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All Posts in Category: Common Pet Dangers

PODCAST: Ticks … Suck!

The down-and-dirty about ticks! Since the weather has warmed up this spring, you’ve probably noticed more and more of these awful little critters. You might find them attached to your pet, on your clothes or even attached to your skin. Give our podcast a listen, and learn a little more about the diseases ticks carry — and how to prevent them.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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PODCAST: Common Household Pet Toxins

Our first podcast — and many more to come! This first podcast focuses on common household pet toxins — we’ll identify these toxins and briefly discuss treatments and outcomes. There are some tasty treats that you might never suspect are toxic to your pets.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Laryngeal Paralysis or “Lar Par” in Dogs

The larynx, which is the opening through which outside air flows into a dog’s lungs, allows for vocalization and prevents food inhalation (aspiration) — both of which are important functions. Paralysis of the larynx, otherwise known as laryngeal paralysis or “lar par” for short, means that either one or both of the vocal folds does not fully open during breathing. The condition can occur in cats but is more common in dogs, and specifically in large-breed dogs. It can be hereditary in Bouviers, Huskies, Bull Terriers, Dalmatians and Rotweillers and is also commonly seen (but not necessarily hereditary) in Labs, Goldens, St. Bernards and Newfoundlands.

The first thing you might notice if your dog is suffering from lar par is a change in his or her bark, which might sound more hoarse, because the vocal folds are not moving as they once did. Due to the importance of panting, which is essentially moving air through the larynx, as a cooling function in dogs, you might also find that your dog has exercise intolerance and/or might breathe very noisily or heavily in warm weather. As well, when paralyzed, the larynx might not be able to protect the lungs from aspiration, so your dog may experience coughing, gagging and/or retching. In extreme situations, you may even notice respiratory distress or heat stroke. The clinical signs usually correlate with the degree of paralysis.

To diagnose laryngeal paralysis, your veterinarian will need to do a sedated exam and watch the larynx move as your dog breathes. Because the larynx is so deep in the throat, it is not possible to get a good look at it without sedation. A workup for lar par might also include blood work on thyroid levels, since up to 10 percent of dogs with lar par also have concurrent low thyroid. Chest x-rays may also be taken if your vet suspects aspiration pneumonia, which commonly happens with laryngeal paralysis.

The only treatment for laryngeal paralysis is a surgical procedure to tie back the laryngeal folds. This procedure, actually quite common with race horses, is called a “tie back” and is usually performed by a surgery specialist — so your primary vet may refer you to a specialty practice. The surgery can only be performed on a stable patient, so If your dog has a lar par complication such as pneumonia, he or she will likely be hospitalized until stable enough for anesthesia and surgery. The major risk of the surgery is an increased likelihood of aspiration pneumonia, since the folds will no no longer able to completely close and protect the lungs.

Lar par is a disease that can range in seriousness from minimal clinical signs to severe respiratory distress and even death. If you notice any of the hallmark signs, such as a change in bark, increased respiratory noise, or exercise or heat intolerance, please bring this to the attention of your veterinarian. It is very important to note that dogs with this condition can overheat easily, so they should be kept in an air-conditioned environment and have limited exercise until they can be examined and/or have surgery. The good news is that after tie back surgery, dogs usually do quite well.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Pet First Aid: Responding to Pet Emergencies at Home

Working in emergency medicine, we get numerous calls from people wondering what they can do with their pet in an emergency prior to coming in to the office. While the majority of treatments on your pet should be done by a veterinarian or a member of a veterinary staff, there are some things you can do to help your pet prior to transport.

Preparing to Transport Your Pet
The most important thing to remember is that you should never do anything to assist your pet that will cause harm to yourself. Even the most gentle pet, when in pain, may try to bite and/or scratch you. The most frequent occurrence of this situation is after a pet is hit by a car — we often see clients who have been bitten by their pets while trying to tend to them and transport them. For dogs, placing a large blanket or towel over the head, with room for them to breathe, can help prevent injury to yourself. You can also use a towel with cats, and it’s a great idea to put on sturdy work gloves and a long-sleeved shirt prior to picking them up.

