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It’s true that a cold, wet nose can be a sign of good health in a dog, but it’s not a completely reliable barometer. It is a good idea to keep your pup’s nose in check. If you notice any of the following, you’ll want to consult your vet right away: discharges that last more than 24 hours, swelling, odor & difficulty breathing. These things can be symptomatic of the presence of a foreign object, tumors, or sinus/respiratory infections.
Signs of Illness in Your Dog
In case of illness, keep the number of your veterinarian or the local animal clinic close at hand; be sure to provide these numbers to anyone caring for your dog in your absence. Strive to become intimately familiar with your dog; touch the animal a lot, not only as a show of affection but also as a way of learning the terrain of his or her body–if you know what feels normal in touching your pet, you will be able to identify when obvious abnormalities, such as lump in the dog’s neck or a lesion on his skin beneath the fur. Has your pup suddenly taken on an odd scent? Would you call it an odor? What do the inside of her ears smell like from one time to the next? And, another reason to poop scoop on your customary walks is not only out of courtesy to others and compliance with local laws, but it also provides you an opportunity to see if there are parasites present in the animals feces. (No, we’re not saying you have to get that up close and personal and root around in the poop pile, but the presence of worms in your dog’s intestines is often apparent in the feces at first glance [looks like rice].)
You may already do this, but if you don’t, consider keeping a journal with information about your pet(s). The journal could include medical information, such as a history of inoculations and other vet visits. What was the purpose of the visit? If the visit was other than a routine checkup, why did you take the animal to the vet and what was the diagnosis? Were any medications prescribed? If so, list the medications, and were there any obvious side affects? You could also keep a record of flea & tick treatment, the last time you gave the pup a bath, or went to the groomer–so on and so forth.
If your doggie demonstrates any of the following signs of ill health, jot it down and date your observations in the journal. If any of these conditions persist, seek medical attention for your pet.
The following is a list of signs of ill health.
- Head shaking
- Discharges from the ear canal
- Swelling of the ear flap
- Difficulty in hearing Loss of balance Unpleasant or suspicious odor
- Discharge from the eyes
- Failing vision
- Bloodshot inflammation
- Blue-gray cloudiness
Mouth and Tooth Disorders:
- Bad breath
- Drooling saliva
- Reluctance to eat
- Inflamed gums
- Loose or broken teeth
- Constant licking and smacking
- Nasal Discharge
- Persistent Sneezing
- Coughing, gagging
- Excessive snoring
- Labored breathing
- Fits, convulsions, or seizures
- Staggering gate
- Partial or complete paralysis
- Behavioral changes
- Loss of balance
Skin & Coat Disorders:
- Persistent scratching
- Sudden chewing or licking
- Redness, inflammation, or rash
- Increased hair loss
- Excessive licking
- Hair loss
- Visible parasites
Blood & Heart Disorders:
- Nonproductive coughing
- Reluctance to exercise
- Reduced stamina
- Any unusual genital discharges
- Swelling in the mammary glands
- Swelling in the testicles
- Failure to conceive
- Difficulties at birth
Bone, Muscle, & Joint Disorders:
- Lameness and limping
- Swelling around affected area
- Tenderness when limb is touched
- Straining to pass urine
- Blood in the urine
- Increased urination
- Increased thirst
- Projective, bloody, or painful vomiting
- Persistent, bloody or explosive diarrhea
- Weight loss or excessive weight gain
- Listlessness and abdominal discomfort
- Visible worms in feces
- Pot-bellied appearance
- persistent or blood diarrhea
- Loss of weight
Remember: Whenever you notice any changes in your pet’s demeanor, behavior, or routines, contact your vet for advice.
Be on the look out for dangerous plants. It’s not unusual for animals to chew on greenery of all sorts and they do this for many reasons: It’s a way of keeping their digestive system clean; it’s a symptom of teething; they could have a hair ball they’re trying to expel by inducing vomiting; they could have a nutritional deficiency; or they could be bored.
