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The Dangers of Summertime Heat Stroke in Dogs

As the heat and humidity of the summer months are approaching quickly here in Central Virginia, pet owners should be aware of the dangers of heat stroke, one of the more common summer pet emergencies in dogs. Heat stroke is a situation in which a pet’s body temperature has risen way above normal and needs immediate veterinary attention. Unfortunately, our domestic pets don’t sweat the way we do to dissipate excess heat, so they aren’t as efficient at cooling their bodies as we are — and heat stroke can result. The condition can become fatal rapidly if left untreated, but is easily preventable with some common-sense measures.

Most dogs love to go for rides in the car. While this is fine in cooler months, the most common cause of heat stroke for dogs is being left in cars during the summertime. Even with the windows cracked or partially down, a car parked in the sun can get up to 140° within minutes — so leaving your pup in the car for even a quick errand is very risky and and can potentially have tragic consequences. Pets riding in the bed of a truck can also develop heat stroke.

Heat stroke can also result from overexertion, and when dogs are confined to concrete runs or chained up without shade or water. Dogs should never be left outdoors without access to shade. And even if a water bowl is left out for them, the bowl can easily be overturned — leaving the dog without water for the rest of the day. Also, plan to make trips to the dog park or exercise with your dog in the morning or evening, rather than during the heat of the day.

Heat stroke is more common in dogs that have a decreased ability to cool themselves. Since a dog’s primary method of cooling itself is panting, overweight dogs; geriatric dogs; dogs with short faces (e.g., Old English bulldogs and pugs); and dogs that have compromised airways or medical conditions like heart disease, laryngeal paralysis or seizure disorders are also at increased risk of developing heat stroke. So it’s very important to keep these dogs in a cool environment.

What are the signs of heat stroke?
Heavy, excessive panting is the first sign, followed by salivation and listlessness. Other signs include vomiting, diarrhea and muscle tremors. And in severe cases, dogs may collapse, lose consciousness, experience seizures or die. The sequence of events can be very rapid, and death can occur within 24 hours, so pets displaying these signs need to be brought in to a veterinary hospital immediately.

What should you do if you suspect heat stroke in your dog?
Call a veterinarian right away, begin cooling your pet, and get them to a veterinary hospital immediately. Before leaving for the hospital, spray your dog down with cool water and place a fan in front of them. You can also place damp cloths on their stomachs or paws. You may also offer them cool water to drink, but some pets will not be able to drink appropriately and may breathe in some of the water. Do not place them in ice or an ice bath, as cooling them too quickly can result in a dangerous condition. Another important thing you can do as an owner is to keep your pet calm — the more stressed he/she gets, the higher his/her temperature may get.

What will happen at the veterinary hospital?
Once the patient is admitted, your dog may need to be cooled and given intravenous fluid therapy and other medications. They will likely need to be hospitalized for several days, as many serious conditions can develop from heat stroke, including bloody diarrhea; heart, liver, kidney and neurologic abnormalities; and bleeding disorders. The most critical time period is the first 24-48 hours after incident. Although pets may still be sick and require treatment after this time period, most that live through this first initial phase will survive.

So this summer, have fun with your pets! But be safe, make sure they have plenty of cool water to drink and plenty of shade and rest, and do not leave them in your car unattended. If you notice any signs of heat stroke in your pet, call your veterinarian or veterinary hospital ASAP!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Rodenticide Toxins: Rat Poison and Pets

Unfortunately, many pets get into toxins — even toxins that were meant to get rid of pests like mice and rats. An extremely common type of toxicity is rodenticide, or rat poison. There are three main groups of rat poison used, and they can all be very toxic to dogs and cats (and even our exotic pets, too). The most common type of rat poison used is an anticoagulant poison and include chemicals such as brodifacoum and bromadiolone. This type of toxin prevents blood from clotting by decreasing the body’s amount of usable Vitamin K1, which is used in several clotting factors — meaning that pets that eat this toxin cannot clot their blood properly. Approximately 2-3 days after ingestion, pets can start to bleed from their gums and their gastrointestinal tract, and they can bleed into body cavities such as the chest, abdomen or joints. You might see blood in your pet’s mouth, abnormal bruising, or blood in their vomit or stool, or they may look pale, have difficulty breathing, have an enlarged abdomen, or have joint swelling. Testing often involves evaluating your pet’s clotting times, and treatment at this stage frequently involves a hospital stay, plasma, possibly a blood transfusion, and repeat blood work with possible radiographs or an ultrasound.

