by Dr. S. Dawn Dinger, DVM
Have you ever heard of xylitol? Sounds exotic, but chances are you have some in your home right now and it is truly a danger hiding in plain sight for your dog.
Xylitol (pronounced zi-li-tol) is a natural sugar substitute and can be found in many sugar free food items such as gum, but as it also has natural anti-cavity effects, it can also found in some toothpastes and mouthwashes. In fact, more and more food items and personal care products, including some peanut butters, ice creams, candies, energy drinks and medications, contain xylitol. Click here for an extensive list of products.
Despite all of it's perks for use in people, xylitol is highly toxic to dogs. Dogs need to ingest much smaller amounts of xylitol than chocolate to be become poisoned and many pet owners are unaware of the dangers, so cases of poisonings are becoming more and more frequent. Unlike in people, xylitol stimulates the release of insulin in dogs which can lead to life threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Signs of hypoglycemia in dogs can include weakness, seizures and coma and can develop in as little as 30 minutes after ingestion, but can be delayed out to about 18 hours if the xylitol is contained in a substance which will slow it's absorption (like gum). However, the problems don't end there. Several days after ingestion of xylitol, some dogs will develop acute liver failure. Many of the dogs that develop liver failure did not develop low blood sugar after the initial ingestion. At this time, it is not known why that occurs.
So how much is too much? Dogs need to ingest about 0.1 gr/kg (gram/kilogram) of xylitol to develop hypoglycemia and about 0.5 gr/kg to develop liver failure. So a 20 pound dog would need to ingest 0.9 gr to become hypoglycemic and about 4.5 gr to be at risk for liver failure. A sugar packet typically contains about 1 gr of xylitol and a stick of gum typically contains 0.3 – 2 gr of xylitol. So this means that our 20 pound example dog would only need to ingest one or two sticks of gum to be in big trouble. As any dog owner knows, most of our goofy, glutinous canine friends can swallow that in a gulp.
What happens then if you come out to the kitchen and find that your dog has gotten into your purse and ingested a pack of sugar free gum? First, call us immediately! If this is at a time we are not in the office, call a veterinary emergency room (See PVSEC's information at the bottom of our website). Your dog will likely need to be seen right away. Make certain to take the package of food, medication etc with you and try to have an idea of how much your dog ate. Your veterinarian will need to try and calculate the dose of xylitol that you dog ingested. Sometimes that is easier said than done – xylitol may be listed on the ingredient list, but the actual concentration is often considered proprietary information and can be difficult to obtain. Your vet may need to go on the “most likely” maximum amount ingested based on averages that that type of product typically contains.
Depending on when ingestion occurred and how much was ingested, your vet may induce vomiting in your dog to help get rid of as much product as possible. They will also likely need to check labwork, including blood glucose level and liver values. At at minimum your dog may need to be admitted and monitored for some time to make certain no problems develop. If your dog is already hypoglycemic, then they will need to be hospitalized on intravenous (IV) fluids and dextrose (a sugar). Low blood sugar can persist 12 – 48 hours; once your dog is able to maintain his blood glucose within normal range on his own he will be able to go home, but will need monitoring of his blood glucose and liver values over another few days. Luckily the prognosis is good if no signs develop or if the hypoglycemia is treated rapidly.
Unfortunately, the same can not be said for those dogs that develop liver failure. Signs of liver failure can include vomiting, diarrhea, dark/tarry stools, jaundice (yellow gums or skin), bleeding, or bruising and typically develop 2-3 days after ingestion. Liver failure is treated aggressively with things like fluids, plasma transfusions, antibiotics and liver protectants, but there is no specific antidote for xylitol toxicity. Sadly, once liver failure develops, the prognosis is poor.
