Pet Safety

Christmas Pet Safety Tips

Cat-in-Christmas-Tree
Cat-in-Christmas-Tree

No one wants to end up in our emergency room over the holidays!  Consider these risks to reduce the likelihood that we will need to see you!

Holiday Ornaments: Consider any new decoration you put out! This is especially important with young dogs and cats who are typically more boisterous and curious, and also with any pets new to the household.

  • Candles are an obvious risk. Place carefully and always supervise or consider flameless candles.
  • Ornaments pose several risks. How breakable? How dangerously chewable? Are they toxic? Homemade salt dough ornaments are extremely toxic.
  • New cords (for lights, etc.) can and will be investigated by a curious young dog or cat. Also assess risk of entanglement.
  • Tinsel: If you own a cat, forgo the tinsel. What looks like a shiny toy to your cat can prove deadly if ingested. Tinsel does not pose a poisoning risk, but is thin and sharp and can easily wrap itself around the intestines or ball up in the stomach once ingested. Many unfortunate cats have required emergency surgery to save them once the tinsel has caused obstruction or other problems.
  • Imported Snow Globes: Recently, imported snow globes were found to contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol.) As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze when ingested by a cat or a tablespoon or two for a dog (depending on their size), can be fatal. Be sure snow globes are placed where they cannot be knocked over and broken.
  • Liquid Potpourri: Filling your house with holiday scents is wonderful, but heating your scented oils in a simmer pot can pose risks. Scented oils can cause serious harm to your cat, with just a few licks resulting in severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Dogs aren’t as sensitive, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry. Simmer natural scents (orange, cinnamon, etc.) on the stove, or scent your home with a non-toxic candle kept safely out of your pet’s reach.
thanksgiving-dog-dinner-dogvacay-300x225
thanksgiving-dog-dinner-dogvacay-300x225

Holiday Foods: With the holiday season comes a delightful variety of baked goods, chocolates, and other rich, fattening foods. Do your best to keep your pet on his or her regular diet over the holidays and do not let family and friends sneak in treats.

  • Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea but large amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias.
  • Holiday baked goods are typically too high in sugar to be good for our pets in any form. Increasingly, many sugarless gums and candies also contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to dogs. It causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and potential liver failure. It is also contained in some brands of peanut butter.
  • Grapes and raisins can result in kidney failure in dogs -- another check against fruitcake!
  • Alcohol: Because alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, it affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure.
  • Yeasted dough: Raw dough can expand in a pet’s stomach and require emergency surgery. It may also cause alcohol poisoning as the yeast reacts in the stomach. Make sure that rising dough is well out of reach.
  • Overfeeding and “Garbage Gut”: A very common reason for a holiday trip to the veterinary emergency room unfolds innocently in a busy holiday household. The meal is over and everyone is too full to pay attention to where the leftover food is in relation to your pets. Your pets have been waiting literally all day for such an opportunity, and are busily helping themselves to the overstuffed trash container and/or the leftovers on the counter. While dogs are usually the main offenders in cases of “garbage gut,” cats are not immune! Within a few hours some combination of vomiting and diarrhea requires a trip to the emergency room. Leftover, fatty meat scraps can produce severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) leading to abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. It’s one thing if you occasionally give a little nibble of something to your pet, but if all 20 party guests decide to do the same, you can wind up with a seriously ill pet.
poinsettia
poinsettia

Holiday Plants:  Cats are usually most apt to "sample" your houseplants.  Veterinary advice should be sought if any of these plants are suspected of being ingested!

  • Lilies (including tiger, Asiatic, Stargazer, Easter and Day lilies) are the most dangerous plants for cats. The ingestion of one to two leaves or flower petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure. We do NOT recommend any lilies in cat owning households!
  • Daffodils (including paperwhites) can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and even possible cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression. The bulb, plant, and flower are all toxic.
  • Holly is toxic, and can cause severe gastrointestinal upset and even heart arrhythmias.
  • Mistletoe: Both berries and leaves are toxic, and symptoms of toxicity include gastrointestinal upset, difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, and odd behavior (possible hallucinations).
  • Amaryllis causes vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, and tremors. The entire plant including the bulb is dangerous
  • Christmas tree and tree water: Bacteria, molds, and fertilizers can cause your pet to become ill with only a few laps, and both dogs and cats are at risk. Chewing on the tree itself can cause some more mild oral and gastrointestinal upset, and there is a small chance that needles can cause punctures and other gastrointestinal problems.
  • Though they have a bad rap, poinsettia plants are only mildly toxic. The effects are typically “self limiting” – chewing them is unpleasant, they taste bad, and then whatever little amount is eaten is fairly quickly thrown up. Pesticides on the plants are likely of more concern.

Houseguests and Holiday Hustle and Bustle Any time you stray from your normal routine or introduce people unfamiliar with your routine into your household, there is the possibility of your pets finding some trouble, including:

  • Escape
  • Overfeeding of unfamiliar or inappropriate foods
  • Ingesting guest’s medication
  • Stress!