Patients that usually have the best prognosis from this type of toxicity are those that are actually seen eating the rat poison by their owners, who then bring them in for treatment right away. Upon arrival, decontamination and treatment to prevent bleeding disorders are initiated. Decontamination often involves initiating vomiting and giving activated charcoal orally. Most patients are started on Vitamin K1 as well, to increase the amount of usable Vitamin K1 in the body and prevent clotting abnormalities. When treatment is started soon after ingestion, most patients recover very well, so getting your pet to the animal hospital quickly is extremely important.

The two other types of rat poison used are cholecalciferol/vitamin D3 rat poison and bromethalin. Cholecalciferol increases the amount of calcium in the body, which can deposit on organs and cause organ dysfunction, including kidney failure. Vague symptoms, including depression, anorexia, vomiting, and increased drinking and urinating, may be seen 1-2 days after ingestion. Once severe clinical signs are seen, treatment is usually aggressive and normally involves hospitalization — and due to the advanced effects of the toxin, the pet may not survive. Again, early treatment and decontamination will likely lead to a much better prognosis for your pet.

Bromethalin poisoning produces neurologic signs, such as disorientation or stumbling, tremors, and paralysis, and a pet that has ingested this toxin may start to show signs 10-24 hours after ingestion — but the symptoms can progress for 1 to 2 weeks. Again, pets with severe signs often need to be hospitalized with aggressive therapy, and patients that are brought in immediately for decontamination have a much better chance for recovery.

If your pet has ingested any toxin — especially rat poison — bring him/her to a veterinarian immediately for early treatment. And be sure to bring with you the container that the poison came in, so we can direct our treatment appropriately.

To prevent accidental ingestion and help avoid these kinds of poisonings, keep all toxins — including those intended to kill rodents — well out of reach of your pets.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Spring Toxins: Cats and Lilies, Dogs and Chocolate

With spring upon us and Easter just behind us, two very common pet toxicities are out in many households: lilies, the number-one cat toxicity, and chocolate, the number-one dog toxicity.

Lily Toxicity in Cats
Lilies can be extremely toxic to cats. The leaves are the most toxic part of the plant, but the stems and flowers are also toxic. Ingestion of even a small amount of the plant can cause severe signs of poisoning. Initially, the cat may vomit, lose its appetite, and or become lethargic or depressed. Without proper veterinary care, these signs will continue to worsen, and the cat will develop kidney failure usually within 36-48 hours. Signs of kidney failure include drinking and urinating more frequently, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Many cats will not survive once they get to this stage, so acting quickly to get them treatment is crucial.

Toxicity and kidney failure have been caused by the following lilies:

• Easter Lily Lilium Longiflorum
• Tiger Lily Lilium Tigrinum
• Rubrum Lily Lilium Speciosum
• Japanese Show Lily Lilium Lancifolium
• Day Lily Hemerocallis Species

Precautions cat owners can take include:

• #1: Do not allow your cat to have access to lilies.

• #2: Should your cat ingest lilies, seek veterinary care immediately. The best results for decontamination are if emergency treatment occurs within 6-8 hours of ingestion. The likely course of action might include inducing vomiting in your cat and administering IV fluids to flush the kidneys.

Chocolate Toxicity
While chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats, most of our chocolate toxicity patients are dogs. Darker and unsweetened chocolate contains more of the toxin theobromide. Toxic doses for a 50-lb. dog would be approximately 48 oz. of milk chocolate, 16 oz. of semisweet chocolate, or 5 oz. of baker’s chocolate (these are approximate doses only — all dogs react differently to chocolate).

Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity usually occur within 1-4 hours after ingestion and include: vomiting; diarrhea; hyperactivity; muscle tremors; elevated heart rate; seizures; and, in severe cases, coma and death. Although there is no antidote to chocolate, the prognosis for survival is usually good with aggressive supportive care initiated within 8 hours of ingestion. Decontamination might include inducing vomiting in your dog/cat, giving your pet activated charcoal to absorb what is left in the GI tract, and IV fluids. So be sure to hide your chocolate from your pets and seek veterinary care as soon as possible should your animal get into your Easter stash.

Happy Spring!!!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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When dogs attack …

When dogs get into a fight, it is very often a big dog attacking a smaller dog. This occurs so often, in fact, that the veterinary community has a widely recognized acronym for it — BDLD, which stands for “Big Dog-Little Dog” — and it almost always results in an emergency situation.

When your dog plays with a rope toy, he might grab it and shake it vigorously in his mouth. Unfortunately, this is also what most dogs do with the smaller dogs they attack. Besides the more obvious puncture wounds the smaller dog receives from the teeth, there are also often more serious, unseen injuries: brain and spinal cord injuries, and severe damage to internal organs. BDLD injuries are sometimes compared to an iceberg: The bigger, serious problems often lie below the surface. While external injuries may appear minor, the power of a dog’s biting jaw can cause serious internal injuries that may result in the loss of your pet — especially if you don’t act quickly to get them proper veterinary care. In addition, the crushing forces of its jaws can also cause micro-damage to the blood vessels in the skin, causing the blood supply to the surrounding area to be compromised. Bruising will almost always develop a few days after the injury, and it is very common for the skin immediately surrounding the puncture wounds to die. Intense wound care is needed as quickly as possible, until the body can heal the wound on its own. This can sometimes require many weeks of care and sometimes also requires additional surgery.

“Juno,” a Toy Poodle, came to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital one evening after being attacked by a neighbor’s dog. She had some obvious puncture wounds to her neck and and abdomen, but despite having just been attacked, Juno was bright and alert, and even wagging her tail!

Juno’s owner thought that her dog just needed some pain medication and antibiotics. But after counseling her on the seriousness of Juno’s injuries, the owner agreed to let us take some X-rays. It was obvious from the X-rays that Juno’s puncture wounds had pierced her intestines, which were now leaking gas and fluid into her belly, and emergency surgery was needed.

Thankfully, Juno’s owner consented to the surgery. Multiple parts of Juno’s intestines had been punctured, and infection had already begun to set in. Her neck wounds were also explored, and a small nick in her jugular vein was detected. All of Juno’s injuries were repaired, and she stayed in the hospital to receive pain medication, fluids and antibiotics until she could be transferred to her family veterinarian. And Juno went on to make a full recovery.

Had it not been for the quick actions of Juno’s owners and the staff at Greenbrier, Juno surely would have succumbed to her wounds. This is also a perfect example of how deceptively brave little dogs can be, despite having suffered very serious injuries or illness — just because your dog may look and act fine after a run-in with another dog, do not assume he or she is fine. Quick response and a thorough examination are always required in these situations!

As a side note, to avoid BDLD confrontations, it is recommended that you always keep both your large and small dogs on a leash at all times when in public.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Pets and Antifreeze Poisoning

‘Tis the season for snow and ice, and we’re certainly getting our fair share this year. Besides watching out for wintry hazards on the road, we also need to be very vigilant in observing our pets for signs of antifreeze poisoning.

Antifreeze can sometimes accidentally be spilled onto the ground when it is being poured into a vehicle, resulting in a small — and potentially deadly — puddle in your driveway or street. Antifreeze has a sweet taste to dogs and cats, so they will often lick or drink it right off the ground. Cats may also walk through an antifreeze puddle unintentionally and then lick it off their feet. Even that small amount of antifreeze can be fatal to cats, and just a few tablespoons can be fatal to a medium-sized dogs.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning will be obvious very quickly. Your pet may appear drunk/wobbly or unsteady on its feet. You may also observe seizures within 2-3 hours of ingestion. If you suspect your pet may have ingested antifreeze, it is imperative that you seek veterinary attention immediately.

