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All Posts Tagged: Common Pet Dangers

Skunks: P.U. — Stinky!

The skunk: an easily identifiable, cute, black-and-white animal (also known as polecats by some) with a nasty spray. Here at Greenbrier we receive numerous calls from clients about what to do when they find a skunk on their property, or when their pet (usually a dog) has been sprayed in the face.

Luckily the majority of skunk-sprayed animals will be fine, except for having a potent smell for days or even more than a week. After being sprayed, most pets will act as if they have been blinded and will have increased tear production and often a generalized red color to the eyes. Often a pet in this condition will paw at its face and nose. The best first step to treatment is rinsing the pet’s eyes with saline solution — the same solution used for contact lenses.

The next thing to do is attempt “de-skunk” the smell of your pet. Despite many rumors, tomato juice DOES NOT do the trick, and using this method will merely leave you with an animal that smells like both skunk and tomato juice. The best thing to use is a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and liquid soap or dish detergent, with the following recipe:

  • 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid soap or dish detergent

Mix the three ingredients and apply liberally while washing your dog, then rinse with fresh water. You can repeat the washing several times and let the solution sit on the dog for 5-10 minutes each time. Unfortunately, the mixture is not stable once it is combined, so you will need to make a new solution each day you apply it. Be very careful to avoid getting the solution in your pet’s eyes, and try to keep your pet from drinking it (although drinking it will only upset his/her stomach, but likely will not do any real harm).

If you think there is any chance the skunk could have bitten your pet (especially if your pet killed the skunk), we recommend a rabies booster vaccine. Rabies is not spread through the spray, but generally only through saliva and blood. Your daytime vet can boost your pet’s rabies vaccine if you are concerned, as this is not generally an emergency.

Skunks are most active at night and move slowly. They are attracted to outside pet food bowls (just like raccoons and opossums), open garbage containers, and unsealed compost piles — so try to get rid of these kinds of attractions or protect/cover them, if possible. If you let your pet outside at night, use a leash if you suspect a skunk is on your property. Skunks usually try to give plenty of warning prior to spraying, so if you see one outside or startle one during a walk, you may have time to get away prior to being sprayed. Even baby skunks as young as 8 days can spray, so avoid the impulse to get too close, regardless of how cute they may seem. Skunks are active most of the year, but usually more so in the warmer months. While not true hibernators, they can go through a dormant stage for several weeks during cold weather.

A condition known as skunk toxic shock syndrome, which is VERY rare, occurs when some of the compounds in a skunk’s spray (thioacetates) destroy a pet’s healthy red blood cells. An animal experiencing this syndrome initially presents with weakness and pale gums and progresses to vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and anemia. While very rare, keep this syndrome in mind if your pet develops these symptoms hours or days after being sprayed, and have him/her examined by your regular veterinarian.

Hopefully this information will prove helpful if your animal is sprayed by a skunk, and it might even save you an unnecessary trip to the emergency room.

© 2013 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Tremorgenic Mycotoxin Toxicity: The Moldy Shakes

The compost pile, a seemingly innocuous feature of your outside garden, can seem like a great idea, for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, this kind of eco-friendly heap of decomposing organic matter can also look like a free meal to your dog. As food in a compost pile starts to decay, a variety of molds can grow on it — molds that won’t always deter a dog from wanting to enjoy an outside feast. Many of these molds (at least 20 varieties are known to inhabit compost piles) produce mycotoxins that can have negative health effects. Ingesting even a small amount of mold can cause small muscle tremors and ataxia (which will cause your pet to look like he/she is drunk or having trouble walking) for a period of hours or days. A large amount of mold exposure can cause severe tremors, seizures and even death.

Spoiled food and fats in the compost pile can also cause gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes bloody). Moldy dairy products such as cheese, moldy nuts such as walnuts or peanuts, moldy grains, and pastas are often the culprits behind these kinds of issues.

