Top 10 toxic plants for your pets
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
“Sophie,” a three-year-old Shih Tzu came to our clinic for a visit because she had been drooling excessively, chattering her teeth, and licking her lips. On examination, her gums, tongue, and lips had the appearance of raw hamburger. After a series of questions for Sophie’s owner, we came to the conclusion that Sophie had been ingesting leaves from her owner’s Dieffenbachia plant. Any plant in the Arum family contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that when ingested, penetrate the oral tissues and remain in the tissue until the next skin cell cycle. Immediate signs include a painful mouth, drooling, foaming at the mouth, swallowing hard, and difficulty breathing.
In just a few weeks, I will be making my yearly trip to the local greenhouses to purchase my annual flowers and replace some of my perennials. As a pet owner, however, it is important to be aware of what plants and flowers can be toxic to our pets and try to avoid these or plant in gardens that your pet does not have access to. Below I am going to list the most common indoor and outdoor plants that can be toxic if ingested by your pet:
1. Lily family this includes the Tigerlily, Stargazing lily, Cala lily, Easter lily, Asiatic lilies, and more. Any part of these plants can cause severe kidney failure if ingested by your cat. Increased thirst and urination, dehydration, vomiting, and lack of appetite may all indicate the onset of kidney failure.
2. Autumn Crocus any part of the crocus if ingested can cause severe burning in the mouth, intense thirst, nausea, and severe vomiting and diarrhea. The bulb is the most toxic part.
3. Amyrillis family this includes Daffodils, Narcissus, Snowdrops and Amyrillus the entire plant is toxic and can cause dizziness, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors. The most toxic part of the plant is the bulb.
4. Azaleas and rhododendrons can cause oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, and a severe drop in blood pressure just from eating a small part of the plant.
5. Arum family as mentioned above this includes many houseplants like the Dieffenbachia, Elephants ear, and Philodendruns. They all produce calcium oxalate crystals that can build up in the gum tissues causing severe irritation.
6. Tulips and hyacinths Tulips and hyacinths are also in the lily family, but they cause different clinical signs than most lilies. Ingestion of the bulbs can cause severe nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate and increased respiratory rate
7. Cycad family this includes the Sago Palm plant and the small ornamental bonsai trees. These plants can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, tremors, and liver failure.
8. Glycoside containing plants these include Foxgloves, Lily of the Valley, Milkweed, and Oleander. These plants all contain cardiac glycosides similar to Digoxin, a heart medication used in human and veterinary medicine. Ingestion of one of these plants can cause severe heart arrythmias, vomiting and diarrhea, and in some cases neurologic signs.
9. Nightshade family This family includes tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. Any part of the green plant can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, delirium, headaches, and convulsions.
10. Grapes In our area grapes are abundant. Just recently it was discovered that grapes are very toxic if ingested by our pets. Grapes can cause severe kidney failure if a large amount of grapes are eaten and should be avoided at all costs!
After reading this article, please do not panic and go rip all your plants out of the ground! I highly recommend understanding your pet’s personality and monitoring them at all times. I still have a perennial garden that is all lilies because I love lilies. But my pets do not bother with the plants in the garden, and the garden is in an area away from where they spend most of their time. If you have a cat that is outdoors and likes to chew on grass and eat plants, then I would recommend NOT having a lily garden! If you have a dog that likes to dig things up and chew on their findings, then I would avoid daffodils, tulips, and crocuses that all grow from a bulb. But it is important to understand what plants may cause problems in our pets so we understand the clinical signs they might be showing and what plants to watch your pets closely with. If you ever have a question about a plant, don’t hesitate to call our clinic at 366-7440 or go www.aspca.org website for a list of toxic and non-toxic plants.
Springtime and Our Pets
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
Spring is officially here! With the welcome change in the weather, there are some Spring dangers to be aware of with our pets. Below I will discuss how to protect your pets in the upcoming months.
1. Beware of what lies beneath. As the snow is melting, things are surfacing that could pose a risk to our pets. This might include wild animal feces, puddles of water containing harmful bacteria, animal carcasses, and more. At our clinic, springtime brings on a flood of pets with vomiting and diarrhea. I attribute this to non-discretionary eating of things surfacing as the snow melts, or drinking water from puddles that can be harmful to our pets. Watch your pets closely when letting them outdoors this time of year. When cleaning up your yard, check for things that may be harmful to your pets.