Continued signs of antifreeze poisoning include excessive urinating and drinking, which can occur 1-3 days after ingestion. Antifreeze contains a substance called ethylene glycol that causes extreme kidney failure. Once kidney failure sets in, you may notice your pet urinating less and then, eventually, not at all. Often, a pet may appear to be feeling better a few days before kidney failure becomes critical. Don’t be fooled by this into thinking that your pet may be recovering. If you have any suspicion of antifreeze poisoning, or if you are concerned for the health of your pet, call your veterinarian immediately!

Blood and urine tests are needed to detect the presence of ethylene glycol in your pet’s system. Depending on the time of ingestion, vomiting may be induced. To help prevent kidney failure, IV fluids will need to be administered to your pet for several days.

If your pet has ingested antifreeze within the past 8 hours, a medication called Antizol-Vet (4-MP) may be used to prevent further kidney damage from the by-products of antifreeze. The prognosis for recovery is fair to good if your pet receives this treatment within 8 hours of ingestion, so time is of the essence when treating this kind of poisoning. Multiple doses of the medicine will be required. If it has been longer than 8 hours since ingestion, this medication is not as effective, and the prognosis for survival is poor to grave. Once kidney failure sets in, treatment is very aggressive, but even then survival is not assured.

Prevention of antifreeze poisoning obviously requires keeping antifreeze out of reach of your pets. This type of toxicity is not limited to the wintertime, however, so be sure to take care year-round. Keep all antifreeze containers tightly closed and out of reach of your animals. It is also recommended that you not let your animals out to roam the neighborhood unattended, where they might come upon a wayward puddle of the substance.

When disposing of antifreeze, do not dump it on the ground or in a drain — take it to a proper dump facility for disposal. Check your garage and driveway periodically for antifreeze leaks, and always check for spills after performing an antifreeze fill-up on your car. Clean up spills with towels, then dispose of the towels properly. And ask your local automotive supply store for environmentally-friendly and pet-friendly antifreeze alternatives.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Toxoplasmosis: Don’t Kick Out the Cat!

Being a veterinarian, almost 30 years old, and female, I find myself at a point in my life when it seems all of my friends are pregnant. I work with two pregnant veterinarians, my sister-in-law is pregnant, and so are many of my friends. From February to March, I am scheduled to attend an of average one baby shower every other week.

It’s a joyous time for my expecting friends and family, but with their excitement comes trepidation as they learn all about what’s headed their way during the next nine months.

As a veterinarian, I’ve found that once many women realize they are expecting, they seem to become fearful of contracting a disease from their pets and spreading it to their unborn child, as there is a lot of questionable advice out there on this topic. The most common concern I hear about from my expecting cat-lover friends is a protozoan parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii. According to the CDC, it has been estimated that 22.5 percent of the U.S. population 12 years and older have been infected with Toxoplasma, so it’s very common.

People typically become infected with Toxoplasma by one of three routes: via food, animal-to-human contact or mother-to-child transmission. In the first case, Toxoplasma has a tissue form called a bradyzoite that can be transmitted to people who eat undercooked meat (especially pork, lamb and venison). Accidental ingestion of undercooked, contaminated meat can also occur when a person handles the meat but fails to wash his/her hands properly afterward — or uses utensils that have been in contact with contaminated meat.

Second, people can become infected by cats. As we all know, many cats enjoy hunting prey such as rodents, birds and other small animals when they’re outside. Unfortunately, prey can be infected with Toxoplasma, which can then be transmitted to the cat. Once they’ve acquired Toxoplasma, cats then shed the parasite in the oocyst form for just a short period of time, 1-3 weeks after infection. However, it has been shown that even during that short time, a large number of oocysts are shed. Once in the environment for 1-5 days, the oocysts sporulate and at this point are infectious to humans and other mammals.