Gates and doors left open, dietary indiscretion, guests leaving their medications in a place where your pet can “investigate”, and a host of other scenarios can create problems for your pets.

Keep your pet’s ID tags current and on your pet, and help your guests “Pet Proof” their belongings. This is the time to alert your guests of any “special” habits your pet may have (sock stealing/eating, etc.) so they can prepare.

Also remember that changes in routine can stress your pets, especially cats and older pets. Consider giving them a quiet space of their own to get away from the festivities if they don’t seem relaxed and content.

A little bit of prevention can help ensure that your holidays are happy, healthy, and spent at home!

Handling a Pet Toxin or Poisoning Emergency

VMC092

My pet just got into something he shouldn’t have. What should I do?

 

This could be the shortest blog post ever.  The answer:

1) Call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital.

2) If #1 is not possible, call Poison Control.     ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435

Perhaps you’ve been through a similar situation in the past. Perhaps your sister has. Perhaps your neighbor’s son’s friend worked in a veterinary practice for a few months three years ago. This is what we’ll tell you: Unless the advice you are given is the two steps above -- DON’T USE IT.

What your pet ate may be fine, and we get plenty of false alarms here. A call will never hurt, and is certainly quicker and more accurate than getting several dozen opinions from your friends, family, neighbors, and Dr. Google.

When you call, your vet (or Poison Control) will need to know:

• the name of the substance • the strength of the product if known (medication, chemical, etc.) • how much was consumed • how long since you think the consumption occurred • age, breed, and approximate weight of your pet

Can’t I just make my pet vomit?

No.

Do not give your pet any ‘antidotes’ unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian or poison control. Some substances will cause even more harm if you make your pet vomit. Some have even more risk if your pet inhales some of the substance while vomiting. Once, memorably, we encountered a substance that, when mixed with the stomach acid of the dog, could potentially have created a gas that was extremely dangerous to all of us in the hospital if we had released the gas by making the dog vomit. Some substances will need to be neutralized with specific antidotes that a veterinary hospital will have access and the tools to administer.

Here at VMC, poisonings and toxicities are what we deal with day in and day out. We are very comfortable handling these cases and are easily able to properly guide a pet owner through this process. While some cases are very routine and we know exactly what to do immediately, we commonly utilize the resources of Animal Poison Control. New products, drugs, and chemicals are created all the time, and so the potential toxins and combinations of toxins in common household items can change so rapidly. So can the antidotes and treatments. The ASCPA Animal Poison Control service stays current with the newest information that can make all the difference in saving a pet’s life.

WORTH REPEATING ONE MORE TIME: DO NOT MAKE YOUR PET VOMIT UNLESS YOU HAVE EXPLICIT INSTRUCTIONS FROM YOUR VETERINARIAN OR POISON CONTROL.

iStock_000001641367Small

Some general tips:

Be Honest. We know what a dog that ate marijuana looks like and acts like. We can run a whole bunch of tests that will tell us what we already suspect (and waste time and cost you money you don’t really need to spend), or you can just tell us the truth. It’s OK. We won’t judge. We just want to help your pet, and the sooner we can do that the better. And no, it is not, not, NOT OK to intentionally “share” with your pet. They do not react the same way to recreational drugs, and it is cruel to do that on purpose. Not funny. Not ever.

Drugs and Chemicals (rodent poisons, insecticides, antifreeze, recreational drugs, human pharmaceuticals) are potentially the most harmful poisons as they are often in a very concentrated form. Your pet may only need to consume a small amount for it to have a significant effect.

Cats tend to be more susceptible to poisons than dogs. Fortunately, cats are normally less likely to eat something unfamiliar. If toxic exposure does occur, cats may be more at risk, as their metabolism is less able to process many toxins (acetaminophen, permethrin, and plant poisons) that are somewhat less dangerous for dogs. Be aware that cats are at high risk for ingesting contaminants on their fur, however, due to their grooming habits.

The most common sources of toxins for pets, according to the ASPCA are: prescription and over-the-counter drugs (both human and pet drugs), insecticides and insect baits, common household plants, rodenticides and baits, and common household cleaners including bleach, detergents, and disinfectants. We see all of those problems at VMC, and would also add chocolate, xylitol, and recreational drugs to the list.

What should I include specifically for this in my pet's first-aid kit?

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center experts recommend the following to keep on hand in case of toxins:

• Fresh bottle of hydrogen peroxide, 3 percent USP (to induce vomiting) • Turkey baster, bulb syringe or large medicine syringe (to administer peroxide) • Saline eye solution • Artificial tear gel (to lubricate eyes after flushing) • Mild grease-cutting dishwashing liquid (for bathing an animal after skin contamination) • Forceps (to remove stingers) • Muzzle (to protect against fear- or excitement-induced biting) • Can of your pet's favorite wet food • Pet carrier

Always consult a veterinarian or the APCC for directions on how and when to use any emergency first-aid item. We also suggest that you keep the telephone number of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center—(888) 426-4435—as well as that of your local veterinarian in a prominent location.

Is Your Pet's Condition an Emergency?

