March is Pet Poison Awareness Month

Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month during March is fast approaching. It is always a good time to refresh our minds about common items that are a huge danger to pets.

My goal this month is to encourage pet owners to pet proof their homes when it comes to some of these common products. The number of calls we get around holidays about pets eating chocolate is just one indication of how awareness is important at all times.

We also see a rash of calls each fall about accidental rat poison exposure. As warm weather returns the calls can switch to outdoor exposures of new plants and shrubs that are available for chewing on.   Every season or holiday has risks lurking for our pets. Stay aware and alert to what is in and around your home.

Foods that we eat can be a problem for our pets. Chocolate is one that most people are aware of its toxicity to pets. Dark chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate, but depending on the size of the pet and what volume they consume, symptoms can range from vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, and even death. What people are not as familiar with is raisins, grapes, and currants causing irreversible kidney damage to our pets when ingesting even a small amount. Onions whether cooked or raw can cause anemia and only transfusions can save pets once this process of destruction begins. Raw bread dough can cause distention of the stomach and ethanol intoxication develops as the yeast ferments. Macadamia nuts can cause clinical symptoms of vomiting, weakness, depression, but has not shown to be fatal.

Avocado fruit, leaves, stems, and seeds have all been shown to be toxic to multiple animals but less so for dogs and cats. There are a number of people who have hobby farms and may not be aware of its effect on the heart muscle or its ability to cause severe mastitis in lactating animals such as cattle, goats, sheep, rabbits, horses, pigs, etc. The following article has more information on risks to animals.

Avocado – Toxicology – Veterinary Manual

Edibles and/or Medibles are cannabis infused, food products. Homemade or commercially prepared marijuana infused foods and drinks have increased the number of accidental pet poisoning by greater than 330% in the last few years. The following article is a great resource for anyone wanting to know more about this new risk to our family pets. If your pet has been exposed to THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) please contact your local veterinarian and tell them exactly what they ate and how much. The package from the product would be of great help if it is still available.

Pets and Pot: Poisoning Cases at an All Time “High” | Pet Poison …

Mouse and rat poisons are high on the list of items toxic to both dogs and cats that many people are very familiar with. In the last few years a new rat poison called Bromethalin has been replacing the previous poison called Brodifacoum. Bromethalin causes severe brain edema and affects the pets nervous system. It does not have an antidote like we have with Brodifacoum offering the Vitamin K to stop bleeding disorders. There are multiple products that contain these different poisons so make certain you know what you are purchasing and keep them away from pets. Including the dead mouse or rat to avoid any secondary poisoning situations.

Indoor and/or outdoor plants are often a cause for concern for our pets. With Easter approaching it is important to keep all Lilies away from our pets. This link will take you to a sight to explore whether you have any plants that could be harmful to your pets. Be aware of any flowers delivered to your home since they are a source of curiosity for your pets, especially cats.   Outdoor landscape plants such as the Yew plant, which is cardiotoxic to all animals, are important to consider as well. Unexpected death is often the first symptom seen when animals are exposed to Yew.

Top 10 Plants Poisonous to Pets – Pet Poison Helpline

Xylitol is toxic to your dog and this is one that is becoming more of a concern since we have a large number of products that contain it.   Everyone knows chocolate is toxic but the risk with xylitol is even greater since the volume needed to cause death is much less. The article below describes in more detail the dangers with xylitol. It has a great photo showing the amount of chocolate verses the amount of gum it would take to kill a dog.   Cats have not shown to be as sensitive to xylitol but I would still suggest avoiding consumption.

Xylitol: The “sugar-free” sweetener your dog NEEDS you to know about

Human medications are a huge concern for pets as well. The list is endless on how these medications can affect our pets. So often the accidental poisoning occurs when a dose is dropped or a bottle is not returned to a safe location. Please put all medications and daily pill dispensers in tightly secured locations where pets cannot chew or play with the containers. A purse or bag are not considered secure.   If exposure has occurred please have the name and strength of the drug and an idea of how many may have been consumed and how long ago. This information can be helpful in determining the treatment and potential side effects.