Not all cats that become infected with Toxoplasma will develop clinical symptoms — some owners, in fact, never notice a change in their cats. When cats are clinically affected and symptomatic, owners may notice one or more of the following signs: fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, and/or neurologic signs (e.g., blindness, incoordination, personality change or circling). These symptoms typically prompt a cat owner to bring their pet to the veterinarian, who will then make a diagnosis based on history, clinical signs, and laboratory tests — including the measurement of antibodies to Toxopasma. If such an infection is found, the parasite is usually treated with an antibiotic known as clindamycin.

The final route of infection — and the one that has my friends avoiding the litter box like the plague — is mother-to-child transmission via the mother’s food ingestion (as discussed above) or by accidental ingestion of a sporulated oocyst after the mother comes in contact with infected cat feces. Unfortunately, toxoplasmosis can have serious effects on an unborn child — and possibly also later on in the course of that child’s development. Up to half of the fetuses who become infected with toxoplasmosis during pregnancy are born prematurely, and congenital toxoplasmosis can damage a baby’s eyes, nervous system, skin and ears. There may or may not be evidence of infection in the baby at birth, and newborns with milder infections may not have symptoms or problems for months or even years. If they are not treated, however, almost all such infected children will develop problems (especially in the eyes) as teenagers.

However, while toxoplasmosis does present serious risks, if you become pregnant you don’t need to send your cat packing! You can minimize the risk by taking a few precautions. Make sure you cook all of your meat thoroughly and wash your hands and utensils/cutting boards after using them. Wear gloves when gardening. Cover outdoor sandboxes (which outdoor cats use as litter boxes). Scoop the litter box daily while wearing gloves, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. Or, better yet, take this opportunity to let your husband or loved one clean the litter box for you during this nine-month stretch!

Dr. Jessica Hudak

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Welcome to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital!

What to Expect During Your Visit
If you find yourself and your four-legged friend at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital, it’s either late in the evening or during a weekend, and likely your pet is suffering from an emergency. Within minutes of your arrival, your pet will be assessed for critical or life-threatening injuries. Any animal suffering from these types of injuries will immediately be taken to the treatment room, and supportive care will be initiated. If your animal is stable and a more serious case comes in, please be aware that you may be seen out of the order of your arrival, to accommodate the most serious cases in order of medical priority. However, our goal is to minimize waiting time and have all patients seen by a doctor within 20 minutes of admission.

Once you are welcomed into an exam room, a veterinary technician will perform a brief physical exam on your pet and take a history of the problem. This pertinent information will be relayed to our doctors, who will then examine your pet and determine the best course of action for diagnosis and treatment. An estimate of the proposed plan will be presented to you for your approval, and any questions you may have will be discussed. We may ask that you leave your animal with us for a few hours, or through the night, depending on the seriousness of the problem.

If your animal needs to stay overnight at Greenbrier, we ask that all clients leave a deposit based on the low end of our cost estimate, to ensure that we can continue to provide life-saving care for your animals. It’s important to note that emergency care can often carry a higher cost than at your family veterinarian, since much of the state-of-the-art medical equipment and care at Greenbrier, which help us diagnose and treat your animals, are the same as those used in human hospitals. And since most pets don’t have health insurance, many owners are not financially prepared to deal with an animal in an emergency situation. The staff at Greenbrier understands this, and for that reason we are proud to offer Care Credit (www.carecredit.com), a no-interest payment plan for qualifying applicants.

When your pet is discharged, a technician or a veterinarian will meet with you to go over any medication or bandage instructions. If X-rays were taken, you will receive them in digital format on a CD. As well, all of your animal’s records will be faxed to your family veterinarian, so that they are up to speed on your pet’s status.

We understand how stressful it can be when your pet is involved in an emergency. At Greenbrier, we strive to make your visit as comfortable as possible and to keep you well informed on the status of your pet. Above all, the care for your animal comes first, and we will do everything possible to make sure your pet is safe, supported and stable during their stay at Greenbrier.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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