2. External parasites ticks and fleas are emerging in the outdoors and infesting our pets. Ticks love cooler temperatures and any temperature above 40 degrees they thrive. Ticks lay waiting on the tops of grasses and in woodpiles. They look to jump on your dog or cat where they will attach and start their blood meal. The most common tick we see in the clinic is the deer tick. Deer ticks can transfer Lyme disease, a bacterial disease that causes life long joint and kidney issues. Fleas are also emerging with the warming weather. Ask your veterinarian what flea and tick preventives are best for your pet.
3. Internal parasites many parasite eggs can survive the winter and be ingested by your pet. If your pet just sniffs another pets stool, they can pick up the parasite eggs which may cause severe disease. We recommend a yearly fecal check to make sure your pet hasn’t picked up any of these parasites. Only a couple of intestinal parasites are visible to the naked eye. The rest have to be diagnosed by looking at a sample under the microscope.
4. Spay that cat! Springtime is the start of your pets going through their heat cycles. Cats will go into heat monthly and can very quickly escape out an open door and become pregnant. Help control the pet population and protect your pets from breast cancer and uterine disease by spaying your pet.
5. Beware of wildlife. Spring is the time for the local wildlife to emerge from their winter hibernation. Many dogs will get “skunked” this time of year. Although not dangerous to your pet, the odor will stay with your pet for a long time! Porcupines also emerge this time of year. Porcupine quills are very painful and can lead to a deep infection very quickly. Protect your pets by keeping them contained and not allowing them to roam. Make sure your pets are up to date on their Rabies vaccination. Rabies is a deadly virus contracted by a bite from an infected animal and is also a human health risk.
6. Select non-toxic plants when gardening, select plants that are non toxic to your pets. Any plant in the lily family is very toxic if your cat ingests any part of the plant. Do not let your pups dig in your gardens as the bulbs of daffodils and hyacinths can also be toxic.
Above all, get outside with your pet! The warm temperatures are a welcome change for your pets that have been cooped up all winter. Take your pet for a walk, take them out and play fetch, let them spend time with you while gardening and cleaning up your yards for the year to come.
Top 10 best things you can do for your pet
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
1. Stop overfeeding your pets -The shelves in our local pet stores are packed with all kinds of treats. We sit down to eat dinner and drop little tidbits on the floor for our pets. Obesity is an epidemic in our country and in our pets. Over 54 percent of our pets in America are considered obese. Obesity can lead to a multitude of health issues including heart disease, diabetes, joint osteoarthritis, and urinary issues. Be an advocate for your pet’s health and talk to your veterinarian about a diet and exercise plan for your pet!
2. Proper dental care – February is dental health month. Dental disease can be painful and can take years off your pet’s life. Signs of dental disease include bad breath, drooling, difficulty chewing hard food, and sometimes weight loss. Proper dental care includes routine teeth brushing, dental treats, and dental cleaning under anesthesia by your veterinarian. A dental cleaning at our hospital includes a thorough scaling and polishing, probing and checking the roots of every tooth, possible dental radiographs, extractions if needed, antibiotic and fluoride treatments. If you are unsure if your pet has dental disease, call and schedule an appointment today. For the month of February the Dunkirk Animal Clinic is offering $25 off a dental cleaning for small dogs and cats, and $50 off a dental cleaning for larger dogs.
3. Spay/neuter your pets – In the past two months the Dunkirk Animal Clinic has seen a total of four pyometras. A pyometra is a life threatening infection of the uterus. Unfortunately, two out of these four dogs were euthanized and the other two underwent a very costly and difficult surgical removal of the pus-filled uterus to save their lives. When it comes to males, in the past three months I have seen three severe cases of rectal tumors. One dog had to be euthanized, and the other two underwent surgery to remove the tumors and were neutered at the same time. Females can also develop breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Males can also develop testicular cancer and prostate problems. All these issues can be prevented if you choose to spay and neuter your pet!
4. Geriatric testing ? At the Dunkirk Animal Clinic, we offer a program for senior pets to screen for any underlying health issues that can commonly develop as your pet ages. The goal is to take a proactive step in ensuring that your senior pets are being cared for to the best of our ability. Many times we have discovered an underlying heart condition, or a cancerous mass that can be removed before it spreads. The program includes either outpatient screening tests or inpatient screening tests. There is a discount offered for both of these services. Call us today for an estimate!