With an animal that has been hit by a car, it’s also helpful to slide the animal gently onto a board, blanket or sturdy piece of cardboard — this will help protect against possible trauma to their spinal cord or neck. It’s also important, especially in patients that are having trouble breathing, to keep your pet sitting up on their sternum (chest) — that will help them aerate both sides of their lungs and breathe more easily. You can place thick towels on either side of them to help keep them propped up in this position.

Getting Bleeding Under Control
When it comes to pet injuries, a bleeding pet typically leads to a frantic owner, so it’s important to stay calm and focus on helping your pet. To be prepared for such an event, having a first aid kit on hand for your pet — including gauze and materials needed to make a bandage — is a very good idea. One important initial word of advice is that if there is foreign material sticking out of the wound, do not try to remove it yourself. The foreign object could be pressing up against a blood vessel or penetrating an organ, and removing it could cause more harm than good. This includes foreign material sticking out of the eye.

For penetrating wounds (such as bites) and wounds that are bleeding heavily, apply firm pressure and place a firm pressure bandage over the wound. If the bleeding is on a limb, you can also try to raise that limb above the level of your pet’s heart to help slow the bleeding. For nose bleeding, apply ice to the bridge of the nose to slow it down, and try to keep your pet laying on their sternum (chest), as we discussed above.

One of the most common bleeding problems we see on an emergency basis is a bleeding toenail, which includes a toenail that has broken or has pulled out. This kind of injury can bleed profusely and run all over a floor or rug (I refer to this as “crime scene bleeding”). To help bring the bleeding under control at home, you can place the bleeding toe in some corn starch, a bar of soap or a stick of underarm deodorant containing zinc.

Dealing with Toxicities
Toxicities are also a common emergency we deal with here at Greenbrier Emergency. With so many different substances toxic to pets — and many substances you might otherwise not think of as toxic — always call a veterinarian if you suspect that your pet has gotten into something. In this kind of situation, many people consider trying to make their pet vomit to remove the toxic substance. But with some household products and medications, inducing vomiting in a pet can cause more harm than good. Your pet, if poisoned, may not be able to swallow correctly and end up inhaling some of its vomit, creating a whole new problem known as aspiration pneumonia. Also, some products can cause more irritation to the esophagus and mouth on the way back up than on the way down.

Because so many common plants are toxic to pets, I usually recommend that people keep a list of the types of plants they have in and around their house. Telling your vet, “they got into a big green one,” doesn’t help us pinpoint the exact toxic agent and resolve the problem.

For other common toxic household substances like rat poison, try to keep them stored in a place that is inaccessible to your pet. And if you smoke, don’t throw your used filters outside — nicotine is a toxic agent to pets, and any remaining tobacco, eaten by your pet in large enough quantities, can cause serious problems.

Call Ahead!
If you ever do have an emergency situation with your pet, if possible, please call a veterinarian or Greenbrier Emergency to let them know you’re on your way. That will help them get set up and be prepared to handle your pet’s specific problem and treat them as quickly and effectively as possible.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Winter Hazards for your Pet

Now that the holidays are upon us, I thought it would be a good time to remind pet owners of the many common household items that can be hazards to pets during the winter season. I’ll start with a list of common food items that can present serious problems for pets. Many of these items have their very own blog entries, so please search our blog after you read this post if you’d like more detail. I am constantly surprised by how many people aren’t aware that these foods are potentially toxic to pets, so I don’t think we can list them too often.

Yeast bread dough: converts to alcohol, causes bloating
Moldy foods: contain toxins that can cause tremors
Macadamia nuts: can lead to weakness, depression, vomiting
Chocolate: GI and cardiac signs, can make pets hyper excitable
Onions, garlic, leeks, onion powder: can lead to anemia
Xylitol (contained in sugarless gum): causes low blood sugar, liver toxicity and blood clotting disorders
Grapes/raisins: can lead to kidney failure. For some dogs, it only takes a few.
Fatty foods: can cause pancreatitis