Apart from food found in compost piles, moldy refrigerator food thrown outside or in the trash can also potentially expose your dog to toxic molds. If you suspect that your pet has gotten into a compost pile or moldy trash, please take him/her to a vet immediately. Depending on whether the pet is showing signs of toxicity, your dog may be made to vomit. We never recommend the inducing of vomiting at home, due to possible complications. For instance, if your pet isn’t stable, he/she could inhale their own vomit or bloat. At the vet, a dose of activated charcoal is also often given to help absorb toxins from the GI tract.

Most dogs with this kind of mold toxicity likely will be kept in the hospital on IV fluids and given muscle relaxants to address any tremors, until the tremors cease. Antibiotics are also sometimes used to treat any diarrhea. A hospital stay can range from one day to several days, depending on how much mold your pet consumed and how quickly they were treated by a veterinarian.

Just like anything else, with mold toxicity, prevention is key. Keep compost piles in areas out of reach of your pet, or keep the material in a secure composting container. Also, don’t throw food away in inside trash cans. Most outside trash cans are much sturdier, and some are made to be difficult for a dog to open — even if the can is overturned. Finally, avoid throwing moldy food from your refrigerator in your backyard.

© 2012 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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PODCAST: Tremorgenic Mycotoxins

Tremorgenic mycotoxins produced by molds on foods are a relatively common — and possibly under-diagnosed — cause of tremors and seizures in pet animals. Because of their relatively indiscriminate appetites, dogs tend to be most commonly exposed to tremorgens. These toxins are produced by a variety of fungi, but tremorgens produced by Penicillium spp. are the most commonly encountered. The molds grow on practically any food, including dairy products, grains, nuts and legumes, and compost piles may also provide a source of tremorgens. Tremorgens have a several different mechanisms of action: some alter nerve action potentials, some affect neurotransmitter action, and others change neurotransmitter levels. The overall result is the development of muscle tremors and seizures.

© 2012 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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PODCAST: 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.

© 2012 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Nicotine Toxicity in Pets

Recently here at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital, we had a patient that presented with full body tremors, was drooling, was excited, and started vomiting and experiencing diarrhea. The owner had stated the dog was normal in the morning, and the dog’s presentation condition was consistent with her getting into something. However, after asking the owner numerous questions, we were unable to identify what the dog potentially could have ingested. It wasn’t until the next morning, when the owner was smoking, that she noticed several cigarette butts in front of her house were missing.

Nicotine toxicity in dogs and cats is more common than most people think, and it is especially common in pets with owners who leave cigarette packs out or toss cigarette butts outside. Nicotine is most commonly found in cigarettes, cigars, nicotine gum and candy, and nicotine transdermal patches. The average cigarette (depending on the brand, blend and whether it is marketed as a “light cigarette”) contains 13-40 mg of nicotine, and it doesn’t take much nicotine to cause problems — the lethal dose for a dog is 9.2 mg of nicotine per kilogram of your pet’s body weight. Incidentally, an average cigarette butt contains about 25 percent of the nicotine present in an unsmoked cigarette, so they can be toxic as well.

Nicotine gum actually has to be chewed — not swallowed (which most dogs will do) — to release nicotine. However, the sweetener xylitol, which is also toxic to pets, is often added to nicotine gum.

Once nicotine is ingested, signs typically develop within 15-90 minutes. However, in some cases it can take hours for symptoms to emerge. Initially you might see your pet being hyperactive or acting overexcited. They might also start drooling, experience vomiting or diarrhea, or even look like they are having trouble breathing. At higher doses or for longer exposures, your pet might show signs of weakness, start twitching or having muscle tremors, have an elevated heart rate, collapse, and even die. So nicotine toxicity is a potentially life-threatening condition.

As with any toxicity, early treatment and diagnosis are crucial, so be sure to bring your pet to your regular vet or to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. If your pet is not already vomiting upon arrival, a drug is typically given to make them vomit. Activated charcoal is also administered to help absorb nicotine from the GI tract. Your pet will also likely be put on IV fluids; started on antacids; and given oxygen, if they are having trouble breathing. Usually within 24 hours of treatment, your pet should be almost back to normal (although diarrhea can sometimes take 1-3 days to resolve).