As springtime draws near we will once again need to protect our pets from fleas and ticks as we start enjoying the outdoors again. Flea and tick products can be a source of toxicity to our pets. This usually occurs because the wrong product was used on their pet. Most dog products are toxic to cats. Do not attempt to treat your small dog with just a drop of the large dogs’ flea and tick product. Avoid your pets ability to lick the area where the product was applied and from licking one another. You can remove most topical flea and tick products using Dawn dishwashing detergent. Then it is important to have your pet seen by your veterinarian if they display signs of vomiting, depression, tremors, seizures, etc.

Pets are family and one needs to consider the importance of being aware at all times of what hazards are present in and around your home or that of family and friends. Pets should always be seen as toddlers when considering how to pet proof every location. If you ever find yourself wondering whether something is poisonous or not, or what symptoms to look for, the following link to the Pet Poison Helpline is a great source of information. If you need more advice they do work directly with you and your veterinarian for a fee.   I hope spring comes early and we are able to have a warm and safe March, free from accidental poisonings.

Pet Poison Helpline | Animal Poison Control Center


Is it That Time?

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scan-752Growing up on a farm gave me insight to the circle of life at an early age. I saw crops planted and harvested each year to feed the hogs that were raised to supply food for the world and our immediate family. I was introduced to baby pigs as I helped my father give iron shots to prevent anemia and clip baby teeth in order to protect the mother sows udder. I was in charge of caring for the runts that were not able to fend for themselves in those large litters. My younger brother and myself would fix milk replacer for them and then transition them to creep feed and offer all the TLC a young pig could handle. I snuggled with pigs more than I care to admit during my younger years.   The ones that did not survive were carefully buried behind the barn and we rejoiced with each one that was able to move to the feeder pig facility.

I had a number of outdoor cats that would have litters every spring and those little kittens always seemed to get the “kitty cold” and would start doing poorly. My dad told me that if I wanted to help them, I could give them a shot of penicillin and see if they improved. Some responded immediately and others continued to decline and eventually passed away. Yet each of them were loved every moment of their lives by a young girl that learned there is a time to live and a time to die.

I had farm dogs that worked side by side caring for the livestock and others that were there as protectors and/or companions.   Attachment to each of them ran deep and as they aged, it became apparent that soon we would have to say good-bye.

I guess you could say that all of these experiences set me up to be a veterinarian. These experiences also made me more aware of the circle of life. I saw life and death often in nature and realized that there is no fear in death. I would see the peace in an animal’s passing and that there was no longer any pain or suffering. I would remember the joy that they had brought to my life, even if it was only for a short period of time. I would realize that my life was blessed because they had been special to me.

As I spend time with clients at Winterset Veterinary Center during the difficult moments surrounding euthanasia, I am reminded of the peace that comes in the end when our furry friends have taken their last breath. I can remember the joy they have brought to their forever family and know that these humans have been eternally blessed to have had this time with this special furry friend.

Please understand that as a veterinarian, these situations are some of the most difficult parts of my job. Yet, I would not choose to be anywhere else when that time comes for a pet-owner. I have been with them during the good times, and I would never abandoned them during these final moments when facing the most agonizing decision they have ever had to make for their special friend.

I find myself counseling often on “Is it that time?” Only you as a pet owner can know and decide if it is that time. People ask me, “But how will I know?” I tell them, “You will know.”   We were given a greater intelligence to be able to sense pain and suffering. Maybe by using our 5 senses we can relate to the struggles they endure during those final days. No more twinkle in their eyes, lots of moans and sighs, lack of interest in food and water, avoidance of affection and interaction, and/or unusual smells. Maybe it is the physical challenges they face such as incontinence, nerve deficits, joint diseases, heart disease, etc.   Sometimes these issues can present in combinations that make it apparent that successful return to a quality lifestyle will be next to impossible.   We all can hope that one morning we awake and find our furry friend peacefully passed in the night. Yet I must say, that gift is not granted nearly enough. If you have been given that gift in the past count yourself BLESSED!