Obviously, the best thing you can do is to prevent exposure in the first place. Never leave purses, bags etc out where curious canines can get into them. Never allow pets to beg or receive food from the table. Be especially careful if anyone at home is a diabetic or if you do any sugar free baking. Make certain to keep all medications out of reach and be careful when walking your dog too – those discarded wads of gum on the sidewalk can be snatched up by your pup very quickly. Don't forget to check the ingredient lists on packages also, especially on anything that you might use to make a treat for your dog. Some “key words” that should put up red flags include: sugar free; reduced sugar; all natural; no artificial sweeteners; birch sugar; safe for diabetics; low carb; low cal; and anti-cavity.
And lastly, a word about cats. Does xylitol affect them the way it does dogs? In short, we don't know. According to National Animal Poison Control, to date there have been no reported cases of toxicity developing in cats. Is that because they are more resistant to xylitol's effects, or just because cats are less greedy than dogs and so less likely to ingest things like gum and candies? Again, we don't know, so the safest course of action is to keep your cat away from these products as well.
by Crysta Clear, CVT
Don't let a little bit of rain get in the way of a fun-filled day! We all know that our best friends can get themselves into trouble if they haven't had enough attention or exercise, not to mention the boredom of being stuck inside. Our pups rely on us to stay entertained. While some dogs refuse to get their paws wet, some are ready to make a mess that you may not want to have to clean up! Either way, there are plenty of ways to tire out your pets on a rainy day and avoid the downpour!
1. TEACH YOUR OLD DOG SOME NEW TRICKS:
There is no better activity to exhaust your pooch other than putting on a lesson! There is a never-ending variety of commands that you could teach your dog. You'd be surprised how far a small amount of time and patience can get your dog! And when class is in session, your dog will feel bonded to you by wanting to please you, will be happy with earning treats, and will come out with a new skill. You can search for any trick on Youtube to find a tutorial like the ones below:
2. PLAY OR INVENT YOUR OWN INDOOR GAMES:
Everybody loves Pinterest, right?! Look up "indoor games for dogs" and check out the endless options that people more creative that you or I have come up with! Whichever idea you "borrow", whether it's the homemade toys, obstacle courses, fetching up the stairs, or games like hide and seek, the options are infinite and if Fido doesn't like one, there are more to try! Some of the easiest options can be found in the following video as well:
(via Cone of Shame with Dr. Andy Roark)
3. FOOD-DISPENSING OR PUZZLE TOYS:
Mental stimulation is the best trick if you don't have the time or energy yourself to spend with your dog after you've worked a long day. There are many toys that you can buy at the pet store with varying levels of difficulty, but they can be on the expensive side or require specific sizes or shapes of treats and refills. Some wonderful options are Kong brand toys (e.g. Wobbler food-dispensing toy, Marathon treat-ball, or Pawzzles), the Everlasting Treat Ball, or other available puzzle games. You could also skip all of the cost and hassle and make some yourself!
(via Michelle Huntting)
4. VENTURE OUT OF THE HOUSE ANYWAY:
There are lots of indoor activities that just take a run through the rain to get to the car. You could make a shopping trip to a pet store in the area! There are also many options for Indoor Dog Parks, Playgrounds, Day Care, Boarding, Grooming, and Training facilities in the Pittsburgh area. Check out the list below and click their links for more information:
Lucky Paws Pet Resort
Camp Bow Wow
Pittsburgh, PA (several locations)
Get Smart! Training Center (WPA Humane Society)
Pittsburgh, PA and Crafton, PA
The Dog Stop
*Disclaimer: GVVH does not endorse any facilities or products listed in this blog post and results may vary. Contact these facilities prior to attending and make sure that your dog is protected and vaccinated according to their requirements. Always supervise your pet with toys.
by Dr. S. Dawn Dinger, DVM
The dog days of summer are finally upon us and with it comes baseball, barbecues and a plethora of other outdoor activities. Summer also comes with some hazards too, so here are ten tips to help keep your pets safe this season.
1. NEVER LEAVE PETS IN A CAR:
Temperatures inside a vehicle can rise to dangerous levels within a few minutes. Even on a relatively mild 80 °F day, the temperature inside the car will be 114°F within 30 minutes. Heatstroke and subsequent brain damage and death can occur rapidly in these conditions. Never leave your pet in a car unattended even in the shade with the windows down.