5. Parasite control ? This includes both internal and external parasite control. We highly recommend a yearly fecal test to rule out any underlying intestinal parasites and preventives on a monthly basis to help protect your pet from fleas, ticks, and heartworm disease. In the spring we also recommend a simple blood test for heartworm disease and for the diseases that can be transferred from ticks like Lyme disease. Heartworm and Lyme disease in the beginning stages can show very minimal clinical signs. This simple blood test is a very important part of your pets preventive care.
6. Basic grooming ? This includes keeping your pet’s coat trimmed and tidy, keeping the nails trimmed, and checking their ears on a regular basis. Matting of the hair coat can be painful and can lead to build up of stool and debris. If this occurs in the middle of the summer months, it can lead to attraction of flies which can turn into maggots.
7. Yearly physical exams and vaccines ? We still see many of the diseases in our pet population that we vaccinate against. It is very important to keep your pet protected. Rabies vaccine is required by law in our cats, dogs, and ferrets due to the ability of the virus to transfer to humans. Many of our stray cat population is carrying the Leukemia virus and the Feline Aids virus. Both of these are deadly and your pets can be protected by a simple vaccine. Parvovirus is a disease that can very quickly kill your young puppy. A simple vaccine will help protect against this disease.
8. Responsible pet ownership ? This not only includes all of the above, but ensuring that your pets are kept safe when at home. There are many owners that let their pets loose to roam. There are dangerous hazards outside that can be very difficult to protect our pets against including cars, other animals, and even people. Recently in my neighborhood, there was a very unfortunate situation that occurred when two dogs were shot and one was killed from roaming on other people’s property. We had done everything in our power to catch these dogs and report it to the dog control officers. But nothing was done, and the poor dogs met a horrible fate. A simple fence containment system could have prevented the whole ordeal.
9. Play time and exercise – Some pets more than others need daily activities, play time, and exercise. One of these dogs would be my Border Collie Jake. He has endless energy and every day a walk, a game of fetch, or other activity is needed to prevent unwanted behaviors. He acts out and is very needy if he doesn’t get his daily activity! Even cats need daily play time. Toys or a laser pen are great ways to get your cat up and moving.
10. Lots of Love ? Finally our pets give us undivided love, give it back to them! They are loyal, loving companions and they just want our love and attention in return!
Animals are Not Immune to Obesity
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
On a bulletin board in one of our clinic exam rooms hangs a small card with a picture of a 1 oz piece of cheese on it.
If you flip the card over, it says “Feeding this 1 ounce piece of cheese to your 10-pound cat or dog is equivalent to a human eating 3 1/2 whole hamburgers or 4 chocolate bars! Little do we understand that our pets suffer greatly from just that tiny table scrap or that little piece of cheese we slip under the table.
Turas was a 20-pound Papillon that should have been 10 pounds. He was owned by my grandmother and was treated as a part of the family. He would get buttered toast and eggs in the morning, leftover ham for lunch, and frozen pizza for dinner. He would clean all her plates after meals. She insisted it was good for him, despite his weight. He knew how to count with his barks for food and would perform a variety of tricks for his leftover table scraps. As little Turas aged, he developed osteoarthritis and heart disease which was partially due to his obesity. The heart disease became severe very rapidly, and he passed away from the overload of fluid in his lungs.
Obesity is an epidemic in our pets. Obesity leads to a multitude of health problems. The first problem that comes to mind is diabetes! I am going to be honest – I HATE DIABETES! When I newly diagnose a pet with diabetes, my heart sinks. Diabetes shortens your pet’s life by putting added stress on your pet’s kidneys and other organ systems. It is also one of the most difficult diseases to regulate and predict.
Half of treating a diabetic pet is our expert advice on how much insulin to give and the proper diet to help regulate your pet’s sugar. The other half is up to the owner. I know how I am when treating my own pets. I forget to give the medication one day, or my pet gets in to the other pet’s food. In my household it would be extremely challenging to treat a diabetic pet. I make sure to keep my pets at a healthy weight and feed them a proper diet to prevent this horrible disease!