I want to make certain my clients know that they will not be judged on what they decide is best for their furry friend. Only they can sense what has changed in their pet’s life that makes it apparent that this is the right time. I recall a day when I was asked to go outside to a pick-up truck to administer that final injection that would end the painful day to day struggles their furry friend had endured. I climbed up into the bed of the truck and sat in front of this very special dog that I had had the pleasure of caring for. No struggle was given as I placed my tourniquet and found that vein. I began injecting the solution and in her final moment of consciousness, she laid her head ever so peacefully in my lap. It was a moment I will never forget because I understood how much this final gesture had given her freedom from her pain and suffering.

Our furry friends deserve to have their final days be full of love and attention to their every need and comfort. The unconditional love they bestow on us daily is something that we will always hold most precious and dear. If you are coming to an end in the life of a furry friend, just always keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity. If each day is a struggle for your pet and they are having more difficult days than good days it may be time. If the sparkle has gone from their eyes, they no longer greet you at the end of the day, and they rarely seek you out due to the constant struggle they have to get around, it is most likely time. Know there is peace in their passing and joy in the remembrance of the blessings they have been in your lives.   My favorite saying when it comes to this topic is, “A furry friend’s only fault is they do not live long enough.” These words ring true for me and for all those who have had the pleasure of loving a pet.

What would your pet’s New Year’s resolution be?

With the beginning of a new year, we all seem to find things we would like to change or improve upon in 2017. I have often wondered if our pets could make New Year’s Resolutions ……what would they be?

Of course, just like their human family members, I am sure a healthier lifestyle would be one of the top three. Now what would that mean for our pets. I would say changing their diet to be more digestible and nutritionally balanced product would be a top priority. No different than our children, if it were left up to our pets, they would encourage us to look at what tastes great and pleases their palates. Not even considering the number of calories or the amount of fat in each product. We recognize that higher calories usually means better taste. They would possibly choose canned formulas over dry diets. They would look for the treats that taste great and have no nutritional value.   Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Of course they would love to have more exercise since that would allow them more time with the people they love and adore. That exercise could come with a brisk walk every morning or wrestling at the end of the day. In their minds it all would be great because they get to be with their people!

They would probably strive to get along with others. Again that seems to be a common thought amongst their 2 legged friends. Relationships are key in all circles of life. Our pets have stress and anxieties about meeting new animals as well as new people sometimes. Wouldn’t it be great if we could change those dynamics with a snap of a finger even in our own lives? Find ways to express ourselves without offense to others. Be more honest and open with people without fearing that this would affect the relationship. Pets use body language when interacting with other animals and these social clues are universal in the their world. If the ears are pinned back and the hair is raised, there is no mistaking what this pets body language is saying to the other in the area. Do not approach. Stay back. I am not your friend. Being able to read each other that quickly could sure save some heartache and frustration in our world as well.

Enjoying life to it fullest certainly would be a priority. What else do pets have to do each day but love their life? I have often said that if reincarnation was something I believed in, I would want to return as a house cat. What a life they have. They never have to go out in the cold weather. Lounging around basking in the sun pouring through the South windows. Unlimited food set out daily and even someone to clean their box. What a life it would be. For our dogs it is so easy for them to find joy from our rising every morning to our return at the end of the day. Barking at the cars that pass by our home to lounging on the couch waiting for that moment when you walk back into their home. Yes, I mean their home. It is their territory and they decide often who is welcome and who is not. I cannot tell you the number of times a client has remarked that their pet(s) do rule the roost. “I get growled at for trying to come to bed.”  “My dog doesn’t let me sit in my favorite chair.” “My cat only allows me to sit on the sofa.” “My pets tell me when it is time to eat.”   Of course I know that with these comments, this pet is lucky to have a forever home and will never be without a large dose of love and attention.


So as you look forward to 2017 and hoping it will be a better year than 2016 in some way we all need to remember that each day is a gift to be appreciated. We look back at 2016 and see some things that maybe we should have done differently but with a new year ahead anything is possible. Strive to make your pets New Year’s Resolutions come true and I am sure with each new day there will be plenty of joy and love to go around.

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