Once you bring an animal into your household, you’ll need to be aware of the plants you own, cultivate, or that simply grow wild–many of them are poisonous to the animal.
Symptoms of poisoning include the following: vomiting (beyond the normal little upchuck that often accompanies eating grass), diarrhea, dizziness, sleepiness, contracted pupils (pin pointed), trembling, twitching, staggering, convulsions, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst or salivation, weakness in rear legs, or paralysis. If you suspect your pet has been poisoned (plant or other substance), rush him or her to a vet immediately and, if possible, try to identify the substance.
The following is a list of plants that may be poisonous to your pet:
|Aconitium (Wolfsbane, Monkshood, Leopards Bane, Woman Bane, Devils Helmet, Blue Rocket)||Elderberry (Elder)||Marsh Marigold (Cowslip)||Rhododendron|
|Anemone (Windflower)||Euphorbia (Annual Poinsettia, Mexican Fire Plant, Fire-On-the-Mountain)||Mayapple||Rhubarb|
|Autumn Crocus||Four-O-Clocks||Meadow Saffron||Arbrus (Rosary Pea, Precatory Bean)|
|Black Locust||Foxglove (Digitalis) (pets can be poisoned by drinking the water from a vase containing the flower)||Mistletoe||Snowdrop|
|Buttercup||Gloriosa (Glory, Flame, Fire, Superb, Climbing and Creeping Lily)||Monkshood||Spring Adonis|
|Caladium||Laburnum (Golden Chain)||Mountain Laurel||Star-of-Bethlehem|
|Castor Oil Plants (Castor Bean, Palma, Christi, Koli)||Holly||Mushrooms||Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise)|
|Cherry trees||Hydrangea||Nightshade||Sweet Pea|
|Christmas Pepper||Iris||Oaks||Trumpet Flower (Chalice Vine)|
|Christmas Rose (Hellebore)||Indian Spurge Tree||Oleander||Water Hemlock|
|Clematis (Virgin’s Bower)||Jack-in-the-Pulpit||Oxalis (Clover, Shamrock Plant)||Wisteria|
|Cycads (Sago Palm, Fern Palm)||Jerusalem Cherry||Philodendron||Yellow Oleander|
|Daffodil (Narcissus)||Gelsemium (Jessamine, Poor Mans Rope)||Phytolacca (American Pokeweed)||Yew|
|Daphne (Garland Flower)||Lantana (Carnara Red Sage)||Pine (Christmas Trees)|
|Delphinium (Larkspur, Staggerweed)||Laurels||Poison Hemlock|
|Dicerna (Bleeding Heart, Dutchman’s Breeches||
|Pothos (Devil’s Ivy, Variegated Philodendron)|
|Dicentra (Squirrel Corn, Turkey Corn)||
Lily of the Valley
|Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane)||
Lycium (Matrimony Vine, Boxthorn)
To obtain a more complete list of plants, toxic and non-toxic, including their scientific names and associated problems/hazards, write the NAPCC, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801. Enclose a check for $10, payable to NAPCC. When you believe that plant poisoning of your animal has occurred, it is essential that the substance be accurately identified. Local floral shop and plant nursery personnel are valuable sources of information in assisting with plant identification.
|Moldy walnut poisoning occurs after a rain and walnuts become infected with mold that produces toxins. If ingested by your pup, the animal can become very ill and possibly die. Signs that should alert you to walnut poisoning are vomiting (you may see walnuts in the vomitus), trembling, drooling, lack of coordination & seizures. Get medical help immediately–walnut poisoning if left untreated can be fatal. With proper & expedient treatment the chances of recovery are excellent. Prevention is the preferable: Keep walnuts picked up and do what ever is necessary to keep your dog(s) from chewing on them.|
Antifreeze is very sweet tasting and dogs and cats will readily drink it. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol (which quickly causes kidney failure) and it is DEADLY! The lethal dose for a cat is 2 tablespoons and for a for a twenty pound dog only a quarter of a cup will kill.