2. HAVE PLENTY OF SHADE AND WATER:
Pets can also overheat on hot days when left outside. Make certain they always have access to fresh, cool drinking water and plenty of shade. Better yet, keep them inside during the hottest part of the day and keep walks and other activities to a minimum.
3. KNOW THE SIGNS:
Symptoms of overheating include heavy panting or difficulty breathing; weakness; drooling; and in severe cases, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, collapse and seizures. Body temperatures are often well over 104°F (normal 100°F - 102.5°F). Some animals are more susceptible to overheating than others – elderly pets, those who are overweight or have underlying heart or lung disease are at greater risk. Some breeds are also predisposed: “smushy faced” breeds such as bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats, don't move air as well and can easily overheat. If you have concerns that your pet may be overheating, move them to a cool area, put a fan in front of them and apply cool (not cold) water to their feet, legs and belly. Call us right away for further instructions.
4. BEWARE OF HOT PAVEMENT:
We've all seen the videos of eggs frying on the sidewalk. While these are fun to watch, it's a lot less enjoyable when it's your pet's feet! Asphalt temperatures can reach 135°F on an 86°F day and tissue damage can start in as little as 60 seconds. We can see severe burns on animal's feet as a result. Don't walk your pet during the hottest part of the day and avoid asphalt and other hard surfaces, stick to grass or dirt instead.
Did you know that dogs and cats can get sunburn? They can and this can eventually lead to skin cancer just like in people. While the hair provides some protection from the sun, prolonged exposure can lead to problems. Animals with white or light colored fur and hairless breeds are at especially high risk. Make certain to slather on the a pet sunscreen if your pet will outside for a long period and especially concentrate on areas with thinner hair such as muzzles and bellies.
6. WATER SAFETY:
Contrary to what “You Tube” would have you believe, not every pet can swim, or even likes to. Use caution around water and use a specially-made pet life preserver if your pet will be swimming or on a boat. Also, do not allow your pet to ingest a lot of water all at once. Pool water and water from rivers and lakes contain chemicals and bacteria, but “water intoxication” causes severe shifts in electrolytes in the body due to over hydration and can be life threatening.
7. WATCH OUT FOR UNINVITED GUESTS:
Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and other parasites are at their worst this time of year and can make your pet not only miserable, but can spread disease as well. Make certain you are keeping up on your pet's flea, tick and heartworm preventatives. Give us a call if you have any questions and we'll be happy to help you with that.
8. WATCH OUT FOR UNINVITED GUESTS PART 2:
Things that sting and bite are also in abundance. Bees, hornets and wasps are everywhere and can easily be stepped on. Some dogs and cats also enjoy chasing and biting these flying hazards. If your pet is stung and seems painful or develops any hives, facial swelling or vomiting, they should be evaluated by a veterinarian right away. Snakes are also easily found both in parks and on hikes, but also in your own backyard. Dogs especially are often bitten on the legs, chest and face. Snakes bites can be potentially dangerous and any that occur should be checked out as soon as possible.
Pets love to take part in any of our activities and if it involves food that's even better! However, be aware that meats and bones can lead to problems like GI upset, pancreatitis and obstructions and therefore should not be given to pets. Be careful to keep the trash covered also, as many pets will rip open bags to get at the contents. Things like corn cobs often get stuck in the intestines and toothpicks and meat skewers can injure the mouth and puncture the esophagus or intestine.
10: VACATION TIME:
This is also the time that we travel the most, and many times, take our pets with us. Remember that pets can be easily frightened in new environments and may not behave or respond to commands as they usually do. Make certain they are always properly restrained on a leash or in a carrier and that they wear up to date identification in case the worst happens and they get lost.
(Please note, if your pet is prone to GI upset or pancreatitis; is a diabetic; is on a hypoallergenic or other prescription diet, please contact us before giving these treats to your pet).
by Crysta Clear, CVT
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