Finn Puppy Typically, if you’re asking yourself this question, the answer is “yes”. We understand that it can be terrifying to worry about your pet. Just like a child, a pet can’t tell you what’s wrong – you’re not being silly to be concerned, and we understand what it’s like to worry about your pet. Don’t ever be embarrassed to call us – that’s what we’re here for!

Here are the top conditions that are absolute emergencies in pets:

1. Your pet is having trouble breathing or has something stuck in the mouth or throat.

2. Your pet isn’t breathing or you can’t feel a heartbeat.

3. Your pet is unconscious and won’t wake up.

4. Your pet has been vomiting or has had diarrhea for more than 24 hours, or is vomiting blood.

5. You suspect any broken bones.

6. Your pet has had or is having a seizure.

7. Your pet is bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth, or there is blood in her urine or feces.

8. Your pet shows signs of pain, such as unusual whining, shaking, and refusing to socialize.

9. You think your pet might have eaten something toxic, such as antifreeze, rat poison, any kind of medication that wasn’t prescribed for the pet, or household cleansers.

10. Your pet, particularly your male cat, is straining to urinate, or is unable to.

11. Your pet collapses or suddenly can’t stand.

12. Your pet begins bumping into things or suddenly becomes disoriented.

13. Your pet’s abdomen is swollen and hard to the touch.

14. Your pet is gagging, retching, and/or trying to vomit but doesn’t bring anything up - this is much more serious when the abdomen is also swollen.

15. Your pregnant dog or cat has gone more than three to four hours between delivering puppies or kittens.

If you are able to call and let us know you’re coming in, great. It will allow us to better prepare for you. If you can’t call, that’s OK too – we’re used to handling critical emergencies and we'll be ready for you.

Halloween Safety Tips from VMC

Halloween: From a Pet’s Perspective

 996889_10200405284838830_1171954211_n

996889_10200405284838830_1171954211_n

Halloween – the spooky, silly, fun holiday that some of us look forward to all year.  All the preparations and anticipation can cause us to overlook some very real dangers for our pets, however. Here are some great tips that will allow your pet to enjoy Halloween just as much as you do.

Candy, Candy, Everywhere! Secure the candy bowl! We know that chocolate can be very dangerous for our pets —especially dark or baking chocolate. Beyond that, many candies now contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which can also cause life threatening problems for your pets. Keep your candy bowls out of reach of your pet at all times during trick or treating. If you have young trick-or-treaters in your household, remember that they may not be careful about keeping their treats away from pets.  Candy hidden under the bed may be safe from their siblings, but certainly isn't safe from your puppy!  If you suspect your pet has eaten any amount of candy, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Dangerous Decorations!

  • Pumpkins, decorative corn, gourds, and other popular plants we use to decorate our homes during Halloween are not particularly toxic, but might produce some upset stomachs (with unpleasant results!) if your pet decides to sample them.

  • Candles, candles, candles – Halloween decorations are all about candles—in our pumpkins, on tables, along walkways, etc. Candles are always a danger for our pets, both indoors and out. Consider opting for some battery powered candles to reduce the risk of fire and injury.

  • If you are decorating with electrical lights or other decorations, be careful to prevent your pet from chewing on or becoming tangled in the cords. Remember that anything new in the household is likely to be very interesting to our pets, and their curiosity may cause them to chew or try to play with those objects. Take steps to avoid the risk of electrical shock or other injury caused by chewing or eating decorations.

Pet Costumes! If your pet is used to wearing clothes or is generally a very laid back and tolerant pet, then dressing up in a Halloween costume won’t be a big deal. If you’ve never dressed your pet in anything before, Halloween night is probably not the best time to start. Some pets become very stressed and anxious being dressed up – if that’s the case, postpone the costume and consider some gradual positive training and acclimation to prepare for next year. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn't uncomfortable or unsafe. Make sure that your pet can move normally, hear, see, breath, and vocalize. Be cautious about any small and/or easily chewed off pieces on the costume. Again, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed or shows abnormal behavior, it is best to respect your pet and forgo the costume.

 Pumpkin

Pumpkin

And by far the scariest Halloween Pet Danger….TRICK OR TREATERS! People in costumes can be incredibly frightening to our pets, and not at all in a humorous way. A pet can even be (usually temporarily) scared of a person in their family wearing a new costume.  We can't stress this enough -- this isn't funny.   If your pet shows anxiety toward you or a family member in a costume, speak and act as normally as possible to let your pet know that "it's you!" and that everything is fine.  And we're just going to say this one more time....scaring your pet or allowing your pet to be scared on purpose isn't funny.  Period.

Unless your pets are very social, reliable, and well trained, they should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be very frightening and stressful for pets.  It is best not to subject your pet to the stress and risk that your pet may react out of fear.  Don't risk injury to your pet or to the trick-or-treaters visiting your door!

Many pets are lost on Halloween! When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn't dart outside. This is an excellent time of year to ensure that your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a true lifesaver!

Take some common sense steps to avoid any problems that will dampen your Halloween spirit --or require a trip to see the VMC Emergency Service -- and enjoy Halloween!

VMC's Blood Hounds Canine Blood Donor Program

bloodhounds-logo.jpg

BloodHounds LogoYour dog can help save lives!