It is not unusual for antifreeze to leak from radiators and pool on driveways or street surfaces & gutters. If you suspect that your pet has been exposed to antifreeze do not wait for symptoms to appear, by then it may be too late. Get help immediately. Signs that should alert you to the possibility of antifreeze poisoning are delirium, stupor, breathing problems, drooling, mouth sores, vomiting, convulsions, comas, and death. Treatment includes pumping the stomach, intravenous injections of alcohol and fluids to help save the kidneys, and an extended period of hospitalization.
Snail Bait is a commonly used garden product. The active ingredients, metadehyde, is highly toxic to all mammals, as well as snail. This product, like antifreeze, is very tasty and, therefore, attractive to animals. The signs of snail bait poisoning are lack of coordination and muscle tremors, salivation & anxiety, generalized seizures. If your pet shows symptoms such as these, call your vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately. If none are available call your local Animal Care & Control facility. Stay calm and minimize noise and stimuli, to reduce anxiety in the animal, while transporting it immediately to the vet. Chances of recovery are good with prompt medical treatment.
Medications–Store medications for all family members and pets in high cabinets, out of reach. With their curiosity and strong teeth, dogs can crack open a pill bottle and swallow the entire contents in a very short time. Even if a medicine prescribed for your pet, too large a dose could cause problems.
Medications that come in tubes may also pose a large risk. Most pets have sharp teeth and can chew into a tube within seconds. Creams and ointments that may be quite safe when applied to the skin can cause serious problems when eaten.
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 dogs, these same chemicals can be deadly.
Chocolate contains Theobromine, a compound that is a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic.
When 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 diarrhea 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 health 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 ‘hemolytic anemia’, where the pet’s red blood cells burst while circulating in its body.
At first, pets affected by onion poisoning show gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhea. They 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. Leftover pizza, Chinese dishes and commercial baby food containing onion, sometimes fed as a supplement to young pets, can cause illness.
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 anemia. 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.
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.
The toxic compound is unknown but the affect of macadamia nuts is to cause locomotory difficulties. 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.
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.
Other potential dangers
- Pear pips, the kernels of plums, peaches and apricots, apple core pips (contain Cyanogenic Glycosides)
- Potato peelings and green looking potatoes
- Rhubarb leaves
- Moldy/spoiled foods
- Yeast dough
- Coffee grounds, beans & tea (caffeine)
- Hops (used in home brewing)
- Tomato leaves & stems (green parts)
- Broccoli (in large amounts)
- Raisins and grapes
- Cigarettes, tobacco, cigars
Holiday Hazards to your pets
The holiday season is full of wonderful family traditions but it can also be one of the most hazardous times of the year for pets.
Holiday treats are meant for people, not pets. Beware of guests who may give your dog cookies, chocolate and other sweets. These treats are not healthy for your canine. Fatty foods and sugar confections can rapidly become toxic to an animal unaccustomed to them. A dog’s digestive system is not adapted for such rich foods, and chocolate contains Theobromine, which can be harmful and sometimes fatal. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, irregular heartbeat, seizures and, in some cases, death. Never leave gifts of chocolate under the tree, in stockings or on tables easily accessible to pets. There are other foods that can be “a recipe for disaster.”
- Onions in stuffing and holiday vegetables destroy a dog’s red blood cells and can lead to anemia.
- Poultry bones can splinter and cause intestinal blockages.
- When the holiday libations flow, make sure pets have no access to alcoholic beverages.
Other things to look out for
- Tree ornaments, candles and other decorations can cause choking or severe intestinal problems if swallowed.
- Strands of popcorn or cranberries are way too tempting for a gluttonous dog, and so are decorations made from cookies.
- Tinsel is especially enticing to some pets. If swallowed, tinsel can cause intestinal blockages.
