Springtime for your pets

Ask Dr. Doug

Springtime is upon us and with the new season comes renewed efforts to clean and organize our living space.  Pet owners need to be cognizant of potential concerns for their pets.  Let’s share a few recent and relevant letters from our reading audience.

Dear Dr. Doug,

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We have a new puppy who hangs on our heels, wherever we are.  He especially loves to explore in the garage while my husband works on his car.  What kind of trouble can he get into?

Concerned mom

One potential concern for all pets and pet owners is the exposure of animals to ethylene glycol toxicity, commonly referred to as “anti-freeze.”  Spring cleaning usually includes draining this material from our car radiators.  Unfortunately, this material is sweet and thereby, highly palatable.  In just an instant, your kitten, like so many other pets, can ingest enough anti-freeze to cause serious kidney disease, and even death.  The level of poisoning is related directly to the volume ingested (relative to body size), and the amount of time awaited before the pet is treated.  That being said, should you suspect any exposure to this chemical, it is best to be pro-active and visit either your family veterinarian, or go directly to one of the emergency pet hospitals, in order to initiate appropriate treatment.  Finally, as a responsible pet owner, you may wish to explore other, non-toxic compounds on the market now that are considered pet safe.

Dear Dr. Doug,

I recently moved into an older remodel home.  My cats, Luke and Mitzi, are excellent mousers.  Apparently, Luke was exploring the garage and ingested mouse poison.  We almost lost him.  Can you provide some guidance in keeping these poisons in the household?

–Cat Dad 

I am so sorry for your experience.  Indeed, mouse and rat poisons, called rodenticides, can be highly toxic to our pets.   In your case, an older home may harbor hidden poison baits in crevices or dark corners of the garage, and elsewhere.  People don’t realize that these vermin can carry the bait out to an area where our inquisitive pets, like your Luke, are now in jeopardy poisoning. 

The rodenticides of today are highly toxic, as they impact the animal’s blood clotting capabilities.  This is the same class of compounds that so many elder folks use therapeutically as Coumadin, a blood thinner that can help prevent clots or worse.  The pesticide industry utilizes about four different types of rodenticides, all very poisonous to our pets, but realize that not all are treated the same way.

Most commonly, treatment with Vitamin K will act to counter the potential negative impacts of these compounds.  Signs are so subtle in many cases, again, based on the amount of product ingested, the concentration of the particular compound, and the time from ingestion until treatment is initiated. 

In the worst-case scenarios, we may see pets present with bleeding from one or more body openings without any history of blunt trauma.  Earlier symptoms may be very vague and only demonstrate lethargy and/or weakness with pale gums.  Once more, I always emphasize that should there be any question of an exposure, it is best to visit your veterinarian immediately.

Dear Dr. Doug,

In spring, my husband starts preparing for his gardening extravaganza.  Yesterday, I found our golden retriever, Angel, sniffing around the fertilizer bags my husband dragged out of winter storage.  Should I be concerned?

—   Wife of the Green Thumb

You are correct in assuming that chemicals like fertilizers can be toxic to your Angel.  Typically, these products are not very palatable, and thereby, create less interest for your pets. Many of these compounds include chemicals to protect against plant pests. These organophosphates or pyrethroids can affect the nervous system of animals, causing agitation or even seizures or convulsions.  I would ask your husband to be particularly conscious about handling these materials carefully and out of Angel’s reach.  Enjoy your spring planting!