Did you know that dogs need blood transfusions to help treat serious illnesses, just like people?  Dogs need blood transfusions for many of the same reasons that people do, such as recovery from blood loss during trauma or some surgeries, to recover from some serious illnesses, and for acute issues such as heat stroke.

Your pet can help save lives by becoming a VMC Blood Hound!

Listed below are the requirements for canine blood donors:

• Your dog weighs at least 50lbs • Your dog is between the ages of 1 – 7 years of age. • Your dog is in good health • Your dog is easy going and easy to handle at a veterinary office • Your dog is current on Canine Rabies and Distemper/Parvo Vaccinations (vaccine records must be provided) • Your dog is not receiving any medications • Your dog receives yearly flea and tick preventative • Your dog is spayed or neutered

If your dog meets these requirements, your dog can potentially be a VMC Blood Hound!

As a VMC Blood Hound Donor, your dog (and you!) will receive as a thank you:

  • Annual blood testing performed at NO CHARGE, including blood typing, blood Chemistry profile, Complete Blood Count (CBC), thyroid testing, and tests for infectious diseases.  This more than a $350 value performed yearly for as long as the donor is in the program and donating on a regular basis.
  • One unit of blood or plasma for every unit of blood donated free of charge should illness or injury ever warrant its use (although we hope that our donors stay healthy and don't need this!)
  • A VMC Blood Hound leash and other bonus goodies at the time of enrollment.
  • A bio and picture on our VMC Blood Hound Facebook and/or webpage.
  • A post celebrating your pet’s help in caring for a critically ill pet will be posted on our Facebook page after every donation.

Please follow the steps below if you are interested in having your pet become a blood donor:

 

Step 1: Complete Application Forms

  1. Contact us at VMCBloodHounds@vmccny.com and request the Donor Registration and Health History form.
  2. Complete the Donor Registration and Health History form and return to VMCBloodHounds@vmccny.com
  3. Send us a copy of your pet’s recent vaccination records to VMCBloodHounds@vmccny.com

Step 2: Temperament Screening

Eligible dogs will be invited to VMC by appointment for an initial assessment regarding ease of handling/temperament of the dog.

Step 3: Free Physical Exam and Blood Tests

1. Dogs from families who are dedicated to fulfilling the donation commitments and meet all the VMC Blood Hound requirements will have a complimentary physical examination. 2. If the dog is noted to be in good health, they will have their blood drawn for further blood testing. These tests will include a blood type, tests to look for underlying infection or organ disease, and tests for infections that can be transmitted through blood transfusions. 3. Owners will be notified of their dog’s blood work results and status as donor dogs.

Step 4: Donations Dogs that pass all the requirements and are selected for the program will be invited to become a VMC Blood Hound. Most donations will need to be made on an Emergency basis and can be as often as every 2-3 months. We will do our best to contact you in a timely manner. However, since emergency need of blood transfusions cannot be predicted, we may ask you to come in to have donations done on nights, weekends, and holidays.

Hanukkah Pet Safety Tips

ca0ef8668ccc2fe2_333189480_e92a7e5599_1_
ca0ef8668ccc2fe2_333189480_e92a7e5599_1_

As we start this festive season, it is a great idea to remind ourselves about potential holiday hazards for our pets. Every time your normal household routine is disturbed, opportunities for injury or illness can arise.  Even straying too far from your pet’s normal diet can cause problems.  Holiday “complications” that we commonly deal with here at VMC range from the mild to the severe.  Unusual food items can simply cause some vomiting, diarrhea and tummy upset.  Unfortunately, they can also cause much more serious problems.

Dietary Indiscretion (aka “Garbage Gut”):  A very common reason for a trip to the VMC’s emergency room unfolds innocently in a busy holiday household. The meal is over and everyone is too full to pay attention to where the leftover food is in relation to your pets. Your pets have been waiting literally all day for such an opportunity, and are busily helping themselves to the overstuffed trash container and/or the leftovers on the counter.  While dogs are usually the main offenders in cases of “garbage gut,” cats are not immune!  Within a few hours some combination of vomiting and diarrhea requires a trip to the emergency room.

Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis is a swelling or inflammation of the pancreas.  Severity can range from mild to life threatening.  Pancreatitis is typically caused when our pets eat foods that are much higher in fat than their bodies are used to (think brisket and latkes).   If your pet accidentally gets into scraps (or if another family member sneaks them some!), watch for vomiting, diarrhea, signs of abdominal pain (your pet may appear “hunched up” if pain is severe enough), loss of appetite, weakness, or collapse. If you notice any of these signs, bring your pet to your family veterinarian or the VMC as soon as possible. If pancreatitis is left untreated, it can lead to severe liver and kidney damage and can potentially be fatal.

Crispy-Panko-Potato-Latkes-8-640x480
Crispy-Panko-Potato-Latkes-8-640x480

Chocolate: Wrapped chocolate gelt is doubly dangerous for our pets.  The gold foil wrapping can cause digestive upset and obstruction, and the chocolate is toxic to our pets even in small amounts.  Store well out of their reach and keep an eye out for dropped wrappers or candy.