- Angel hair and glass ornaments can cause blockages or even internal bleeding. Place those kinds of ornaments high up on the tree, out of reach of animals, or don’t use them at all.
- The wag of a tail can topple a Christmas tree. Make sure the tree is steady and secure it in a flat, wide base. Anchor the tree with fishing line tied to drapery rods or wall mounts.
- Bows, yarn and ribbon from packages pose the same kind of risk as tinsel. Pick them up and dispose of them quickly.
- When decorating with holiday lights, keep in mind that exposed wiring, indoors or outdoors, could electrocute an animal that chews on it. Tape wires to the wall of sides of the house.
- No matter how much fresh water you put out for a cat or dog, some will still want to drink from the water in the Christmas tree stand. Some of the tree preservatives put into the water could harm pets. Forgo the preservatives or make sure the water is covered so that pets can’t get into it.
- Keep poinsettias, holly and mistletoe out of reach. Pets can get sick if they chew on leaves, flowers or berries.
- Winter weather can also be a hazard for pets. Make sure pets are dry, protected and in a safe environment. Just as temperature is an important consideration of pet health in summer, cold winters can prove equally dangerous. A fur coat is not enough to protect house pets from frostbite and hypothermia.
- When temperatures drop, do not leave metal water or food dishes outside, for pet tongues can freeze onto to metal. Switch to plastic or ceramic dishes and bowls. Check outdoor water bowls frequently and break the ice when the water freezes.
- Short-haired dogs, especially those with virtually no body fat, should wear coats or sweaters outside.
Hot Weather Tips for Your Pets
For many of us, a long hot summer day is ideal–it means fun & relaxation. But, please remember to take into consideration the needs of your canine companion. Below is a list of do’s and don’ts that we hope you will find helpful. (Courtesy of the the ASPCA, NY.)
- Never leave an animal unattended in a car. While a slightly opened window provides ample ventilation when the car is moving, a parked care can quickly become a furnace to any animal on the inside. Parking in the shade offers some protection, but remember, the sun is constantly shifting during the day. Some days, it only takes 10 minutes for a car to heat up to 160 degrees.
- Never force your pet to exercise after feeding, especially in very hot, humid weather; always exercise your dog in the cool of the day–early morning or evening.
- Never tie an animal outside on a choke collar (any season) as he or she may choke to death; use a buckle collar instead.
- Never leave your dog standing on the street and keep walks on hot asphalt to a minimum–their feet can burn and they easily heat up.
- Never let your pet run loose as this is a good way for the animal become injured, stolen, or killed; in particular, make sure there are no open windows or doors that the animal can jump through when you’re not looking.
- Never walk your pet in areas you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals; dog poisoning increase considerably during the summer months when gardens, lawns & trees are sprayed for the control of weeds, insects & other pests; observe areas closely and get immediate medical attention if your suspect that the animal has been exposed
- Never take your pet to the beach unless you can provide him or her with a shaded spot to lie in & plenty of fresh water to drink; remember to hose the pup down after he or she has been swimming in salt water.
- Always provide plenty of cool, clean water for your pet. When traveling, carry a gallon thermos filled with clean water.
- Always provide plenty of shade for a pet staying outside the house. A properly constructed dog house is best. Whenever possible, bring your pet inside during the heat of the day and let him or her rest in a cool part of the house. Always have plenty of water readily available for the pup.
- Always keep your pet well groomed. If your pet is a large heavy dog with long, thick hair, shaving his or her coat down to a one-inch length will help prevent your pet from overheating and it will make it easier to groom him or her for fleas; a clean coat also helps prevent summer skin problems–though, don’t shave your dog’s hair down to the skin. This robs the dog of protection from the sun.
- Always check for fleas or ticks that may infest your pet; bring him or her to your vet for a thorough summer checkup, including heartworm tests, and use a good, safe flea & tick repellent.