The following plants are toxic to pets:
Lilies: can cause kidney failure in cats
Holly: can cause gastrointestinal problems, lethargy
Mistletoe: can cause gastrointestinal problems and is a cardiotoxin
Poinsettia: can cause irritation to the mouth and gastrointestinal problems and is a mild toxin

Holiday-related items
Since many of the items below only come out seasonally, they can be a novelty — especially for those curious cats or puppies. Take care to pet-proof your holiday decorations!
Christmas tree water: can be laden with bacteria and/or pesticides; causes gastrointestinal signs
Ribbons/tinsel: cats especially love these, and they can cause linear foreign bodies requiring surgery
Liquid potpourri: can cause severe oral, ocular and dermal damage
Electric cords: can lead to electrocution, fluid in lungs

Other toxic items
Antifreeze: Extremely toxic to animals!! Lethargy, “drunk” behavior, kidney failure
Ice melt: irritating to skin, paws and mouth

Please keep your pets safe this holiday season. If you think your pet has ingested any of the above, please seek veterinary attention immediately. Many of these toxins can be mitigated with early veterinary intervention.

Dr. Elvira Hoskins

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What did my dog get into … ivermectin?

Here at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital, we’ve had two very interesting cases lately. This first one was a middle-aged dog who was disoriented. On examination, he was suddenly and completely blind! The second case was a 7-week-old puppy who was normal when the owner went to bed — but In the morning, when the owner woke up, the puppy couldn’t walk and was barely responsive. On examination, this puppy was also suddenly blind! What did these two cases have in common? They were both either on or near a horse farm. Ivermectin toxicity was suspected in both cases, and within a few hours (for the puppy) and a few days (for the older dog), they were completely back to normal.

Ivermectin is a drug commonly and safely used in many dogs to treat a variety of parasitic infections. This drug is also commonly used in cattle and horses at much higher doses — which can be toxic to dogs, if they are exposed to the medication. Certain types of dogs, including but not limited to collies and Australian shepherds, are also far more susceptible to the toxic effects of the drug.

Toxicity signs include depression, disorientation, nonresponsiveness, blindness, drooling, tremors, and walking like he/she is “drunk.” More severe signs, especially in the susceptible breeds, include low heart rate, low breathing rate, coma and death.

Treatment often is centered around supportive care, which may include intravenous fluid therapy, nutritional support and appropriate nursing care. Although ivermectin toxicity can be fatal in rare cases, many dogs do well and make full recoveries. Sometimes it just takes time. If your pet is displaying any abnormal neurologic behavior, or you suspect your pet has ingested anything toxic, bring him/her to your local veterinarian (or to Greenbrier after hours) immediately.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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What’s in the pond water? Water-borne parasites

Ever worry about what your pet could be contracting when he/she stops and drinks out of a pond or other stagnant body of water? Many water-borne parasites can cause clinical signs that are anywhere from mild to severe. The most common parasites include, but are not limited to:

Giardia: Giardia is a protozoan that can live for a long time in stagnant water. It causes diarrhea, which is often watery but not bloody. It can be hard to detect on a regular fecal float at your vet, and often further testing is required. It is shed intermittently in the feces, making detection that much harder. The most common treatments are fenbendazole and metronidazole. There is a vaccine for giardia that does not prevent the infection, but does prevent shedding of the protozoan — making it useful in kennel-type situations. Is it transmittable to humans? Yes, humans can be affected by drinking contaminated water.

Coccidia: Coccidia is a single-celled organism that is transmitted by the fecal-oral route, meaning that it is passed in the stool of the host and ingested by another host. The most common form of Coccidia Isospora is species-specific and therefore is not cross-transmitted. Coccidia causes watery, voluminous diarrhea, with or without blood. It is easily passed to young animals with weaker immune systems but rarely affects adults. It is usually detected on a fecal flotation, but a very small amount of Coccidia can cause an infection, so it can be missed on a fecal flotation. Coccidia is commonly treated with Albon or sulfa drugs. Can it be passed to humans? The most common form is species-specific, but humans can contract the Coccidia toxoplasma from cats, which can be a risk for pregnant women.