Onions:  Onions have the potential to destroy red blood cells in both cats and dogs, leading to anemia.  Onions contain an ingredient called thiosulphate, which causes a condition called hemolytic anemia. Symptoms can take up to two to four days to appear and can include respiratory distress, diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy.  Small amounts of onions can cause problems, so use caution when storing, serving, and disposing of these foods.  Another reason our pets should avoid latkes!

Raw dough:  Making challah or sufganiyot?  Raw dough can expand in a pet’s stomach and require emergency surgery.  Make sure that rising dough is well out of reach.

Any food fried in oil: Hot oil and pets don’t mix.  We’ve treated the effects of hot oil spilled on pets as well as pets who have eaten too many fatty treats.  Both scenarios are best avoided.

OTHER HAZARDS:

imagesCA6JAIS1
imagesCA6JAIS1

Dreidels:  Small dreidels lying around may be swallowed, particularly if there is a young dog in the house.  This creates a choking risk as well as the risk of digestive system obstruction.

Menorah:  Candles and pets are always a dangerous combination. Cats can jump up around the menorah and dogs can knock down burning candles. Don’t leave the menorah candles burning unattended unless pets are blocked from that area.

Gifts:  Many pets are naturally curious, particularly young pets, and they explore the world with their mouths.  Any unusual objects lying around have the potential to be chewed and swallowed.  Exchanging gifts often generates lots of unusual objects (wrapping, ribbons, packaging, batteries, etc.) that can create choking hazards and other potential dangers.

tumblr_lvhfnhvDvV1qhwmnpo1_500
tumblr_lvhfnhvDvV1qhwmnpo1_500

STAYING SAFE

Prevention!  Take some simple steps during this festive time so that you can relax and enjoy!

  • Block your pet’s access to areas where food is stored openly on counters and tables.  If you can’t supervise the area, make sure your pet can’t access it either.
  • Talk to your guests about the risks, and ask that they honor a “no treats” rule to protect your pets.  If your pet is used to lots of table scraps and changes in diet, a few treats here or there should be OK.  Be aware, however, that if you have lots of guests and they are each giving “just a little bit” the amount can really add up quickly – especially for our small pets.
  • Children will drop food.  Your pets will eat it.  Plan for that.
  • Ensure that trash bins are secure.  Remember that the packaging the food came in will be just as alluring to your pet as the food itself.  With larger quantities than normal of food in the house, proper disposal becomes more of a challenge.
  • Expect the unexpected.   We see cases where dogs eat things like mulch and stones outdoors because someone has cleaned the grill or dumped some cooking oil.  The resulting “seasoning” on the mulch or stones is just irresistible to the dog.  These cases almost always require surgical removal of those substances.
  • Take time to observe your pet’s behavior.  If the holiday festivities seem to be taking a toll, ensure that your pet has a quiet, secure space to rest in.

As always, be prepared – know where your closest emergency veterinary facility is located, just in case your pet needs care!  Visit www.vmccny.com for directions and more information about our facility.

Above all, enjoy your family, your pets, and your holiday season! 

Thanksgiving Pet Safety Tips

thanksgiving-cat-240x160.jpg

Thanksgiving-Cat-240x160 Thanksgiving – isn’t it just about everyone’s favorite food holiday?  Food, family, and fun – what can go wrong for our pets? 

A lot, as it turns out.   Straying too far from your pet’s normal diet can cause problems.   Thanksgiving “complications” that we commonly deal with here at VMC range from the mild to the severe.  Unusual food items can simply cause some vomiting, diarrhea and tummy upset.  Unfortunately, they can also cause much more serious problems.

Dietary Indiscretion (aka “Garbage Gut”):  A very common reason for a trip to the VMC’s emergency room unfolds innocently in a busy holiday household. The meal is over and everyone is too full to pay attention to where the leftover food is in relation to your pets. Your pets have been waiting literally all day for such a chance, and are busily helping themselves to the overstuffed trash container and/or the leftovers on the counter.  While dogs are usually the main offenders in cases of “garbage gut,” cats are not immune!  Within a few hours some combination of vomiting and diarrhea requires a trip to the emergency room.

Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis is a swelling or inflammation of the pancreas.  Severity can range from mild to life threatening.  Pancreatitis is typically caused when our pets eat foods that are much higher in fat than their bodies are used to (think turkey skin, fat, and gravy).   If your pet accidentally gets into Thanksgiving scraps (or if another family member sneaks them some!), watch for vomiting, diarrhea, signs of abdominal pain (your pet may appear “hunched up” if pain is severe enough), loss of appetite, weakness, or collapse. If you notice any of these signs, bring your pet to your family veterinarian or the VMC as soon as possible. If pancreatitis is left untreated, it can lead to severe liver and kidney damage and potentially be fatal.

Bones: Bones from the turkey carcass are a common hazard for your pet.  Cooked bones are brittle and can act like sharp shards of glass when broken apart by chewing.  Poultry bones can cause serious damage to the mouth and entire digestive system that can lead to internal bleeding, obstruction, and other serious problems.  Some pets require surgery to remove the bones and/or to correct any damage that has been done.