- Always keep current license and identification tags on your dog in case he or she gets lost–a license does no good at home in a drawer.
- Always be extra sensitive to old & overweight dogs in hot weather. Those with heart or lung diseases and brachycephallic (snub-nose dogs like Bulldogs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers, Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus) are more susceptible to the heat and should be kept indoors and air-conditioned as much as possible.
- Always be alert for coolant leaking from your vehicle’s engine. During the summer cars are more likely to overheat & overflow. Antifreezes & coolants are deadly!!
If, in spite of the extra care you give your dog during the hot days of summer, you observe twitching, rapid panting, agitated barking or a wild “staring” expression, call your vet.
- Don’t immerse your pet in water or use ice packs to counteract heatstroke.
- Do pour water on the animal every 3 to 5 minutes and then place him or her in a draft or under a fan.
Ticks, Bee Stings & Fox Tails
Ticks: These little buggers can be a real problem, especially in regions where serious infectious diseases are transmitted, such as Lyme Disease. All animals, domesticated and wild, are sources of these parasites. Check your animals thoroughly, especially if they have been in wooded areas. If you find a tick, don’t try to remove it with any of the mythical methods you may have heard of, such as cleaning fluid, nail polish, petroleum jelly, hot matches, or goddess forbid, lit cigarettes. Beside causing minor to major irritation to the dog’s skin, you will also kill the tick making it more difficult to remove intact (be sure to kill it after you remove it).
Ticks secrete a glue that holds the mouthpiece in place while feeding so that it is not easily dislodged. It has to be removed carefully:
- First, swab the area with alcohol. Then, using tissue or tweezers, gently grasp the body of the tick and pull directly away from the point of attachment. Don’t jerk or twist.
- If the mouthpiece breaks off in the skin, use a sterilized needle to remove as you would a splinter.
- Wash the bite area with soap and water and apply an antiseptic such as alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Mark the date of the tick bite on your calendar and watch for symptoms of disease in the following weeks.
Lyme Disease, transmitted by the dear tick, causes enlarged lymph glands and inflammation of the joints. Humans are susceptible to Lyme Disease and exposure to the disease can cause life-long consequences for both you and your pet.
Bee stings cause pain and swelling. The mouth and face are usual sites of stings. Some dogs are allergic to stings and can react badly. Immediate veterinary care is essential if there is acute swelling to the mouth or throat. If you know your dog to be allergic to bee sting, keep over-the-counter Benadryl available and if you see your dog get stung, give him or her two tablets immediately. Be sure to inform the vet that you have administered the Benadryl–the treatment for bee sting will most likely be an intravenous antihistamine, and since Benadryl is an antihistamine the vet may want to adjust his or her own dosage.
Bees leave a stinger embedded in the skin. With a magnifying glass, remove the stinger with tweezers. Ice the area with an icepack to reduce the swelling.
Foxtails are barbed seeds of dried grasses and weeds, most common during the dry season. They are easily inhaled simply by your pooch sniffing around the grass or brush. Because they are barbed, they can easily become embedded between toes or lodged inside the ears or work their way into the animal’s eyes and can be very difficult to remove. Once inside the animal, the foxtail can travel through the body, causing severe abscesses and infections. Besides being very painful for your animal, removal can be a costly procedure depending on how deeply embedded in the skin or how far back in the dog’s ear, throat or sinuses it becomes embedded.
Be very proactive in protecting your dog from foxtails. Remove dried weeds from the yard and keep your dog away from weeds in other locations. After every outing, be sure to examine your pet, especially between the toes, under the tail, and in the ears.
Be on the lookout for symptoms and get your pup to the vet immediately:
- pawing at the ears and eyes, squinting, and shaking the head
- rubbing the head on the ground and wheeling in circle, or licking and biting at the rectum or other parts of the body
- repeated sneezing, sometimes bloody discharge from the nostrils
- yelping or whining for no obvious reason
- a small raised spot showing signs of inflammation and infection