Leptospira: Leptospira is a spirochete bacteria that affects dogs and rarely cats. It thrives in warm, stagnant water such as a marsh or muddy area and is usually shed in the urine of wildlife or rodents. It initially causes a fever; then the fever subsides, and the clinical signs progress to liver damage and kidney failure. Leptospira can be detected by a blood test. Many dogs are vaccinated for Lepto as part of their annual checkup. The vaccine is specific for certain serovars or strains of Lepto, so it is still possible to contract Lepto after being vaccinated. The treatment for Leptospira is supportive care and antibiotics, but the prognosis is poor.

Campylobacter: Campylobacter is a bacteria often found in water contaminated with feces. It mostly affects puppies less than 6 months of age, and rarely affects cats. It is often isolated from the GI tract of normal adult dogs, but can overwhelm the system in puppies, causing a high fever and watery, mucoid or bloody diarrhea. The diagnosis is made on a fecal wet mount. Animals that are positive for campylobacter and have an associated high fever are treated with antibiotics.

Cryptosporidia: Cryptosporidia is a protozoa affecting both cats and puppies usually less than 6 months old. It is usually found in water contaminated with feces. It causes watery diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, gas and nausea. It is hard to detect on routine fecal flotation, and usually is detected by sending a fecal out to a lab that uses special flotation solution. The clinical signs are usually self-limiting and rarely require treatment other than a bland diet for three days. If the diarrhea is severe, occasionally IV fluids and supportive care are required.

The majority of the water-borne parasites cause diarrhea, which is treatable in a healthy animals. An immuno-compromised or otherwise debilitated animal might have more severe clinical signs. Among water-borne parasites, Leptosporidia carries the poorest prognosis if it advances to liver and or kidney failure. The best prevention is to make sure your dog is vaccinated, to carry fresh water for your dog, and to try to discourage them from drinking from stagnant water.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Common Kitchen Items that are Toxic to Your Pets!

We just had a client come in to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital the other night with a common case of toxicity involving a seemingly harmless snack. The owner had been feeding her dog grapes when her friend (thankfully) walked in and informed her that grapes are, in fact, toxic to dogs. We also recently had a dog come in after getting into her owner’s chewing gum stash. Both dogs had to be hospitalized, but happily both are doing just fine now. In both instances the owners asked, “Why didn’t I know that this was toxic to dogs?” The reality is that quite a number of commonly used household items and foods are dangerous if ingested by your pets. So in the interest of public awareness, here’s a list of potentially dangerous items that you may have in your own home. Some of these you might already be aware of — but some will probably surprise you.

These toxins are relatively new toxin discoveries in the veterinary literature. They can cause kidney damage and failure, although the mechanism by which the damage occurs is still unknown at this point. They affect all dogs differently, so the lowest dose for toxicity has not yet been worked out. It’s best not to give your dogs or cats any of these!

Yeast dough
Yeast dough can cause problems for your pet in two different ways. The stomach provides a warm environment for yeast to rise, and this kind of expansion in the stomach can cause a lot of discomfort. In extreme cases, the intestines can rupture. The other harmful effect of yeast is that as it ferments, it produces alcohol, which can actually cause alcohol poisoning — just as liquor would in your pet.

These toxins can cause gastrointestinal upset if eaten in small amounts. Larger amounts can cause damage to red blood cells, causing them to rupture and resulting in anemia, which can in some cases be severe.

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is becoming more and more prevalent in the kitchen. Xylitol is often found in chewing gum and toothpaste and is now also showing up in some baked goods. Its toxicity is unknown in cats, but in dogs it causes low blood sugar in small doses, and liver failure in larger doses.

Macadamia nuts
Signs of macadamia nut toxicity include weakness, depression, tremors, abdominal pain and an elevated temperature. The exact mechanism of toxicity is not fully understood.

Many people are aware that chocolate and coffee are toxic to pets. Patients with this kind of toxicity present with a really elevated heart rate and can, in severe cases, suffer a heart attack. While many people would not feed their pets coffee, we have had pets come in to Greenbrier with coffee toxicity from getting into coffee grounds in the household compost pile. And when it comes to chocolate, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is.