Potential food dangers: Onions and/or onion powder are commonly used in stuffing and other dishes.  Onions have the potential to destroy red blood cells in both cats and dogs, leading to anemia.   Onions contain an ingredient called thiosulphate, which causes a condition called hemolytic anemia.  Symptoms can take up to two to four days to appear and can include breathlessness, diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy.  Small amounts of onions can cause problems, so use caution when storing, serving, and disposing of these foods.

Grapes and raisins are also frequently used in Thanksgiving meals, and can be highly toxic to dogs. Any amount can cause acute kidney failure in dogs, and so are potentially deadly. If you suspect your dog has ingested any amount of grapes or raisins, contact your family veterinarian or the VMC immediately. The sooner treatment can start the better. Symptoms tend to present themselves a few hours after ingestion and include weakness, loss of appetite, increased drinking, and abdominal pain. Full kidney failure sets in within 48 hours of ingestion, so seek veterinary care as soon as you are aware your dog has eaten grapes or raisins.  Not all dogs are affected, but the risk is so serious that it is best to avoid the chance altogether.

Making bread?  Raw bread dough can expand in a pet’s stomach and require emergency surgery.  Make sure that rising dough is well out of reach.

thanksgiving-dog-dinner-dogvacay-300x225

STAYING SAFE

Prevention!  Every time your normal household routine is disturbed, opportunities for injury or illness can arise.  Take some simple steps before your home erupts into happy holiday chaos so that you can relax and enjoy!

  • Block your pet’s access to areas where food is stored openly on counters and tables.  If you can’t supervise the area, make sure your pet can’t access it either.
  • Talk to your guests about the risks, and ask that they honor a “no treats” rule to protect your pets.  If your pet is used to lots of table scraps and changes in diet, a few treats here or there should be OK.  Be aware, however, that if you have 20 guests and they are each giving “just a little bit” the amount can really add up quickly – especially for our small pets.
  • Children will drop food.  Your pets will eat it.  Plan for that.
  • Pets who are guests in households will not always act in the same way they do at home.  Similarly, pets "hosting" other pets in their homes may also act abnormally. Extra vigilance is required!
  • Ensure that trash bins are secure.  Remember that the packaging the food came in will be just as alluring to your pet as the food itself.  With larger than normal quantities of food in the house, proper disposal becomes more of a challenge.
  • Expect the unexpected.   We have treated very sick dogs after they have eaten things like mulch and stones outdoors because someone has cleaned the grill, dumped some turkey fat, cleaned out the turkey fryer, etc.  The resulting “seasoning” on the mulch or stones is just irresistible to the dog.  These cases almost always require surgical removal of those substances.
  • Take time to observe your pet’s behavior.  If the holiday festivities seem to be taking a toll, ensure that your pet has a quiet, secure space to rest in.

dog-thanksgiving

As always, be prepared – know where your closest emergency veterinary facility is located, just in case your pet needs care!  Visit www.vmccny.com for directions and more information about our facility.

Above all, enjoy your family, your pets, and your holiday! 

Antifreeze Toxicity

Snow_Dog

When the cold weather returns antifreeze becomes a more common danger to our pets.   Pet owners need to take precautions against the life threatening toxic effects this chemical can have on our pets.  Prevention is key as death can occur in as little as 12 hours after ingestion.  Early recognition of exposure and prompt veterinary attention is essential!

12569240-adding-antifreeze

Antifreeze toxicity occurs when a pet ingests a chemical containing ethylene glycol.  Antifreeze often has a sweet taste, unfortunately attracting pets and encouraging them to taste and consume it.  Ethylene    glycol is not only found in antifreeze, but can also be found in radiator coolant, windshield deicing agents, brake fluid, motor oil, developing solutions for hobby photographers, wood stains, solvents, and paints.  The concentration of ethylene glycol in these compounds varies.

Only a small amount of ethylene glycol needs to be ingested to have toxic effects.  For cats, just a few licks can be fatal.  A teaspoon can be enough to kill a small dog.  The reason ingestion of this chemical can be fatal is the secondary effects the chemical has on the body.   Once ingested, the liver breaks down ethylene glycol into other toxic compounds that damage other organs.  The primary organs affected include the brain and the kidneys, with kidney failure being the ultimate cause of death.  The lungs and GI tract can also be affected.

The toxic effect of these chemicals can be broken down into the following 3 stages:

  • Stage 1:  Occurs 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion.  Signs usually indicate toxic effects on the brain as well as signs of intestinal irritation.  Symptoms include the following: vomiting, depression, walking with a wobbly gait, falling over, tremors, seizures, coma, and sometimes death.
  • Stage 2:  Occurs within 12-24 hours after ingestion.   Signs usually include increased breathing rate or effort and “open mouth breathing”.  A fast heart rate may also be detected in this stage.
  • Stage 3: Usually occurs within 24-72 hours after ingestion, but can occur as early as 12 hours depending on the amount of toxin ingestion.  Signs in this stage usually reflect damage to the kidneys and include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, oral ulcers, and decreased urination.