Other issues that arise from your pet being overweight include heart disease, breathing issues, increased stress on your pets joints leading to a greater risk of osteoarthritis and injury. One injury I see quite often in overweight dogs is ACL tears. The ligament that helps hold the knee joint together can be very easily torn if your pet is overweight. These injuries require very costly surgery, weeks of physical therapy and rehabilitation, and can lead to lifelong arthritis of the knee joint. Avoidance is key by not allowing your pet to become overweight in the first place. Another injury we diagnose in our clinic is intervertebral disk disease in long backed overweight dogs like the dacshound, the corgi, and the bassett hound. These dogs are more prone to this disease because of their long backs and added weight on their spines. Disk injury can lead to complete paralysis of the limbs and the possibility of never walking again without costly spine surgery. Why not do all you can to avoid this at all costs?
Many clients blame their husbands, the pet’s grandma, and their inability to say no to those big brown eyes when they are sitting down to dinner. Ultimately you as their owner are the only one who has control over your pets’ diet. I recommend when eating meals to put your pet in another room. This will help prevent giving in to those sad begging eyes. Give your relatives an ultimatum – no treats or they can’t see your pet! Have your pet’s food ready and measured for the day if they are being watched while you are away.
When making your New Years resolutions, don’t forget to include your pets! You and your pet together can cut calories, exercise more, and get on a diet plan that helps with weight loss. If you don’t know where to start, make and appointment with your veterinarian, have your pet’s body condition evaluated, and have your veterinarian come up with a diet plan that fits for you and your pet! Our goal is prevention at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic. We recommend keeping your pet healthy to prevent these diseases and to give your pet a better quality of life in the long run.
A puppy or kitten for Christmas
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
It is Christmas morning! We awaken with joy and hope as we put on our slippers and head down the stairs to gather around the Christmas tree with our family. We open our stockings and a few small gifts from our parents. But where is that gift from Santa? Mom and dad bring out a large wrapped box which seems to have noises coming from within. We can’t open the box fast enough! Out jumps a happy, tail-wagging yellow lab puppy! As animal lovers, most of us have had this dream and some have maybe had this Christmas wish come true! A puppy or kitten is one the best gifts we can receive. But let’s discuss the reality of owning a puppy or kitten, and make sure this is the right decision for your family.
1. Where to adopt from make sure you are adopting from a reputable breeder and not a puppy mill. I highly recommend not adopting from a pet store. Usually these puppies are overpriced, poorly bred, have a multitude of health problems, and come from puppy mills. Puppy mills are breeding facilities where a multitude of dogs are bred and kept in cages purely for a money making business. These dogs may not be properly cared for, they may not have proper veterinary care, and they may have health concerns or genetic defects from poor breeding. We highly recommend adopting from a local shelter or humane society. Many of these shelters have puppies or kittens, or already trained older dogs and cats that may adjust just fine in your home. These pets may already have their vaccines and be spayed and neutered as well!
2. Questions to ask Have the puppies been health checked by a veterinarian? This is very important before adopting. I have had more than one client bring in a puppy that was never health checked, and these puppies have had a severe underlying heart condition. What heartbreak for a family that has just fallen in love with their new family member to hear that their puppy may not live long.
Have the puppies or kittens been vaccinated? There are still many diseases that are prevalent in our canine and feline populations. Young puppies and kittens are most at risk because they haven’t developed the adequate immunity. Make sure they have been adequately weaned from their mothers, and have received their first vaccines.
3. What breed do I adopt If you are adopting a petfor your children, be sure to adopt a breed that is family friendly. Some breeds that are great with children include Labrador and Golden retrievers, Beagles, Poodles, Boston terriers, and of course a good old mutt from your local shelter! Talk to your veterinarian about the best breed of dog that will fit your family’s lifestyle, and do a meet and greet of the parents of the puppies or kittens.
4. You are making a commitment Be aware that when you are adopting a new puppy or kitten, you are making a commitment to this pet for the time that they are here on this earth. Some dogs and cats can live between 15-20 years. Be aware of the time and work it takes to housebreak a puppy, and be aware of the costs of adopting a dog or a cat. These include food costs, veterinary care including routine vaccines and spaying or neutering, the costs of boarding and/or grooming your pet, and a savings fund in case of an emergency.
We hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with your family. A new puppy or kitten, dog or cat, is a commitment but can change your life and your family’s life for the better! A pet provides companionship and love, a sense of responsibility for young children, and a lifetime of joy!