Our cigarette butt eater here at Greenbrier came through just fine, but the experience should serve as a reminder to all pet owners who smoke: Keep your cigarettes, cigars and other nicotine-containing products out of reach of your pet. And think twice before just tossing that cigarette butt!

© 2012 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Maggots: A Nasty Problem in Pets

It’s that time of year again …

One of the least favorite times of year for most emergency staff is what we in the veterinary community like to refer to as “maggot season.” While most people only think of maggots growing in spoiled food or on things that are no longer alive, maggots can also be a problem in our live pets.

Maggots are fly larvae (an early stage of fly development), and a maggot infestation is called myiasis. When looking for a suitable place to lay their eggs, flies are usually attracted to things with decaying or rotten smells. In our live pets, attractive sites for flies can include infected bite wounds, areas of fur that are matted with urine or feces, skin folds, infected ears, ruptured skin masses, hot spots and surgical incisions, to name a few. After about 1-3 days, the eggs hatch. At first, the maggots will feed on dead skin or debris. But when that food source runs out, they release an enzyme in their saliva that starts digesting healthy skin. The enzyme can cause small holes in the skin, and then the maggots can actually burrow underneath the skin. They can also tunnel into the rectum or vagina of a pet. With time, the maggots can start releasing toxins that can make your pet sick very quickly, leading to fever, lethargy and shock.

So if you find maggots on your pet, get them to a vet immediately, where they will be able to clip and clean the underlying cause and remove the maggots. Some pets might need to be hospitalized and placed on IV fluids overnight, in addition to being started on antibiotics.

One of the biggest problems we’ve run into lately concerning maggots is false information on the Internet about getting rid of them at home — attempting to do so can make our job harder and further complicate your pet’s health. The problem is that the majority of information out there is geared toward killing maggots in food, not on your live pets. Some of the worst recommendations out there include the following — DO NOT ATTEMPT ANY OF THESE MEASURES:

  • Placing gasoline, oil, kerosene or lighter fluid on maggots is not a safe remedy. Besides potentially being a local irritant, if your pet ingests that kind of fluid, they can aspirate some of the material into the lungs.
  • Pouring straight bleach on the maggots is another unwise treatment recommended online — doing so can be very irritating to the eyes and act as an irritant to the lungs as well.
  • Pouring powdered lime on your pet also is not a good idea, since it can cause vomiting, diarrhea and GI tract ulceration.
  • Another very bad idea, placing boiling water on maggots, is something your pet would not appreciate, to say the least. Doing so can cause severe burns.
  • There is also information about using over the counter permethrin products to kill maggots. This would be something I would be very wary of doing on a cat. Cats are very sensitive to permethrins (an insecticide in many over-the-counter flea preventatives), and they can lead to intense muscle tremors and seizures.
  • Finally, using hairspray on the maggots is another unwise tip — doing so probably won’t kill them, and will only serve to give your pet a stiff hairdo.

The best method for keeping maggots off your pet is preventing them in the first place. During the summer months, if your pet lives outside, make sure they get their fur clipped for the season. Do daily cleaning of any soiled outside bedding. And if your pet has a skin infection, bite wounds or surgical incisions, keep them inside until they are healed. Also, be sure to have all wounds evaluated by a veterinarian!

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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PODCAST: Pets and Snake Bites — Act Quickly!

During the warm-weather months, our slithery, venomous snake friends become more active. And snake bites are a very common problem in the summertime. Our pets are very curious creatures and tend to lead with their noses and their front limbs, so that’s where we see the most bites (on the face and front legs). These bites often cause extreme pain, swelling and bruising, and that’s typically what you as an owner will notice first, if you don’t happen to see the snake itself. You may also see puncture marks that may be bleeding or oozing.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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PODCAST: 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.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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