VMC092

Because a pet’s likelihood for recovery worsens with each stage, the earlier a pet is treated for antifreeze ingestion, the better the prognosis.  Pets that are evaluated  and treated appropriately by a veterinarian within minutes to even 1-2 hours after ingestion have a good chance for a full recovery.  Pets that are not diagnosed until kidney damage has occurred have a much more guarded prognosis, need much more intensive care and treatment, and are at greater risk for developing permanent kidney damage or death.

What do you do if you think your pet ingested antifreeze?

If you suspect your pet ingested antifreeze, please take your pet immediately to your veterinarian for evaluation and treatment.  Antifreeze toxicity is diagnosed by a history of exposure, blood work and urine tests.  Ethylene glycol tests are available, but false negatives and false positives are possible.  If possible, please bring the antifreeze product with you so the veterinarian can determine if the antifreeze contains ethylene glycol.

How is ethylene glycol toxicity treated?

Treatment depends on the stage at which the toxicity is diagnosed.  Initially your veterinarian will need to perform some tests to identify how advanced the problem is, such as blood work and urine tests.  If ingestion or exposure was recent, your veterinarian may recommend making your pet vomit to remove any of the toxin from the stomach.   Your veterinarian may also give activated charcoal, an oral medication that binds to any toxin remaining in the intestines.

Based upon test results and the stage of presentation, your pet may be hospitalized to receive IV fluids and a medication (4-Methylpyrazole or 4-MP) to help prevent the liver from converting ethylene glycol to the toxic agents that cause kidney damage.   This medication needs to be given by injection and the complete course of treatment can take 2- 3 days.

If your pet has developed evidence of kidney damage by the time of presentation to your veterinarian, the recommended treatment plan may also include additional medication and hospitalization to help treat kidney damage.  In these cases, continuous nursing care and monitoring is recommended and gives your pet the best chance for positive outcome.  Your veterinarian may refer your pet to a 24-hour veterinary facility, and may also recommend referral to a specialty hospital where dialysis can be performed.  This procedure will help remove any remaining toxins from your pet’s blood as well as assist with treatment of kidney failure.   Because only a few hospitals offer dialysis in the United States, and because this treatment can be expensive, dialysis is often not pursued.

VMC249

How can you prevent your pet from ingesting antifreeze?

  • Always keep your pet contained safely on your property – do not allow your pet to wander without supervision.  You can't control where antifreeze is spilled, cleaned up, or stored when off your property.
  • Keep pets away from areas containing these chemicals, such as garages and driveways where spills are most common
  • Store antifreeze containers in a place not accessible to pets or wildlife
  • Clean up antifreeze spills promptly
  • Check your car for antifreeze leaks regularly
  • Do not allow your pet to drink out of toilets containing antifreeze solutions

 2249350194_9e88fa3cbd

What about “pet friendly” antifreeze?

Most “pet friendly” antifreeze solutions contain propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol.  Although propylene glycol can still be toxic to your pet, it does not cause kidney damage.  Ingestion of propylene glycol-containing chemicals should still prompt evaluation by a veterinarian.  Signs of toxicity include the following: severe sedation, walking as if drunk, seizures, tremors, panting, pale gums, and lethargy.

As always, be prepared – know where your closest emergency veterinary facility is located, just in case your pet needs care!

This blog post was written by the VMC’s Medical Director, Maureen Luschini, VMD, DACVECC

Izzy's Story

Izzy
Izzy

Izzy was referred to the Veterinary Medical Center of Central New York by her family veterinarian.  Izzy, a 3 year old otherwise healthy Yorkshire Terrier, had collapsed and was non-responsive by the time she arrived at her family veterinarian.   She was not breathing well, and her veterinarian quickly responded by placing a breathing tube and beginning assisted breathing with an ambu-bag.  Izzy’s heart rate was abnormally fast, and so IV fluids were also administered.  Because her family veterinarian knew Izzy needed specialty care, she was transferred to the Critical Care Service at the Veterinary Medical Center of CNY.  Izzy’s owners drove her here (an approximately 45 minute drive) with a tube in her airway.  Izzy was comatose and they were not sure that she would even survive the drive.

On arrival to the Veterinary Medical Center’s Critical Care Service, Izzy was immediately rushed to the ICU for evaluation and treatment.  She remained in a coma, with a fast heart rate and low blood pressure.  Her oxygen level was low, so she was given supplemental oxygen while a technician gave her breaths through an ambu-bag.  Tests were performed immediately while additional treatments were provided in order to improve Izzy’s condition.  An EKG showed a fast heart rate.  Blood pressure and oxygen levels were low.  Emergency blood work showed a low red blood cell level as well as a low protein level.  Izzy continued to receive IV fluids while her parameters were continuously monitored.  During this time a large swelling was noted on Izzy’s neck.  Further inspection of this swelling showed it was due to bleeding under the skin.  Izzy had also bled heavily from her IV catheter sites.  An ultrasound showed she was bleeding around her lungs, causing her lungs and airways to collapse.  This was deemed the cause of her difficulty breathing.

