some fresh food, such as meat, for variety. Many cat owners are moving to the 'super-premium' dry and canned foods that are available from veterinarians and pet shops. These foods are designed for different stages of the cat's life and a specific food is available for kittens.

You should feed your kitten three to four times a day up to three months of age, reducing to twice daily by six months of age. Most cat owners will leave dry food available for their cats during the day.

Desexing

Unless you are a committed and dedicated cat breeder, it is essential that your kitten, be it male or female, is desexed by the time is it six months of age. Your cat will want to breed in spring and summer and it will actively seek likewise-inclined mates at such times. If you have not desexed your kitten, it is bound to catch you out.

 

DrCam_Help_Button

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!

Halloween, Australia, and our pets

Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 12:10:01 PM EST by Cam Day

Halloween, Australia, and our pets

6836-101413-gs6836

Halloween, the 31st of October, is a time bound deep in American history. Traditionally, it is the time when Americans remember those who have passed, and ‘laugh’ in the face of death. Although it has long been an American holiday, it is becoming bigger and more popular in Australia with each passing year.

Today, Halloween has lost most of its original meaning, and the day is instead a time to delve in to the humorously macabre by watching scary movies, telling scary stories, and dressing up in all manner of ghouls and ghosts.

While that may be fun and exciting for us humans, it can be a completely different story for our beloved pets.

Pets and Superstitions

Take superstitions for example – we’re happily told from a young age not to walk under a ladder, crack a mirror, or even to let an innocent black cat cross your path.

Now, I have a big soft spot for black cats. I have two of my own and I love them to bits – my family calls them black panthers. They’re gorgeous. However, black cats are popular targets for sick ‘celebrations’ of Halloween traditions. A lot of black cats are abused, tortured and even killed on Halloween. In America, it has become common for people to adopt a black cat a few days prior to Halloween, only to return it a few days later, once the day has passed – these are considered the ‘lucky’ cats. Some American shelters have even banned black cat adoption during the entire month of October to prevent this from happening.

What do I do?

If you’re worried that your pet may be targeted, keep your pet out of harm’s reach.

  • Temporarily restrict your dog’s access to boundary fences
  • Keep your cat inside until the frivolity of the day has passed

Celebrating Halloween – Australian style

Australians love to have a good time, whether it’s a simple barbecue at the park, a beer with a friend, or dressing up in crazy costumes just because you can. Halloween in Australia is no exception.

6842-101413-gs6842With multiple parties at various entertainment and private venues celebrating everything Halloween, people are going to be acting and dressing differently. For instance, we already know that the family barbecue is a trigger for serious Resource-Guarding Aggression problems. So combine the barbecue with people in crazy costumes, people acting differently, and people under the effect of alcohol, and it’s a recipe for disaster for the family pet.

There may even be noisy celebrations such as fireworks and firecrackers. For anxious pets, this can all be cause for concern. Pets don’t understand that it’s just a bit of fun and games for us humans and that everything will be back to normal the next day. Pets don’t understand that fireworks aren’t going to hurt you, that they’ll be gone in just a few minutes. Pets don’t know that people are deliberately walking weird (as zombies), hissing (vampires, witches), or howling (ghosts, ghouls, werewolves). To pets, these loud noises are catastrophic and these people really are the monsters they are imitating, and it’s all very scary.

Scared and fearful pets are unpredictable. This is where the age-old notion of “fight/flight” comes in to play. If pets can’t run away, which they likely can’t if they’re confined in an area that has easy access to these “monsters”, they can become aggressive and that’s when disaster strikes.

What do I do?

If you’re having a get-together, have a plan in place to ensure your pet’s happiness and your visitors’ safety.

This can include:

  • Creating a sound-proof den if fireworks are going to be used nearby
  • Using a calmative if needed, such as Adaptil or Homeopet Storm Stress
  • Restricting your pet’s access to food preparation and eating areas
  • Keeping your pet away from the activity and ‘scary’ people
  • Ensuring your pet’s identification is up to date, in case they do escape your home

Trick or Treating

The most well-known part of celebrating Halloween is Trick-or-Treating. Kids of all ages dress up in their spookiest garb and travel their Puppy on cushion sad.jpgneighbourhood in packs, targeting their friendly neighbours with the cry “trick or treat!”

While this is great fun for humans, the constant traffic to and from the front door and the repetitive ringing of the doorbell may cause increasing levels of mood arousal, stress or anxiety in some pets. Combine this with the known factors of young children in costumes and crazy get-up and you could be in for a tough night.

And while we’re on the topic of Trick or Treating, just be mindful of the types of treats that could be within reaching distance of your pet.

What do I do?

While not every neighbourhood will be brimming with costumed kids wanting treats, it’s best to again have a plan in place.

  • Make the entrance area to your home a “no-go” zone for the night by closing doors or using baby gates
  • Place your pet in another part of the house where the sounds of the front door are muffled
  • Keep chocolates and other human treats away from your pets

Further reading:

The Denning Principle

Noise Fear Pet Pick

Resource-Guarding Aggression

Changing Moods

Human Foods that Poison Pets

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