All of the above can cause signs ranging from mild irritation and toxicity to more severe symptoms. It’s very important, if you suspect that your pet has gotten into any of the above, that you seek advice from your veterinarian or animal hospital to determine the optimal next steps for your pet. Many times, your vet will recommend that your dog be made to vomit and/or receive supportive care and further decontamination in a veterinary hospital. But the best treatment is prevention! Spread the word!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Ticks: a pesky little problem

Since the weather warmed up this spring, you have probably noticed more and more of these awful little creatures. You might find them attached to your pet, on your pant leg or even attached to your skin. You probably know that they look like: a small head with a large body. We are, of course, talking about ticks, pesky little bloodsuckers that can bring diseases not only to your pets, but also to you. Ticks, even in Virginia, often carry tick-borne diseases that can make your pet very sick. They can cause weakness, fever, joint pain, weight loss, anemia and decreased platelets — which increases your pet’s chances for spontaneous bleeding! For some of the tick-borne diseases, your veterinarian can use an in-house “snap” test to evaluate for infection. Sometimes, blood work needs to be sent out to test for “titers,” or your pet’s level of response to the infection. For most of the tick-borne disease processes, if given early, antibiotics can take care of the infection, and your pet can make a full recovery. However, pets that are severely infected may require a stay in the hospital as well as significant medications, and may not respond as well to treatment. So if your pet is starting to become lethargic, is losing weight or is limping, please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible!

With tick-borne disease, prevention is key. Multiple preventative tick and flea medications can be prescribed by your veterinarian. Most are monthly treatments that are easily administered to your pet. Please call your veterinarian today for recommendations. And remember, although some of the tick-borne diseases can be transmitted to humans (e.g., Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), you cannot get the disease from your pet. Ticks have to attach directly to your skin in order for you to get the disease.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Canine Distemper: Make Sure Your Dog Is Vaccinated!

Canine distemper is a very serious, contagious virus found in dogs that attacks the immune system, making them more susceptible to other infections, including bacterial and parasitic infections. Sneezing, coughing, pneumonia, anorexia, fever, vomiting and diarrhea are all potential signs of this disease. These signs can be difficult to distinguish from “kennel cough,” a common upper respiratory infection that normally heals quickly without treatment, and parvovirus, a debilitating disease that causes profuse vomiting and diarrhea. Canine distemper, however, can also have neurologic signs, including forceful muscle twitching, seizures, blindness, “chewing gum” fits, incoordination, hypersensitivity, circling and abnormal vocalization. These neurologic signs may be seen in conjunction with other symptoms, and may even be seen weeks or months after apparent recovery! Often these neurologic signs are irreversible, but some may be managed with medication, if they aren’t too severe. The mortality rate of this disease is approximately 50 percent.

How do dogs get canine distemper?
The virus is spread directly from dog to dog, mostly in respiratory fluids (oral and nasal discharge exuded during sneezing and coughing), but it can also be found in other body secretions, including urine. The virus can be shed for 60-90 days after infection; however, shorter shedding periods (1-2 weeks) are more common. Fortunately, this is not a hardy virus and is killed by normal disinfecting methods. It doesn’t last long in warm environments and only lasts for a couple of weeks in near-freezing temperatures (although it can last for years in below-freezing temperatures). The most susceptible dogs to canine distemper are unvaccinated young dogs, although unvaccinated older dogs can also develop neurologic signs. A presumptive diagnosis of canine distemper is often made on clinical signs, but specific diagnosis often requires an outside lab.

Prevention is key
There is no cure for canine distemper. Intensive supportive treatment might be necessary for dogs who contract the disease, but the neurologic signs may be too severe to treat. Dogs that recover from this disease may have lasting neurologic deficits, but recovered dogs do not continue to shed the disease to other dogs.

Vaccination and isolation of symptomatic dogs are key to preventing this disease. Immunity can be long-term, but it is not necessarily lifelong, so periodic vaccinations — even in older dogs — are required. Please contact your primary care veterinarian for their recommended vaccination protocol, and keep your pet healthy!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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