DSCN1004
DSCN1004

Based on these findings she was immediately screened for anticoagulant rat poison toxicity, a toxin which causes life-threatening internal and external bleeding.  Her test results were highly suggestive of rat poison toxicity.  Izzy’s owners were informed of this and realized that there had been the potential for exposure to rat poison a few days prior to this incident.   Izzy immediately received treatment for this condition, which included a red blood cell transfusion, a plasma transfusion and Vitamin K injection.  She continued to be continuously monitored while a Critical Care specialist and a team of licensed veterinary technicians stood constantly by her side.  Over the next hour Izzy became responsive and able to breathe well on her own.  The breathing tube was removed, and her heart rate and blood pressure normalized.  Within 2 hours of treatment Izzy was up and going outside for walks!

Izzy remained hospitalized in the ICU for 48 hours to be closely monitored and receive supportive care.  During this time she made a steady recovery.   For the first 24 hours she remained in an oxygen cage to help support her breathing. Her heart rate, breathing rate, temperature, blood pressure and EKG were closely monitored.  Recheck blood work was performed to monitor her for internal bleeding.  She was eating and drinking well, and she was bright and alert (especially when her family came by for visits!).  Izzy was discharged 48 hours after presenting to the Veterinary Medical Center.  She was sent home with a 4 week course of treatment with Vitamin K.  A recheck evaluation performed 1 month later showed that Izzy made a complete recover and no further treatment was necessary.

DSCN1008
DSCN1008

Recently the Veterinary Medical Center received these pictures of Izzy running through her yard, happy and healthy.  We are so grateful that Izzy has made a full recovery, and we wish her all the best!  Izzy is a very special patient of the CriticalCare Service, and she will never be forgotten!

So what made Izzy’s case so successful?  Not only did Izzy receive immediate care and treatment by her primary care veterinarian, but Izzy’s transfer to the Veterinary Medical Center (VMC) was an important step in her treatment.  At the VMC Izzy was directly cared for by board-certified specialists in Emergency and Critical Care.  The VMC is the only private hospital in central New York to have not only one, but two full-time Emergency and Critical Care Specialists, Dr. Maureen Luschini and Dr. Elise Craft.  Please refer to "What is Veterinary Critical Care"  or our website for more information.

Thanks to our Medical Director, Dr. Maureen Luschini, for summarizing Izzy's case for this post and some very special thanks to Izzy's family for allowing us to share her story!

What is Veterinary Critical Care?

The Veterinary Medical Center of CNY is the only private hospital in Central New York to have not only one, but two, full-time Emergency and Critical Care Specialists.

DSC_5336

The following information provided by the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care helps address many questions pet owners have about veterinary Emergency and Critical Care specialists (information obtained from http://acvecc.org/): What is a specialist in Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care? A specialist in emergency and critical care is a specially trained veterinarian who is dedicated to treating life-threatening conditions. Yes, they do have additional training! They must first be a graduate of a recognized veterinary school, then receive a minimum (or equivalent) of 3 additional years of intense training in emergency, surgery and critical care through completion of an American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC)-approved training program. This intense program is referred to as a “residency” in emergency and critical care and focuses on the most up-to-date techniques for diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening disease processes in an emergency, and for the critical time while the animal is recovering. The emergency and critical care residency is supervised by mentors who have been through similar training programs and are themselves board-certified Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (DACVECC).

Once the veterinarian has completed these years of specialty residency training, the individual must then pass a tough board -certification examination given by the ACVECC. Upon successful completion of the training and passing of the examination, the veterinarian is a Diplomate of the ACVECC, is termed a “specialist”, and is board-certified in veterinary emergency and critical care.

IMG_1156

How do I know if a veterinarian is a specialist in emergency and critical care? There are several ways for you to find an ACVECC Diplomate in your area. First, you may consult the ACVECC web site (http://acvecc.org/), where Diplomates are listed according to geographical location. Second, you may ask your veterinarian if the emergency practice in your area is led by a veterinarian that is an ACVECC Diplomate. Third, if your veterinarian refers your pet to a specialty practice for non-routine surgery, medical care or diagnostics, you can inquire whether there is an ICU with a life support team headed by a specialist in emergency and critical care, should your pet require intensive care and life support.

VMC086

How can I find a specialist in veterinary emergency and critical care for my pet? First, ask your veterinarian. Any pet that is seriously ill might benefit from this type of care. Animals that have sustained trauma or bite wounds are an obvious example, but a number of other problems are commonly treated. The following is a sampling of the type of patients that routinely benefit from care by an ACVECC Diplomate: • Trauma patients, including those hit by cars, bite, bullet, knife or burn injuries • Any animal that is having trouble breathing • Animals that need a blood transfusion • Any patient that is in shock (signs of shock can include weakness, pale mucous membranes in their mouth, cold extremities, and an abnormal heart rate) • Animals that are having trouble urinating, or are not producing urine • Dogs and cats that need specialized nutritional support because they are unwilling or unable to eat on their own • Animals in which an abnormal heart rhythm is causing problems • Animals with life-threatening neurologic disease such as coma or severe seizures that are not responding to medications • Patients that have had surgery and are not recovering well from anesthesia or are having trouble in the first few post-operative days